By the end of The Mimic, Martin has changed a little, he’s found a son and his life has a little more meaning and happiness in it. It’s a natural and realistic progression for a character, but the last episode was a bit unsatisfying as a conclusion to the show, and I’m not sure the programme will last long in the memory. I am glad though that I watched The Mimic’s short run; it was a different, sometimes funny show, with an engaging, melancholic tone and a sweetness that wasn’t overly sentimental.
Episode five began with Martin trying out ideas for his TV performance, each of them being shot down by Jean. He’s insecure about his ability, but it’s okay because Jean’s going to fix everything by improving his appearance ‘like one of those makeover shows where they do up an old ruin’. Martin leaves for the makeover, and it’s pretty predictable that he’s going to come back looking weird. Neil’s horrified reaction was funny though: ‘It actually looks racist. I’m not exactly sure who to.’
Neil was the best character in The Mimic. Neil Maskell is an outstanding actor who perfectly embodied a well written and naturally funny character. Maskell’s facial expressions and ability to convey an inner self-loathing and insecurity added a lot to Matt Morgan’s dialogue, and the bulk of the laughs in the show came from his performance.
Stephen and Jean were also decent characters. Stephen had a realistic mix of embarrassment with his dad and a desire to please him, while Jean was nicely idiosyncratic, though she got a bit annoying as the show progressed, and the writing leaned a little to heavily on her stupidity for jokes at times.
The other main character was Stephen’s mum Dionne, whom Martin had dinner with in this episode to discuss her terminal illness. It was a nicely acted scene, but it’s hard to have much sympathy with a character that was barely in the show. Dionne was more of a plot contrivance to influence Martin and his life. Good shows build well-rounded, enjoyable characters and have them influence other characters naturally. Dionne on the other hand showed up and – presumably – died in four episodes, just to add to the plot and to affect Martin.
After his meeting at the restaurant, Martin goes home and wakes up the next day with a broken voice, a symptom of his nerves about his TV appearance and his reluctance to perform. Luckily, Neil’s dad has a head doctor, and he and Martin go see him. In a strange and comically depressing scene, the two meet Neil’s elderly father, before Martin visits the doctor, and tells him how he’s ‘happy having things not going my way’. The doctor gives him a Smarty placebo, which he’s also been prescribing to Neil, which won’t help his paranoia if he finds out.
In a scene immediately after, Martin heads to the woods and works through his pent up fears via his mimicry, as the camera jumps around him. The impressions on the show have always been better when used to illustrate Martin’s thoughts and insecurities rather than as a gag. ‘I still think she’s a bitch for not telling me I had a son,’ he says about the dying Dionne, a thought that most people would have trouble verbalising, but which Martin can voice via his celebrity imitations. I was worried at the show’s start that the mimicry concept would become tiresome and annoying after a while, and the impressions did get a little irritating, but it was a nice idea that worked most of the time.
All fixed up by Smarties and his cathartic talk in the woods, Martin heads to London for his appearance on a Britain’s Got Talent type show that is depressingly realistic. A performing dog is his co-star. ‘This is bollocks isn’t it, Larry?’ he tells the animal, as the pressure of everyone’s expectation weighs on him. As his family sit in the audience, Martin waited at the side of the stage, and the scene faded to white. A coda followed, of Martin, Neil, Jean, Dionne and Stephen at the beach in Bournemouth, appearing as photos on a digital frame. In the last shot, Dionne is missing, and Martin has an arm around his son.
I’m not sure about that ending. I think the point is that Martin’s fame or success as an impressionist is irrelevant. His family and friends, and his last trip to the beach with Dionne, is what is important. It was a satisfying ending cinematically, and it was nicely directed and scored, but there is still a lot unresolved. Did Martin sort out his self-esteem problems? How did his TV performance affect his personal issues? In the future will he still hide in his impressions? ‘I just wanted sometimes not to be me,’ he said at one point. He is himself on the beach, but with still images as an ending we’ve no idea if Martin came to terms with himself and his mimicry or if he is unchanged.
Such ambiguous endings can often be a cop out. They work well at times, The Sopranos for instance, and at others they can seem like a cheap out for a writer who doesn’t know exactly what do to; Take Shelter, if you’ve seen it, is a recent film which I’d argue did that. Maybe there will be a second series, but the show should have provided a narratively satisfying resolution contained within the first.
I enjoyed The Mimic. It could have been funnier at times, but I liked the characters, Neil especially, and the acting was good. The writing and the directing came together well to illustrate a quiet, melancholic world, and the piano music throughout was great; haunting and affecting. It was enjoyable to visit that world for a few hours, and spend time with the characters, with all their flaws and hang-ups, and I just wish we had gotten a more complete and satisfying ending, with a little less ambiguity.
- ‘I’ve got to turn up looking like a member of the Dolmio family.’
- ‘We can’t tie it down because it’s not allowed.’ ‘It’s cruel.’ ‘Yeah. But you’ll be tied down because of health and safety.’
- ‘Did you see that dog? I told you: animals are getting braver. Urban foxes are taking the piss. Pigeons don’t even get out of our way anymore. Arrogance.’
- ‘Break a leg Martin. A dog’s leg. Don’t.’