Last week, in my review of the penultimate episode of The Village, I wrote that it had begun to seem like the show was going somewhere, that there was a point to the endless misery and bleak outlook. Fortunately, it seems I was right to have faith.
Having jumped forward in time, the final episode is set in what is now 1920. War is over, and the villagers are dealing with the aftermath, discussing the building of a memorial to their dead. Naturally, this leads to several disagreements, namely whether or not to include Joe Middleton’s name, as his ill-timed shell shock meant he was shot at dawn for cowardice. Bert (Alfie Stewart) now a teenager, has continued in the role of photographer entrusted to him by teacher Gerard Eyre (Matt Stokoe). Happily, the latter has returned to the village having been imprisoned rather than executed for refusing enlistment, although his psychological state has been considerably damaged by the experience.
Meanwhile, Lady Clem (Juliet Stevenson), continuing to go from strength to strength, stands against creepy Doctor Wylie (Jonny Phillips) and his intentions with Caro (Emily Beecham) and Grace (Maxine Peake) makes her views clear on Joe’s exclusion, as well as on grief as a collective consciousness at a village meeting. Poor George (Augustus Prew), my favourite, considerably more subdued after his time at war, is later dumped by goody-two shoes Martha (Charlie Murphy), who admits she does not love him, having always been in love with Joe. Needless to say I shouted at the screen at that point. Finally, a bout of influenza, leading to quarantine, does nothing to lift spirits, and leads the memorial service in jeopardy.
Fantastically well-paced and carried out with a hefty helping of class, this series finale certainly packed one hell of an emotional punch. Thrilled as we were (well, I certainly was) that Mr Eyre returned safely to the village, we were no sooner allowed to enjoy this than we had to endure his being humiliated by weedy, hateful fellow teacher Crispin Ingham (Stephen Walters) in the classroom. It was also difficult to work out why Eyre had escaped with a prison sentence for being a shirker where poor Joe Middleton, having already given years of his life to the war effort, was executed for refusing to return. This certainly goes some of the way to explaining why the reformed John Middleton (John Simm) is so hostile towards Eyre. There were, however, several touching moments between father and his sons, both dead and living, as the family come to terms with Joe’s death, and John notices that Bert has photos of the entire village, apart from his father.
The real highlights of the episode though, well and truly belonged to Lady Clem and Grace- clever parallels having been drawn between the two all series. As one lost her husband to suicide, and the other to religious fanaticism, both grew steadily stronger, tougher and far happier to express their opinions. This came to a head in the finale, with the revelation, for both, that they share a grandchild, as Joe was the father of Caro’s baby. Maxine Peake was fantastic as the grieving Grace, embittered and betrayed by the state whilst still desperately fighting for her rights as a working woman. The town meeting scene, in particular, saw Peake excel. Juliet Stevenson’s Lady Clem had some absolutely corking lines which not only showed the intensity of her character developed, but summed up the mood of the hour perfectly. The poignant ‘Time to change’, when choosing a different dress stood out in particular.
This was a classy, beautifully produced end to what has been, at times, rather a hard going series to watch. This last hour of brilliantly well-executed television made it oh so very worth it.
I do hope it returns for a second series, so it can do such a fabulous job of making us miserable all over again.