Love/Hate review – Episode Four – Channel 5

Love HateA strong opening for the final episode of Love/Hate as Rosie recalled her attack and the emotional and physical trauma it caused, resulting in her losing her unborn child. She asked Darren to get revenge, but to only hurt Stumpy, with Darren duly beating him with a pipe.

Meanwhile, John Boy and Hughie found themselves increasingly isolated by people going great lengths to pretend they weren’t isolating them. Nidge tried to assure them that they were invited to his wedding, but John Boy was aware of Nidge’s true feelings and rejected his wedding invitation with a scary politeness. ‘But I want you to come,’ Nidge said. ‘But I’m not coming, am I?’ John Boy replied with menace.

Aidan Gillen has been great in these four episodes, playing a frightening character without being over the top in his performance. Sometimes though, the writing hasn’t been there to support him, as in this episode where John Boy commissioned a ridiculously sloppy hit on Darren. Hughie and a young gangster named Elmo were abruptly sent to shoot Darren in a plan that was more of a half-baked idea. Is it really believable that someone portrayed so far as a competent and careful top gangster would implement such a sudden and ill-thought through plan?

In any case, Darren survived, as did Hughie, and, actually, so did Elmo, despite being shot. They must have been using action movie bullets, the ones that don’t kill anybody. The episode then abruptly jumped forward to Nidge’s wedding. These scenes were really cheesy, accompanied by a cheery soundtrack that sounded like on-hold music from a call centre. It’s possible that this was deliberate, a garish gangster wedding, but I feel the directing in Love/Hate has been below par.

Everything was going just peachy at the wedding, until John Boy and Hughie turned up, assuring Nidge that they wouldn’t kick-off but fucking everything up just by their presence. Everything was really passive-aggressive, with everyone adopting a false politeness. Eventually, Hughie revealed that Nidge had fucked some prostitutes on his stag do, and ruined Tommy and Mary’s flirtations by pointing out Tommy’s upstairs meeting with another girl.Love/HateA showdown in the toilets followed between John Boy and Darren. Gillen and Robert Sheehan are the best actors in this show, and they built a scene heavy with threat and portent. Darren refused to back down. ‘Sure, we all die in the end anyhow,’ John Boy said.

The show’s central conflict was wound-up tight and filled with tension. Which is why it was incredibly disappointing that they resolved that conflict in such a cheap way. I said last week that I was worried Love/Hate would use a deus ex machina as a solution to the clash between Darren and John Boy, and that concern sure turned out legitimate. After driving around aimlessly with Elmo, Hughie joked around with a gun – cartridge removed but with a bullet still in the chamber – and shot himself in the head.

That is such a poor ending. Yeah, it makes sense for a character as stupid and self-destructive as Hughie to cause his own death, but to ramp-up the tension over four episodes, to build the entire series around this central conflict, and then to resolve it so cheaply is very unsatisfactory. It is a major concern that the show is not willing to take risks, to face John Boy up against Darren over Hughie’s fate and say ‘one side will have to fall,’ and then follow through on that promise.

Of course, the episode didn’t end happily for one side. The show concluded with a very enjoyable and tense scene between a distraught John Boy and Darren, at Hughie’s funeral. Darren was heading to London, and wanted to know his family would be safe. A fragile truce was agreed, and Darren walked off happily into the sunset, until Stumpy drove past and gunned him down.

I didn’t like this ending, and I’ll address that below, but there’s a spoiler (one you have probably already worked out) for series two in the next paragraph, so skip it if you want.

LOVE-HATE-Mary-Ruth-BradleyDarren isn’t dead. He comes back for the next series. As I said above, it’s a huge concern that the show is not willing to take risks. This entire series was built around a conflict that put the major characters in danger and they’ve all walked away alive. Everything is neatly resolved by Hughie shooting himself, and then there’s a fake cliffhanger that pretends the lead character is dead. Future episodes carry the risk that all the drama will be artificial and transparent, because we know that the show will shy away from taking real risk, and that any conflict can be resolved easily, by having, say, Hughie kill himself, or Stumpy suddenly attack Rosie. A good show paints itself into a corner and works its way out; a bad show paints itself into a corner and then smashes the corner down with a deus ex machina.

