So last night the fourth and penultimate season of RTÉ's Love/Hate came to a close, and with it came a chorus of social media boos and hisses from those that would say it was "anti-climactic" while others defended it and understood it for what it was, or at least what they hope it was.
While it's fair to say that this season hasn't come close to hitting the dizzying, bloody and exciting heights and seasons two and three, it has to be acknowledged that this is the second last season of the show ever, and was always more than likely going to act as a conduit of sorts for better things to come in its final season.
As for the finale itself, I actually thought it was rather excellent. Compared to last week's episode, it was superb, yet it's understandable some of the viewers' consternation when we've been so spoiled with the last two season finales, which both killed off main characters in bloody and unexpected fashions.
In fairness, a few of the bigger plot points coming into the finale weren't sewed up all nice and neat for us, such as Nidge's failed attempt at murdering Patrick the bomb maker, or Fran's vendetta with Noely or even Moynihan's pursuit of Nidge (though anyone with a brain must have known this particular arc would carry over into the final season). But that's fine, because now season five is set up perfectly, and while the destination is clear, with Nidge eventually being defeated once and for all, the journey to the show's ultimate conclusion will be one to savour, in my opinion.
But back to last night's episode. In terms of gruesome deaths, surely the nation's appetites were satiated? One the one hand, former I.R.A. driver-turned-Nidge's-mascot Wayne was brutally gunned down by his "best mate" Glen, on Nidge's order. Then on the other hand, our poor down-on-his-luck corrupt dentist Andrew was viciously murdered by a now completely unhinged Fran via plastic bag smothering, which brings us to one of the finale's major set-ups for season five.
Nidge still has no clue what Fran is truly capable of...
All through season four, Fran has teetered on the edge with his boss Nidge, whether it be almost murdering Tommy only to be talked out of it by Nidge, or going behind his back to kill Andrew, simply because he knew more about the lidocaine shipments than he did. It was also touched on that Nidge was cutting Fran out in terms of him being on a "need to know" basis. "He's cuttin' me out, just like his old boss." Nidge thinks Fran is just a hot-headed but incredibly useful loose cannon, capable of over-stepping the mark now and again, but has he underestimated the lengths Fran will go to get even? It would be interesting to see how he'd approach the idea of Fran murdering Andrew in the way he did, or digging up Noely's dead mother's grave. So onto the next set-up...
Siobháin has now stepped out from the shadows to become a key figure...
From the first episode, Siobháin hasn't not been crying it seems, which is understandable as her boyfriend and the father of her son Tommy has become a husk of his former self thanks to his brain damage. But because of this, and her intangible grief at essentially losing the man Tommy was, Nidge's unseen nemesis Moynihan has regularly offered her the chance to aid his investigation to bring down her uncle, in return for Tommy's protection.
Of course, Siobháin's naivety in terms of who gave Tommy the beating of his life was a road block for Moynihan, that is up until last night when Tommy almost died on a job with Nidge. In the hospital at Tommy's side, she offers to fully cooperate with Moynihan, blaming Nidge for everything that has befallen Tommy. This is key, as Nidge would never expect family to turn on him like this. Family has always been one of the few things that has let Nidge maintain some semblance of humanity. And finally...
Moynihan's promise to Siobháin almost destroys everything he's been working towards...
In the final moments of the finale, with Moynihan's team monitoring every move of Nidge's operation, it looked as if we would finally see King Nidge dethroned once and for all, caught in the act of unloading the criminal amounts of lidocaine into their warehouse. What we didn't expect, was Tommy suffering a seizure of sorts just as the lorry was approaching, causing him to bleed from every which orifice.
With the boys panicking amidst the grim scene of a clearly dying Tommy, and unable to call for an ambulance, a clearly conflicted Moynihan juggled with his emotions with him so close to breaking the biggest case of his career. Does he pull the plug of the stake out to save Tommy, or hold out for the load to arrive to the warehouse, bringing down Nidge and co. for good, but risking Tommy's life? Of course, our good guy garda went for option A, saving Tommy's life, but arresting Nidge with little or no evidence to tie him to the lidocaine. This was also the first time Moynihan and Nidge came face-to-face, setting up next season beautifully, almost reminiscent of Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington in American Gangster (I said "almost").
What's more, with Nidge completely getting away with it once again, coming as close as he's ever come to being locked up for life, has seemingly given him his own personal aura of invincibility, as made evident by the finale's final scene with him pissing on the cop shop's door, before acting like a raving lunatic in his cell, to the tune of the Sex Pistol's 'Anarchy In The U.K.'.
"I am an anti-Christ. I am an anarchist! I know what I want, and I know to get it. I wanna destroy, the passerby!"
Personally, I thought it was an excellent finale to the penultimate season of this great show. While the season as a whole was arguably the weakest of the series (I would argue season one was), it all seemed to make sense in the grander scheme of things as last night's episode wrapped up. Everything it set up very nicely by Stuart Carolan for season five, and if all is as expected in terms of what he's looking to achieve, then we could be in for an absolute treat.
Not every season finale has to end in a massive gun fight or with your favourite character being killed off, but as with so many great television series of years gone, the penultimate season tends to be rather weak as it acts as a platform for greater things in its following season. Off the top of my head, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Dexter all had rather inconclusive penultimate season finales that all served their purpose in setting up excellent final seasons (except Dexter, which ended up a massive disappointment).
Fingers crossed this is all part of the plan. Stuart Carolan has this, I'm sure of it.
So do you agree or disagree? Or just want to vent your internet fury? Sound off in the comments below.