Redwater finale: a cliched vision of Ireland right to the end

Festering with secrets and toxic family dynamics, it’s easier to get into Redwater than it is to ever leave it. Unless you’re a viewer

The cast of Redwater, which was filmed in Wicklow, includes Fionnula Flanagan and Ian McElhinney

The cast of Redwater, which was filmed in Wicklow, includes Fionnula Flanagan and Ian McElhinney

 

Much like the Hotel California, quicksand, or financial debt, it is far easier to get into Redwater (RTE One, Sunday, 9.30pm) than it is to get out of it.

That, at any rate, is the lesson we can take from two recent blow-ins, Kat (Jessie Wallace) and Alfie (Shane Richie), who alighted here from Eastenders for their own spin-off drama some six episodes ago in search of Kat’s long-lost son.

Fr Dermott Dolan, played by Oisín Stack. Photograph: BBC/Patrick Redmond
Fr Dermott Dolan, played by Oisín Stack. Photograph: BBC/Patrick Redmond

That mystery was solved early when they found Oisín Stack’s Fr Dermott, a murderous young priest with abandonment issues. Reconciliation has been understandably slow – interrupted by Dermott’s violent mood swings and occasional arson attacks – and, in the time afforded, they have clearly taken a shine to the place.

So have others. The American relatives who arrived for the funeral of paterfamilias, Lance Byrne, were equally slow to take their leave. It’s hard to say precisely why. Sure, the coastal landscape (supplied by Dunmore East) can be glorious, but Redwater’s other local attractions are mostly narrow-eyed suspicion and sinister religious apparitions. So many of the latter, in fact, that last week Alfie converted to Christianity, presumably for some respite from moving statues.

Otherwise, you suspect that people may come here for the twisted family dynamics, worthy of a Greek drama festival, but stay for the wealth of outdoor social events. The only people to desert Redwater, it seems, are its viewers: ratings have plunged in Ireland and Britain.

The cast of Redwater, which was filmed in Wicklow, includes Fionnula Flanagan and Ian McElhinney
The cast of Redwater: cliff-hangers all round

To those who did commit, the finale, written by Matthew Barry, offers very little closure, ensuring that every narrative route leads directly to its own cliff-hanger. Garda Bernie (Susan Ateh), whose investigation into Lance’s death has been held up by the complexities of enlarging a digital photo (and, marginally more troublesome, by giving birth) has now mastered the zoom function of her iPad and is slowly piecing together everything the viewer knows. Basically, the super weird priest did it.

Besotted cousins Andy (Peter Campion) and Kieren (Ian Toner) agree to douse their illicit passions, and part with the kind of handshake usually reserved for the end of a chess match.

Sisters Róisín (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and Eileen (Angeline Ball), two points of a frustrated love triangle, retrieve the third, their widower brother-in-law, Peter (fetchingly played by Stanley Townsend), from a drinking binge after 18 years of sobriety.

But it’s their mother – Fionnuala Flanagan’s divinely witchy Agnes – who seems to keep everyone in place with enchantments of shame. “People need to know the truth,” Peter insists. “That is exactly what they don’t need,” counters Agnes. This woman should be writing soap operas. As per her demands, now absolutely every one is tangled up in secrets and lies.

Kat (Jessie Wallace) and Alfie (Shane Ritchie): checked in to Redwater, with little chance of escape

It’s catching. Kat, who began the show as a bumbling truth seeker, is now as coiled and cagey as the Byrne family when questioned by Bernie. Alfie, the undercover Christian undergoing secret brain surgery, has likewise exiled himself from his family. One scene hints at a wider national hypocrisy: a subplot in which a teenager acquires the morning-after pill with her grandfather in a country which affords her precious few other options.

“The world keeps marching on and we get left behind,” complains Dermott, bitterly, about the depleted sway of the church. Many will agree with him, which is why Redwater’s faith-dazed vision of an Irish community wracked with guilt and shame will strike some as hoary and anachronistic. But in Redwater, at least, concealment is a religion. To see Kat and Alfie at the series end – each isolated, imperilled and caught in a lie – you can’t help but think that they’ve finally gone native. 

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