Television: All filler, no killer as ‘Love/Hate’ runs out of ammunition
It started off with a bang and a cat killing, but it looks as if RTÉ’s biggest drama has used up its nine lives. At least ‘Downton Abbey’ has given up all pretence of making any sense
Boxed in: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Nidge in last weekend’s Love/Hate finale
Such was the hype ahead of the finale of Love/Hate (RTÉ One, Sunday) that Stuart Carolan, its writer, and David Caffrey, its director, could have delivered The Godfather and it would have struggled to measure up.
Its actors were on chatshows and in fashion shoots, and rarely a day went by without media speculation about the plot or earnest radio discussions assessing the veracity of various scenes. One newspaper went so far as to print a Love/Hate supplement. And that’s not counting the absurd handwringing about the (pretend) shooting of the cat.
Love/Hate is RTÉ’s most successful and most expensive drama series, and its production values are a huge leap for home-grown drama. This season’s opening episode was strong, with Nidge, the gang leader played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, now a paranoid, hunted man, with a new adversary in Det Mick Moynihan, played by Brian F O’Byrne: two top actors in juicy roles, with the promise of a tense confrontation. And they did come face to face in the final episode, on Moynihan’s turf, when Nidge was arrested, but there was no tension, no sense that this was what the previous five episodes had been inexorably leading up to.
That scene got to the heart of the problem with this series: the policemen were underwritten. They looked like an interesting bunch, but they never became the three- dimensional characters that viewers need in order to invest in the cops-versus-robbers set-up. Tellingly, the only backstory that emerged did so in the off-screen hype: the revelation that Moynihan’s sidekick was, in real life, a garda, doing an acting nixer. With nothing else to go on, just knowing that made him more interesting to watch.
If key characters were underwritten, so was the storyline: the importation of a huge shipment of drugs is a television standard, and far too thin to carry six hours of TV.
So it’s not surprising that the final episode needed so much padding, with multiple shots of clouds scudding across the Dublin skyline, speeded-up shots of traffic, and everyone spending lots of time in their cars. Surveillance isn’t a new dark art that needs to be explained in such tedious detail: all those scenes of Nidge getting in and out of his car, and of police muttering instructions into walkie-talkies, were unnecessary.
It was Nidge’s series, and he was never going to be killed at the end: he’s needed for the fifth series. Instead, a promising character, his young protege, was murdered, and the dentist, unable to fight his way out of a plastic bag in a most improbable scene, was killed by Fran, the psycho. Why the police, who appeared to do little except tail cars, didn’t follow Fran, a big player in the drug heist, to the dentist’s house is just another of the many holes in the story.
The final episode also showed how forgotten the Love/Hate women were and how their characters – well-drawn previously, with huge potential – evaporated from lack of plot. Aoibhinn McGinnity, as Nidge’s wife, Trish, was given as little to do as Charlie Murphy was in the role of Tommy’s wife, Siobhan.