The series finale of Plebs takes place on the eve of Saturnalia, a sort of Roman New Years. Marcus plans to kiss Cynthia as the clock strikes midnight, and the episode revolves around his predictably futile attempts to make this happen.
There’s also a completely unnecessary sub-plot about Cynthia being cursed which highlights how unnecessary and lacking in depth her character has been in this series. She’s basically just a device to motivate Marcus. Sophie Colquhoun is a decent enough actress but she’s not got much to work with here. Metella, Cynthia’s slave, is a little more rounded as a character, but beyond her bitchiness there’s not much personality to her. Plebs will have to start developing its characters if it is to improve in a second series – assuming it gets a second series, which it presumably will given its ratings success and decent critical reviews.
Away from this, we had the regular set-piece of Marcus and Stylax winding-up the waterboy. I really like these scenes. It’s the same joke each week, as the conversation builds to the waterboy saying something inappropriate in front of his boss – ‘I do not fuck the homeless warm’ – but the scene is usually written well, and there are always new gags in the build-up to the regular punchline. Tom Basden is great as the waterboy – and is also, incidentally, one of the show’s two writers.
I also like how Marcus and Stylax laugh at each others jokes in this scene, and in others. Most sitcoms don’t do this and it’s always annoyed me a little, in the same way that it annoys me that nobody is ever on the internet on TV, unless they are researching something. I like a little realism in sitcoms, and if Marcus and Stylax are friends then it makes sense to show them laughing with each other.
Grumio is off on his own again in episode six, stealing food from the gods, getting caught and being groomed for priesthood by the excellent Alex MacQueen, whose upper class accent and ‘big baldy head’ in the words of Malcolm from In the Loop, are just naturally funny.
Marcus, Stylax and the waterboy are invited to a Saturnalia party by their boss, only to find out they are to be working at it. They join forces and Marcus and the waterboy come up with a plan to escape. ‘I don’t like you and you don’t like me…’ Marcus says. ‘You don’t like me?’ the waterboy responds. It’s a funny joke, although The Simpson did it already, twice in fact. All three manage to escape and make their way to Cynthia and Metella, for the Saturnalia party, only for Marcus to miss out on his kiss, thanks to Grumio – having ran-away from the castrating priest – showing up and distracting him.
It’s a nice enough ending to a show that has been enjoyable throughout its run. Plebs has been consistently funny, with a lot of quick-fire jokes, and the comic acting from the main players has been great, especially Ryan Sampson as Grumio. A number of the side-characters have also been good, with Karl Theobald warranting particular praise for his portrayal of the shifty yet likable landlord.
If the show is lacking anywhere, it’s in the depth of its writing. No character in the show has changed in any way by the end of the series. There has been no advancing of the plot at all. And Plebs doesn’t get a pass on such things just because it’s a comedy. Every good to outstanding sitcom in history has built characters with internal issues and motivations. Think of how complex Jez and Mark are in Peep Show. Of course, maybe the writers are happy to simply produce a show that’s funny, background entertainment. But I hope that if a second series is made, they’ll work on adding more depth to a show that has been fun to watch but a little insubstantial.
- ‘I’ll just clear this up; I work in a homeless shelter at Saturnalia, I do not fuck the homeless.’
- ‘Marcus said I had to have a go at you about the damp in one of the rooms.’ ‘Ah, right, well, go on then.’ ‘Okay cool; there’s damp in one of the rooms.’ ‘Yeah, it’s a wet room.’
- ‘What is this meat Grumio, it’s so tasty?’ ‘Don’t know.’ ‘Okay.’ ‘Hang on, not okay. Why don’t you know?’ ‘It’s not from a shop.’ ‘Okay, where’s it from.’ ‘Temple.’ ‘Right, getting there. Why’s it from the temple?’ ‘It’s sacrificed meat.’ ‘And you bought it, or..?’ ‘Nabbed it.’ ‘So, we’re eating stolen sacrificial meat now?’
- ‘It’s really bad form to steal the god’s food.’ ‘Gods aren’t hungry. Or, you know, real. Either way, it’s not getting eaten.’
- ‘Grumio, what are the chances that this is a person.’ ‘Very slim.’
- That was an excellent scene, ending with Ryan Sampson’s great delivery of ‘Oh, thank you very much’ as he eats Marcus’ discarded meat.
- ‘Find some other girls, wait for the gong, and pounce.’ ‘Really – pounce?’ ‘Yeah, pounce like a cat.’ ‘Or like a rapist.’
- ‘Some call it brilliant, others call it criminal negligence.’ ‘I’m going for brilliant.’
- ‘I haven’t seen bugger all mate. I’ve had these mushrooms that have given me batshit mental hallucinations and stomach cramps.’