What Remains review – Episode Four – BBC One

What Remains BBCThe 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.

BBC What RemainsAnd 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.

Random notes:

  • 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.

What Remains Reviews: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three

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11 thoughts on “What Remains review – Episode Four – BBC One

  1. Yeah, the ending was absurd. I like the series overall but I found the ending really unsatisfying. Also there were a couple of plotlines that seemed unfinished – I wanted to see how Liz came to be living in her teacher’s flat and I found it weird that Patricia and Kieron were back together and happy with no explanation. I suppose it’s not always necessary to tie everything off neatly and provide full explanations but I guess I expect murder mysteries to do that and it’s normally my favourite part even though it’s not realistic. In a way leaving big unanswered questions is more believable than most murder mysteries but the believability was completely ruined by the final scenes with everyone dead and the crossbow etc.

    • I think the lack of a full explanation about Liz’s circumstances, or the way Kieron and Patricia got back together, is a good example of how lazy the writing has been in this series throughout. You’re right in saying that leaving big unanswered questions is more realistic but I don’t believe for a second that this show did that on purpose! Thanks for the comment!

  2. I searched the internet for valid proof that this show as as fucking shit as me and our lass thought it was. We just assumed we were thick and weren’t getting why it appeared to be so shit and laughable.

    • It’s crazy how positive some of the reviews have been. The Daily Telegraph opened their review of this episode with the sentence ‘I really love a good ending.’ What show was that guy watching? Because it couldn’t have been the one with the dying man shooting a cartoon villain with a bow and arrow.

  3. I think you nailed it. How did peggy die? We might never know. How did a fatally stabbed Len get upstairs, find his bow, draw it – with an apparent sucking chest wound – etc.

    I put off watching this last episode for the last couple of weeks because I literally could not be bothered and last night I was looking at the recordings on the Sky+ and wondering what to watch. It was a toss up between delete it or watch it and, unfortunately, I went with the latter.

    • Quite fun in a ‘this is hilariously awful’ kind of way though, right? The not knowing how Peggy died thing is pretty great – such an apt example of the crazy, lazy, slapdash writing in this show.

  4. Years later I am shown this in another country’s tv offerings of the xmas season. Surprised, I look up mainstream UK reviews, and it’s all adulation. This is nearly always my experience, as though admiration were the job, not reviewing. So I scrolled down and found your list of ridiculousnesses. I make 7 out of 9 living in that building creeps on their way to being criminals or already clear criminals. You left out How did the resentful shoe salesman and pregnant wife get enough money to buy their flat? Happy New Year

    • Which country are you in, out of interest? Was it shown prominently or buried in the schedules somewhere?

      Your frustration with the reviews is the same frustration that led me to set up this site.

      Happy New Year!

      • SVT1, Sweden’s BBC1: http://www.svtplay.se/genre/drama
        There’s a lot of inter-country European buying of these series, which sometimes get shown fast and sometimes are hoarded up for years. Who knows if anyone watched or liked this bizarre thing, thrown into the dead-time holiday mix.

      • Yeah, it’s a strange show to buy. Cheap, maybe.

        Anyway, all the best for 2017, enjoy the New Year.

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