I think this whole series can be summed up with one word – actually not even a word in fact, but rather a mere sound, and that sound is ‘meh’. Despite having an impeccable cast, and being handsomely filmed and designed (the anachronisms in the script have been written about in far more depth by people more knowledgable of the period than me, but the accounts of the details the production designers brought in to evoke the era are very impressive), and occasionally threatening to get quite good, The Hour very much ended on a damp squib.
I’m really not sure where to start on picking apart this final episode (whether this will be the absolute final episode remains to be seen however – the Guardian reported earlier in the week that Morgan is working on scripts for series 2 but, I would still be surprised if it was renewed judging by the reaction this series had), there seemed to be so many things wrong with it. Although, admittedly, there’s also the small matter of the fact that I got bored and nodded off at the halfway point of the episode so things that were already hopelessly muddled and nonsensical were made even more so – I did think that I should probably go back and watch those ten minutes before writing this review, but despite having sat through the previous five episodes, I really couldn’t be bothered, which says it all really.
Perhaps the most pointless thing in the episode, and in fact the series as a whole, was Issac. Not only was there a fair amount of chatter at the start of the episode about his satirical sketch that had somehow ended up in the broadcast, due to there being, as Bel pointed out, a lack of useable footage for any of the week’s top news stories, but there was also his burgeoining romance with the equally pointless, and irritating, secretary Sissy (her complaining to Bel after the demise of the show that she couldn’t bear to go back to the mailroom was both irritating and inappropriate). When a series gives more screen-time to two such weak characters than its greatest asset – Anna Chancellor’s Lix – there’s something very wrong with it.
As for the most perplexing thing about this episode, I’m not sure I could pin it down. Was it the heartfelt speech from Lord Elms at how concerned he was about disappointing the young Freddie when he took him in as an evacuee, or Bel’s continuing career in television production. It’s a shame that after being so incredible in the Crimson Petal and the White, Romola Garai was stuck with such a wet role here – her comeback to Hector’s ‘I love you’ was nicely sharp (even though I could have done without the return of the jazzy sax in their scenes) but the rest, not so much. For a start it’s kind of unbelievable that she would be able to leave a massive gap in the schedule of the live show she was producing for some mysterious last-minute story from Freddie and when she started going on about the job being the thing she had been waiting for her whole life – despite being 28 (I’m still not sure if a 28 year old woman would be able to produce a news show in the BBC of the 1950s), I kind of wanted to slap her in the face. Instead she got the cliched appreciative slow-clap to commend her bravery from her crew at the end of the broadcast (which wasn’t as sickening as Hector describing Freddie as ‘a hero’).
The most obvious candidate for the most credibility-stretching moment though was the reveal as Clarence as a Soviet spy, which was hard to swallow as it necessitated both a serious jump to conclusions from Freddie and a whole ream of expository dialogue (it would’ve made more sense if Lix had been the spy, and I was sort of expecting that to be the case – although I suppose Morgan wanted to keep her on in case there is a second run). It also meant that the series ended on a complete anti-climax – not only was it unclear if Bel’s firing still stood but absolutely nothing happened with Clarence after his ridiculously long speech, which felt like a bit of a slap in the face after sitting through six hours of this stuff.
There were a few moments that struck a chord with issues in the BBC and British society today, particularly Bel’s aspirations to provide balanced journalism – still a stick that the BBC news-output is beaten with today, but it really just wasn’t enough to raise any more than fleeting interest. But never mind, Doctor Who’s back this weekend, and I have a feeling that those recaps will be a lot more enjoyable.