tue 26/05/2020

The Trip to Greece, Series Finale, Sky 1 review - bittersweet swansong for the cantankerous comrades | reviews, news & interviews

The Trip to Greece, Series Finale, Sky 1 review - bittersweet swansong for the cantankerous comrades

The Trip to Greece, Series Finale, Sky 1 review - bittersweet swansong for the cantankerous comrades

Farce, vanity and profound seriousness somehow hang together

Is this the end of the road for Brydon and Coogan?

Could this mock-mythic journey, emulating the trek homewards to Ithaca of Homer’s hero Odysseus, really be the final series of The Trip (Sky 1)? Or will Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon see sense, and realise that they’ll never have as many free lunches as this again?

Could this mock-mythic journey, emulating the trek homewards to Ithaca of Homer’s hero Odysseus, really be the final series of The Trip (Sky 1)? Or will Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon see sense, and realise that they’ll never have as many free lunches as this again?

This concluding episode continued the bantering, competitive tone of its predecessors, but director Michael Winterbottom had added some additional portentous wrapping. The opening depicted Coogan voyaging (in Ingmar Bergman-esque monochrome) through a cavern with a mysterious boatman – Charon, the ferryman of Hades, perhaps. Then Coogan saw the robed figure of his father on the shore, and they conducted a mystical and tragic-sounding conversation. Then Coogan woke up.

The scene hovered in the air like a nameless threat, but was instantly blown away as the boys hit the road and resumed their relentless one-upmanship. Talk of the Greek Olympics prompted Brydon to impersonate Vangelis’s Chariots of Fire theme, but Coogan was scornful of the way he made a horn noise where a keyboard should have been. When Coogan began parading his Wikipedia-ish knowledge of the Ottoman Empire, Brydon lampooned him with an advertising voice-over (“Great savings on Ottomans of all sizes!”) before inventing the latest Marvel superhero, Otter Man.

Chat show veteran Michael Parkinson has been a recurring theme, and it was in his voice that Coogan urged Brydon to “encapsulate in a sentence the genius of Steve Coogan.” “I’ve met a lot of people over the years who didn’t like him,” Brydon riposted.

Yet, through the prankishness and self-indulgent breaks for meals, whose preparation was filmed with MasterChef-style lasciviousness, that ominous opening scene had left a depth-charge of approaching nemesis. It arrived in the trilling of Coogan’s mobile, announcing a death in the family. Suddenly all the larks and boastfulness crashed to a halt as Coogan’s final destination proved not to be Odysseus’s palace on Ithaca, but a dark and solemn Manchester.

Brydon, meanwhile, stayed on to cavort in Greece’s turquoise waters and reunite with his wife, even if he was unable to speak to her without slipping into impersonations of Sean Connery or Anthony Hopkins. It seems impossible that The Trip’s mix of farce, vanity and profound seriousness should hang together, but once again Winterbottom and his players had pulled a nugget of gold out of the fire.

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