Love/Hate certainly had its flaws. The directing was noticeably television directing, in an era were television is looking more and more like the movies, and the writing let itself down at times, especially when taking easy outs. It also leaned a little heavily on gangster tropes and clichés. For the most part though, the writing was clever and subtle, avoiding underlining things, and the characters were engaging, with great acting from the main players. As a short four-part introduction to the show, which just wrapped-up filming on series four, it was interesting and promising. It needs to have sorted out its major flaws by series two though, and if it hasn’t, and those flaws are a sign of things to come, then it might be downhill from here.

Random notes:

  • That said, future series were well received in Ireland.
  • For Irish readers and those who have already seen future episodes: I’m aware that major characters die in this show, but I’d bet that has more to do with actors wishing to leave the show than with writers happy to take risks. I could be wrong though.
  • The Independent‘s reviewer made some good points about religion in the show, and how John Boy and Darren represent the new and old Ireland.
  • They never revealed how the press got a hold of the very detailed information about the hit on Jimmy. That’s really sloppy writing, unless there’s something I missed.
  • The Channel 5 announcer said at the episode’s end that series two will air next year. It’s strange that they are waiting that long, considering they already have the rights to series two, this series did well in the ratings, and the original plan was to air the first two series back-to-back.

Love/Hate Reviews: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three

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4 thoughts on “Love/Hate review – Episode Four – Channel 5

  1. I saw this two years ago when it first aired in Ireland. glad to see it’s getting exposure abroad.

    i thought the wedding scene with the cheesy music was well done. i saw it as a postmodern wink at the camera – because the characters have no respect for the values of life their wedding vows are a joke, and the whole ceremony is devoid of any traditional notion of marriage. it is just an empty spectacle, like a pop music video, so i thought it was an interesting way to shoot it, although it stood out from the realistic style of the rest of the series.

    I’m not too sure characters are being killed off because they want to leave the show. I think the makers had no idea it would stretch to 4 series, so they probably thought each series would be the last, and can you end a gangster series any other way than with an assassination? I don’t think you could do an authentic gangster drama without several characters being killed, as this is what happens them in real life.

    having seen all 3 series, it has some great characters but the plotting feels a bit loose at times. worth watching all the same.

    • Thanks for the comment. You might be right about the wedding scene and you make a good point about the pop music aesthetic and empty spectacle. But I think the directing has been a little poor all series, so I leaned towards it being unintentional.

      I agree that characters need to die in this show, but the easy out the writer took to resolve the Stumpy/Darren/Rosie triangle, as well as killing off Hughie with a suicide and thus allowing both Darren and John Boy to walk away from their conflict, seems to indicate a writer unwilling to take risks. You’ve seen the rest of the show though, so maybe I’m wrong? I hope I am because I did enjoy the show, this major flaw aside.

  2. Saw all three series in Ireland and admittedly Series 1 was not super and at only 4 episodes was not long enough to build a proper story-line but series 2 is a whole lot better.

    The inability of writers to take risks in the first series (as you rightly pointed out) is blown out of the water in the next two series. The character of “Nidge” who was understated in the first series really comes to the fore and the writing becomes a lot cleverer. The actor who plays “Nidge” (Tom Vaughan Lawlor) has since won numerous Irish based awards for his portrayal and the character himself has become somewhat of a cult hero here in Ireland. The writers (in my opinion) have hit the nail on the head in the second series and the rise of “King Nidge” is both compelling and yet unexpected in the way the story develops. John Boys character descends into mayhem in the 2nd series and the introduction of rival gangs gives the whole series a “real” feeling that the 1st series lacked. Darren’s inner turmoil is brilliantly played by Robert Sheehan and Gillen is equally impressive but it is Tom Vaughan Lawlor who steals the show!

    Trust me, stick with series 2 & 3 and series 1 will seem like a distant memory….

    • Good to know; I’ll stick with it then. Strange to hear about Nidge taking such a prominent role in series two considering he was a marginalised character this series – a figure of fun mainly. Sounds interesting. Thanks for the comment!

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