The final episode of What Remains was as awful as the preceding three. It opened with another Melissa flashback, which showed how being awkward at a party is apparently the saddest and most depressing thing in existence. Melissa spotted Liz during the celebrations, stealing from a bedroom. Did Liz then kill Melissa? Answers ahead for those who join me on a journey through the convoluted nonsense that was this final episode.
Michael was still having sex with Liz in this concluding chapter, and was finally caught by Joe. ‘Guess that makes us even,’ he told his former teacher. Just what exactly did Joe do to Michael? Because it must have been pretty fucking bad. I had teachers I didn’t like at school but I’m not going to cheat on my pregnant wife and fuck an ex-classmate just to get back at them.
Joe was hurt badly by his discovery, and lashed out at a pupil. Upon his arrest, he confessed to the murder of Melissa; a false confession obviously, because there was still 30 minutes of the episode left at this point.
In an earlier scene, Joe had explained how his hatred for others was born not out of misanthropy but out of his own loneliness. There are little hints of decent writing here, in the similarities between Joe and Len. In one okay scene, Len grasping for a suspect in Melissa’s death fired an arrow at a table with all his suspects on it. ‘Sellers – lives alone,’ is what the arrow hit on, with ‘lives alone’ being a suspicious trait that could apply equally to Len himself.
These scenes felt like they were from a different show, one far away from the absurd nonsense of this one. For instance, Joe shouldn’t really be lonely; Liz has been a permanent occupant of his house for years. In my fantasy version of What Remains, Joe has no secret occupant of his flat; he’s just a lonely, bitter old man. In this version of the show, across the hall from Joe, Adam isn’t completely mental; he’s just a bit unhinged. His father, Kieron, isn’t a rapist; he’s just a struggling alcoholic. In my imagined version, the scene this episode between Kieron and Adam, were Kieron said he worries about introducing his son to people because it reflects badly on him, is outstanding, and not jarring because its quality so contrasts with the inferiority of the rest of the show.
In fantasy What Remains, characters act logically. For instance, when Len bumps into Liz, a strange woman who has appeared out of the blue and claims to be Joe’s niece despite having no knowledge of his arrest, Len immediately phones the police. He doesn’t just leave the flat. He doesn’t leave a pregnant woman he cares about alone in a flat with the chief fucking suspect in a murder.
That fantasy version exists only in my head though, alongside my show about a critical TV reviewer who marries Scarlett Johansson and wins the European Cup. So instead, we had Len leave Vidja alone in the house while he visited the police station to do some research.
Also at the station was Patricia, waving the all powerful press badge that grants absolute authority to interview senior police officers and which doesn’t actually exist outside of this TV show. With her magic badge, she found out that Len had retired, and the police officer she was interviewing realized what Len was up to. She was furious with his amateur detective work, but agreed to send police to the flat to arrest Liz, the real murderer who Joe was covering for.
And that was that, all wrapped up, except for the final 15 minutes of the show, which were fucking mental.
Jump forward a few months, and Vidja has her newborn baby. Len lives in the building now. Okay, fine, whatever, you’ve worn me down. Len lives in the building. But why? Well, because the real murderer isn’t Liz, it’s the lesbian couple, who Len must foil, and the laziest way for the writer to make that happen is to just move Len into the flat without explanation.
The lesbian couple have been terrible characters throughout. They were so inconsistent, constantly changing personality to fit the plot. Now, months after Liz’s arrest, Peggy, the timid lesbian, is dead. How did she die and why? Who knows. But she is dead, and being kept in the bath by Elaine. It turns out that Peggy killed Melissa, because she wouldn’t stop talking. I’m sure we’ve all been there.
Think back a second to earlier in the episode, when Liz was the murderer. In a big exciting scene with Vidja she started talking, unprompted, about Melissa, and how she had ‘caught her red handed,’ and how troublesome she was. The only reason any of this dialogue took place was to ‘fool’ the audience into thinking Liz was the murderer. It is awful, transparently manipulative writing.
Anyway, Len stumbled upon Elaine and was stabbed. And then Vidja came home and discovered a dying Len. Instead of phoning the police, she ran into the attic before pushing the murderer down the stairs. Elaine wasn’t dead though, and like a monster in a bad slasher movie she came back to life, only for Len to shoot her with a bow and arrow in an utterly laughable scene. Did Len crawl from Elaine’s flat, with terminal stab wound, upstairs to his own flat, and then pick up his bow and arrow, and then move a fair distance away from the stairs, and then draw the bow – stab wound and all – and shoot Elaine? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to grab, I don’t know, a knife?
In the final scene, Len literally stated the theme of the show out loud: ’I don’t want to be alone,’ he said. It was an appropriate ending for a show lacking in any subtlety; a show badly written and which made no attempt whatsoever to have any believable internal logic.
- To quote a commenter on The Guardian’s review: What Remains ‘didn’t so much jump the shark as jump it, stab it with the kitchen knife, bop it on the head with a walking stick and shoot it in the arse with a harpoon.’
- The characters throughout the series were incredibly clichéd, most notably the detective obsessed with one last case, and the lonely, fat woman. This, combined with the ludicrous and laughable plotting and complete lack of internal logic, makes me wonder if the whole thing wasn’t some post-modern art project.
- The acting was pretty good. I’d like to see more of Amber Rose Revah, who played Vidja.
- Not to rag on the writer of this show anymore than I have already, but I just now found out that Tony Basgallop also wrote the BBC’s Inside Men, which flat out stole an important and powerful scene from Breaking Bad, to add to the premise and set-up it had already stolen from that American show. Both Inside Men and What Remains had some good ideas though, and both were fun to watch, despite their many flaws. I think Basgallop needs a really strict and attentive editor in future.