Nidge under pressure as enemies circle in return of Love/Hate

Opening episode shows group of Travellers attempt to kill Dublin gangland boss

 

So just to recap on where the last series of RTÉ’s flagship TV drama, Love/Hate, left off: we saw gang boss Nidge (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) going mental in a cell to the pumping energy of Anarchy in the UK, gummy psycho Fran (Peter Coonan) had emerged as a viable pretender to his grimy throne, and the Garda, led by Det Mick Moynihan (top actor Brian F O’Byrne), were on his case.

Series four never felt complete.

It started strong pitching Moynihan against Nidge, the cop against the robber, the quiet spoken bogger against the Dublin gangster’s nervy gobby paranoia, but six episodes later it ended weakly - stylish shots of Dublin’s skyline, a cool evocative soundtrack and that showy unconvincing Garda station scene in place of the rewarding ending of a dramatic narrative.

It was more like a series hiatus - the sort big US dramas do to stretch the story, to keep the tension, as seen in Breaking Bad did it. And so this first episode of new series of Love/Hate felt like a seamless continuation of what had gone before, the gang dynamics and the storylines picked up where they left off.

The tension in the opening episode - and the openers of Love/Hate have always been the best, full of threat and promise, loudly living up to the hype - is that it is no longer certain that Nidge will survive, that past actions won’t finally do for him.

By planting that uncertainty, writer Stuart Carolan has set off a forceful momentum that should carry it through the six episodes. Not that there was anything subtle in how the script revealed Nidge’s vulnerability.

A gang of Travellers - they have slashhooks and tracker devices - attempt to kill him in revenge for one of their own. He stops off at his sometime girlfriend Janet’s house for a bit of joyless sex - she keeps her clothes on, unusual in Love/Hate - and as he leaves he’s set upon by the Travellers. It looks properly vicious.

So what does a Dublin gangland boss do in a drama rooted in real-life news reports - he heads to Spain, to the Costa del Crime. He looks pale and puny, out of his league, as he persuades expat Dublin crime boss, a smooth, tanned Terence (Paudge Behan), to loan him some money so he can back in the drugs importation game.

And more clunky plot telegraphing: “Someone’s going to whack you soon,” Terence tells him and then repeats it, in case we haven’t copped it. He warns Nidge to be wary of informants. “There’s no rats,” says Nidge. “There’s always rats,” says the Costa del Crime boss. And there is - Siobhan (Charlie Murphy) is in league with Det Moynihan in revenge for Nidge’s attack on Tommy.

And just in case we haven’t quite got it that Nidge is in danger, Terence says: “If you were a bleeding nag, I wouldn’t put money on yon you lasting the race.”

Nidge tries to buy off the Traveller he’s feuding with, but is told to buy himself a headstone instead. Eskimos have fewer works for snow than the number of times we’re told Nidge is a marked man.

It ends with a bloody murder - although not Nidge’s, but convincing, gangland-style and vicious, and ordered by him, signalling that while they are all out to get him, and he’s paranoid, he’s not dead yet .

“It’s a great day to be alive,” he says to Fran, while the soundtrack blasts the Velvet Undergound’s trippy, cartoony “ I’m sticking with you.”

*What did you think of this episode of Love/Hate? Join the discussion

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