‘Love/Hate’ goes out with a predictable bang
Review: The drama’s body count became its biggest appeal – and its biggest drawback
Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Nidge, a character mainly concerned with the ‘Hate’ side of the equation. Photograph: RTÉ
Well that was shocking. Guess from the following options what happened in the Love/Hate finale . . . a) Fran and Nidge agree that there’s been a terrible misunderstanding and sit down to play a game of Buckaroo. b) Tommy wakes from his coma to find Darren, dead since season three, alive and in the shower. “The last two seasons have been a dream!” says Darren. c) Trish invites the Vicar, the Duchess and Nidge’s old army colonel around to tea with hilarious results. d) Brutal murderous violent things.
The answer was, of course, d)… They should just call Love/Hate “Brutal Murder Hour”. Lizzie the hitwoman, one of the few really interesting female characters, was pointlessly dispatched in the first episode of season five. Packy and Dean might as well have been wearing Star Trek red-shirts as they were violently hacked and bludgeoned. And Pauley was never destined to live long, what with his penchant for getting of his gourd and hanging out on high ledges (a bit of an evolutionary blind spot). He plummeted to his death in episode three.
Whereas early on the show was criticised for its too-pretty gangsters, Love/Hate mobsters have more recently been scarred with slash-hooks (Nidge), had their teeth knocked out (Fran) and their eyes gouged (Ado’s brother).
The visual aesthetics pioneered in the early series are also starting to look like lazy stylistic tics (panoramic shots of the city + scowling men in cars + grisly murder = Love/Hate).
Nidge enters the finale a harried middle-management figure who desperately needs work-life balance. As any working parent knows, it’s hard to juggle family, a drug empire, a brothel-keeping girlfriend, a feud with a philosophical bomb-making Traveller, a domineering Spanish over-boss, a murderous jail-breaker and your comatose best friend’s informant girlfriend.
Then Terence “Big Balls” the steely-eyed, gang-boss does his silky scary voice to Nidge and orders that Janet, Nidge’s girlfriend, be tortured to death. Nidge goes home gets a nice pair of shoes from Trish and starts to be emotionally affected by all the murders and stuff. “Jesus,” he says. “This is a really violent programme.” (He doesn’t really say that).
Moynihan the cop, who has one name, like Cher and Madonna, snaps and beats up Nidge but most insultingly, eats Nidge’s car tax disc in a taunting fashion (this is a huge insult among his people).
Some plot threads are just left hanging. Scotty the Garda rat, who is Scottish, and might as well be dressed in a rat-suit, and probably comes from an international pool of informants called Dutchy, Frenchy and Spanishy, doesn’t do anything. Tommy doesn’t wake from his coma, though he was never the most expressive character so it doesn’t really make much difference. And Fran, with his gap-toothed grin and little-Lord Fauntleroy hair, is anticlimactically rearrested before he gets to Nidge. Terrible, nightmarish, brutalising things happen to Fran in a jail shower.
Siobhán plants evidence in Nidge’s house so the police can arrest him, and then, inexplicably, tells Nidge all about it. She’s the worst police informant ever. Then, just when you’re thinking, you know, I’ve been sleeping too well, I could do with a bit more violence, Patrick, the philosophical bomb-maker arrives and philosophically shoots both Siobhán and Nidge as Nidge’s son watches.
Love/Hate’s biggest appeal has seemingly become its relentless body-count and it was also its biggest problem. They’ve been too quick to kill off interesting characters.
There’s been a vacuum at Love/Hate’s core since Darren died, which an avalanche of plot points and ultra-violence can’t hide. Darren embodied the “/” in Love/Hate, a man who thought of himself as good but did terrible things.
Nidge, the main protagonist since then, was mainly about “Hate”.
There was never going to be redemption for Nidge so the only dramatic question was how long he was going to live. Until 10.30 last night, it seems.