After a promising start, Love/Hate loses it

RTÉ says finale of fourth season had average audience of more than 1 million people

Love/Hate Series 4 Episode 6 - Fran (Peter Coonan) attacks Andrew (Peter O’ Meara). Image via RTÉ.

Love/Hate Series 4 Episode 6 - Fran (Peter Coonan) attacks Andrew (Peter O’ Meara). Image via RTÉ.

Mon, Nov 11, 2013, 14:29

The first episode of this fourth series of Love/Hate was so promising. Gang boss Nidge (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) was paranoid and with reason; there was contract out on his life and the police, headed up a top cop, Det Moynihan (Brian F O’Byrne) were out to get him.

Two potentially complex characters with fine actors playing them and a simple, even classic set-up – cops and robbers, the good guys versus the baddies. Each had their gangs. Nidge’s sidekick was psycho Fran (Peter Coonan) and there was the extra frisson that the cop playing Moynihan’s sidekick was in real life a member of the actual garda drugs squad doing an acting nixer.

Rub your hands and get ready for truck loads of gritty TV realism from writer Stuart Carolan and director David Caffrey. You’d think. But that was six weeks ago and six hours of TV needs strong storylines with layers of complexity to carry it along and give it tension something this series of Love/Hate simply didn’t have.

The central storyline was Nidge’s importation of a massive shipment of drugs that the cops know about – a standard, even familiar TV police-procedural plot, too thin to carry all that was asked of it. And the cops and robbers idea fell apart after episode one because the police characters were so under-written that when compared with Nidge and Fran there was no real dramatic contest.

With so little to go on, it’s not surprising that last night’s dull, improbable final episode needed so much padding. And so Love/Hate resorted to camera trickery to pass the time: speeded up shots of Dublin, night and day, and clouds scudding across the sky – the stuff of music videos and pretty, lifestyle drama series like RTE’s Raw.

When the cops staked out Dublin port there were so many shots of cranes and containers being loaded, it could have been one of those TV programmes that shows in boring detail how our transport system works. And a taxi man doesn’t do as much mileage as Nidge - counting the number of times he got in and out of his Lexus would have made an intoxicating drinking game for bored viewers. O’Byrne, when he took on the role of ace detective Moynihan, can’t have predicted his character would spend so much time in a car giving orders to his men via walk talkie. His role – a key one in this series - was so under-written so that towards the end when Nidge is in custody and they finally sit across the table from each other, they have a staring match that had as much threat and menace as a couple of schoolboys eyeballing each other in the playground.

Some frayed storylines where tied up: Fran, paranoid that Nidge is cutting him out of the deal, tries to get information from the dentist but instead kills him in a scene that should have been a powerful showstopper. But aren’t dentists supposed to be good with their hands? Instead of trying to wrestle with psycho Fran who was smothering him with a plastic bag, wouldn’t he have just poked a hole in the bag or at least tried to? That was mid-way through the episode that then began to jolt along, like a car with a flat tire.

Some loose ends were tied up, hurriedly and without any real conviction. The bomb maker who Nidge wanted to kill is seen getting on a ferry; the kid who Nidge is grooming as the next generation is killed by his feral friend, and Nidge having spent a large part of the series hiding away with the woman who runs his brothel goes back to his wife, Trish (Aoibhinn McGinnity) for sex. Or maybe for more than that, but that’s all we were shown. Series three ended with Tommy on death’s door in hospital – and that’s where he ended up at the end of this series too.

Inevitably there was a scene with a stunning looking woman, scantily clad in amazing looking lingerie – there’s rarely an episode where there hasn’t been. Women characters have never been strong in Love/Hate but the final episode showed quite how under-used or simple forgotten they were this series – from Nidge’s wife who could have done so much more, to Tommy’s wife, Siobhan (Charlie Murphy) who ended the series as she began, with the same wet-eyed doleful expression.

Series four was always going to be about Nidge and in the end he contrives to get himself arrested and we see – in an overblown scene where he goes mental in the cell - that he has finally lost it. So too has Love/Hate.