mon 22/04/2024

The Village, Series Finale, BBC One/Endeavour, Series Finale, ITV | reviews, news & interviews

The Village, Series Finale, BBC One/Endeavour, Series Finale, ITV

The Village, Series Finale, BBC One/Endeavour, Series Finale, ITV

The villagers lick their war wounds, and young Morse displays precocious investigative skills

Maxine Peake as Grace Middleton: 'We used to live in a small shoebox in t' middle of road'

Although Peter Moffat's story of a Derbyshire village has been designed to evolve into a 100-year saga, this first series amounted to an extended requiem for the fallen in World War One. The monstrous thunder of the guns has reverberated incessantly throughout these six episodes, as the story has wound its way though a woefully predictable trajectory of patriotism, optimism, disillusionment, despair and bitterness.

But Moffat, in his Not-Downton Abbey hat, has been at pains to stress the ways that responses to the conflict were determined by class or social standing. In an especially anguished scene in this consistently wrenching final episode, the villagers, minus the 112 men who wouldn't be returning from France, gathered to discuss the remembrance ceremony for the dead. The posh people were naturally sitting at the top table, and slimy politician-on-the-make Edmund Allingham (Rupert Evans, pictured below) made a comment about the lost "golden age" of the pre-war days.

Fiery Grace Middleton (Maxine Peake, who's been blazing away at full blast since episode one) was instantly on her feet to batter home the point  that it had never been a golden age for her or her family, struggling to keep their farm going and scrape a living. And naturally no future golden age was available now, with her shell-shocked son Joe shot by a firing squad for desertion. Since he was considered disgraced and wouldn't be named on the village war memorial, was he (she demanded to know) now in heaven or hell?

The Village has been the kind of programme which you felt slightly apprehensive about switching on, then found you couldn't turn off. The toffs-versus-plebs stuff has sometimes seemed to have been cut and pasted from the Rough Guide to Class Warfare, while the woes of the Middletons, apparently labouring under 15 volumes of Biblical curses, have at times been uncomfortably reminiscent of Monty Python's Four Yorkshiremen. But Moffat has knitted contemporary issues such as women's rights and trade unionism into his narrative with some skill, largely though the medium of Mr Hankin's boot factory. His depictions of the frictions, or hatreds even, provoked by the war between those who fought and those who didn't, and the way it drove a stake through the soul of the nation, have been gruelling to behold. And now there's the flu epidemic to contend with, so let's hope at least some of the cast make it to series two. 

ITV's ongoing splurge of new drama has been suffering from wayward quality control, but Endeavour has been a treat. Not that I've been able to detect the faintest similarity between young DC Morse and the irascible curmudgeon he would become in the John Thaw era, but Shaun Evans has introduced some qualities of his own (indeed, how could any actor worth the name not do so?)

Superfically, Evans's Morse seems a bit nerdy and insipid, but underneath lies steely determination and a precision-tooled detective's brain. Perhaps even beyond precision-tooled, since it's capable of suddenly blurting out the solution to the tangled mystery in question by putting together facts and observations that have mostly lain beyond the viewer's peripheral vision (last night's sudden denouement, running strongly against the run of play, was an unintentional comic masterpiece).

But consider the upsides. Roger Allam (pictured above with Shaun Evans) is splendid as DI Fred Thursday, a rumpled, battered veteran from the old school of detection, forced to dig deep this week to battle a toxic gang of London racketeers who'd returned from his past to haunt him. As Chief Super Bright, Anton Lesser mixes pedantic play-by-the-rules authority with a piercing intellectual streak. They've also got the period stuff right, creating a persuasively fusty early-Sixties feel (High Definition and TOWIE clearly belong to a different space-time continuum). Automotivists will have wiped away a tear at the sight of the Ford Corsair, the Morris Oxford and the Triumph 2000. 

'The Village' has been the kind of programme which you felt apprehensive about switching on, then found you couldn't turn off


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters