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The Thick Of It: “Series Four, Episode Seven”

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It’s undeniably perfect that The Thick Of It went out on such a cynical, weary note. Nobody gets a moment of triumph, or if they do, it’s one laced with bitter, bitter irony. Sure, the coalition is gleeful for a hot second, having solved a police backlog with private contractors (who will pay the bill for that, Glenn asks? Who knows) and witnessed the public downfall of Malcolm Tucker. But, as Stewart tells them, their problems are unsolvable. The whole party is built on a “what I can only describe as a solid bed of cunts.” The bickering and buck-passing is renewed just minutes later after a new scandal breaks, and on and on it will go.

My favorite moment of this series finale (from what we’re being told, this is the last we’ll ever see of The Thick Of It, although U.K. shows are often resurrected for increasingly ill-advised Christmas specials), though, was Malcolm’s final moments. I’ve enjoyed this season a lot, even though it threw a lot of new characters and concepts at us—it did a great job making them stick within seven episodes. But Malcolm is the man you’re most invested in, and while I half-thought he’d manage to spin his way out of things one last time, it’s clear that the inquiry delivered the coup de grace for him.

The final episode, for Malcolm, is about two things. Passing the torch to Ollie, he makes it clear that whatever he thinks this job is about, he doesn’t know just how horrifying the impact is on your life. “I take this job home, it fucking ties me to the bed, and it fucking fucks me from asshole to breakfast… I am a fucking host for this fucking job,” he rants. Ollie, of course, is convinced things are different now—elbows less sharp, tactics more sophisticated. It’s all algorithms now, he protests. But Malcolm knows better, and it’s obvious that Ollie is already pretty much entirely lacking a life. This will be the end, and Ollie knows it, too.

The second thing is ensuring some dignity to his exit. Malcolm has fired hundreds of ministers and lackeys, and he always tried to sell them on walking out with their head held high—that’s the only way to guarantee a way back in to the game, he’d say. But there’s only one end for Malcolm, no matter how mighty his press-manipulating powers once were. As it is for so many a scandal-ridden Brit, he’s chased by a horde of reporters into a cab, and once they finally get him outside the police station, his lawyer reads out his statement as he stands by, stone-faced.

It’s a familiar tableau for anyone watching, especially anyone who’s tracked Britain’s political scandals over the last 15 years, which inspired this show more than anything. But before he goes, Malcolm attempts to make his own statement, to try and restore his own dignity, give himself a chance of returning to the only job he’s known in a long time. But it’s clear, even to himself, that he’s beyond saving. “Doesn’t matter,” he mumbles. Even his mastery of the dark arts have left him. It’s a sad moment, it’s quietly done, and it’s the best part of the episode.

Otherwise, things are pretty darn busy in typical Thick Of It style, with DOSAC in the middle of a police backlog that we’re only half brought up to speed on, and everyone wrestling with their failures at the inquiry (particularly everyone’s public hatred of Terri, Phil’s colossal miscues, and Glenn perjuring himself). Everyone gets a moment in the sun, but since it’s a lot to cram into half an hour, it feels a little rushed at times.


Nicola, surprisingly, gets a fair amount of time for her coda, being interviewed by the man who played the taunting chop for six months. “If they video this as well, I'm going to swallow my own fucking thumbs,” she tells Helen, moments before being informed that they’re going to video the whole thing as well. There’s nothing else there, just a reminder that she’s being confined to the novelty bin rather than the role of respected party elder. She’ll be a much joked-about footnote for the party, more of an Iain Duncan Smith than a William Hague.

Peter is roused by the private-sector suggestions of Fergus, which hints at the possibility for future cooperation in the coalition, but it’s clear that this is still a house divided by the end of it all. It was funny to watch everyone working together for once (and against Terri) in their little war room, but Peter’s most triumphant moment came with the long-expected turf-out of Stewart. I’m just sad it wasn’t done by the Fucker, but some lady from the Home Office. I’m also sad there was no Jamie this year. Maybe that’s why everything seemed less caustic and shocking.


Perhaps the most fun was Glenn’s final meltdown, which had a bit of Network about it (to the extent that Adam had to make a reference to Peter Finch). His bitching out of Fergus (for blowing with the Tory wind), Adam (for being loathsome), Phil (for his childish antics), Emma (for being “a standard-issue insipid posh bitch”), and, of course, Terri, whom he stays in shape pitying, was a lot of fun. I just wish he could have directed that fire at his old compatriots from past seasons as well.

Of course, Glenn is convinced he’ll make the principled stand, resigning and then turning himself in for lying at the inquiry. He’s convinced they’ll find out anyway, even though he’s such a small fry. But he gets the funniest, saddest moment of all during the final credits, toddling up the police station and then turning around. “Fuck it.” He knows no one really cares. Coupled with that slow pan out of an office of screaming, petty politicians, it’s a fitting, but effective coda for one of the U.K.’s best, nastiest, darkest works of satire.


Stray observations:

  • Emma needs Terri to get to the point of her latest screw-up. “Let's just fast forward to the bit where I don't want to eat my lips off.”
  • Dan wants Malcolm gone so he can get on his high horse. “I like getting on my high horse. I'm good on it, like a knight.”
  • “Stewart. Any thoughts from inside your fucking dream yurt?”
  • Glenn’s happy to go to jail. “I'll have a roof over my head, three meals a day, and regular sex.”
  • But he won’t leave before he’s done bollocking Phil. “Is that it?” “No, you closeted regency homosexual, that is not it.”
  • Stewart is summarily fired. “There's no need to clear your desk, because you're a walking thought-pod!”