Here it is – the season finale. There are loads of conflicts and dramas that cannot possibly be resolved in a single episode, which suggests to me that the BBC are anticipating a third series. Still, got to get through this one first…
We go through the now familiar morning routine involving Maurice who has taken up running at bizarre times at night to avoid Louise after a disastrous proposal attempt in the previous episode. Eddie and Allison stage a mini-intervention and after being tagged-teamed, Maurice is herded round to Louise’s to resolve things by Eddie.
Tom and Rebecca are doing some herding of their own as they try to get the children from Joe’s old school ready for their performance. This, of course, is the perfect breeding ground for more conflict and when Rebecca brings up Allison’s plan to start volunteering and maybe return to work, Paul reacts in the manner in which has become common-place in this series. So, like an ass.
Any other plans you want to share with me or shall I just call Stuart?
There’s more arguing that Joe witnesses and then a really weird segue that seems almost like something important was cut from editing. Paul has a line about how they shouldn’t blame Joe. Which is right, they shouldn’t. Joe’s done absolutely nothing wrong. The weirdness of it is that, in a drastic change from last series, at no point during this series has Allison blamed Joe for any of their relationship issues. She has pointed out that their separation is because Joe attends a school in Manchester but she never blames Joe for that – she just kind of accepts it. Paul has been the one blaming Joe’s autism and wanting to get rid of it, so it’s odd that he has this line in this argument – like a section was missed.
There’s a lot of rehashing of conversations in this episode, somewhat symbolic of the ongoing communication problems that all of these characters have with each other. Paul makes it pretty clear that he has given up on the relationship and seems to think that Allison thinks the same (based on how her character reacts, I’m guessing not). This is all intermingled with the show that Rebecca is working so hard to get ready on time, so there’s this interesting back and forth as Allison moves from her ongoing argument with Paul back to her children and trying to pretend that everything’s fine.
Ramesh: Is it good to be back and your old school?
Joe: Let me see now.
Ramesh: I remember you used to say that and it means you are not going to answer the question.
Maurice is also off making more life changes as he rekindles a type of casual relationship with Louise and then proclaims that he is going to retire from the brewery, give it to Eddie and not interfere. Something Eddie (and the entire viewing audience) find quite difficult to believe.
The arguments between Allison and Paul move on and Paul’s views of Joe and autism get even worse as he confesses that not only is he fed up of Allison’s optimism about Joe and the fact that she is okay with “moments” but that he doesn’t envisage any kind of positive future for his own son. Eventually Allison gives him an ultimatum – if he’s going, he needs to go because she can’t cope with wondering when he’s going to decide to up and leave. Paul very clearly makes his decision while Allison returns to the performance and is midway through packing him bags when Mark arrives with a cake and a line celebrated by many families:
I made Allison a cake (…) to say thank you for helping me with the college application and the council bastards.
During the performance there’s an awful lot of drama taking place while children sing, perform tricks and dance up on stage. Allison and Rebecca have a heart-to-heart where Rebecca’s thoughts and feelings about her future in Joe’s life are revealed, and Nicola and Eddie finally have the discussion that’s been needed for the whole series. They won’t be getting back together, although Eddie will be returning to the area to be closer to Emily and to take other the Brewery. Nicola makes an off-hand comment when he talks about being her best friend about never having one before and part of me thinks that whilst Nicola may not meet diagnostic criteria for autism (and I’m not certain if she does based on what can be observed), I wonder if the traits she does have are ever going to be mentioned.
Joe organises his whole family on stage for his performance of Michael Rosen’s ‘Move It’ which goes over well until Maurice collapses and is rushed into hospital.
I’ll be honest, I was anticipating something significant happening – the episodes tend to be on the side of too much drama sometimes but I wasn’t expecting Maurice to hit the floor. Which is a view echoed by Louise – the irony of Maurice trying to run around and help everybody else and then end up ill or dying himself.
Underneath that tough, tactless exterior is a tough, tactless interior trying to get out and under that is a big, softy bastard who wants to fix everything.
Joe is worried about Maurice and struggling to process the information, particularly when there is a speedy turn-about and Maurice is okay. The flip back and forth here is a little jarring, it makes Maurice’s collapse seem like unnecessary drama – although it does later result in him doing a runner from the hospital and turning up at Louise’s door with a jumper and hospital gown on with his backside bare to the world.
The episode ends with a heart-felt conversation between Rebecca and Joe where we once again bear witness to the depths of their relationship and to the understanding they have of one another, followed by a montage of relationships that are being brought back together in one way or another between the supporting characters to the amazing musical backdrop of ‘The Same Deep Water As Me’ by I Am Kloot. This montage ends with Paul standing on the ground, staring up at Allison, Joe and Rebecca who are sat on top of Rebecca’s camper van – separate from the rest of the family. Which is where he’s spent most of this series really.
I wasn’t sure about watching this series after the first series. Allison was a very unsympathetic character and it made for difficult watching at times; her character growth before and during this series has been so good to see. The growing sibling relationship between Rebecca and Joe was a highlight once again, and Maurice’s on-off relationship with Louise was brilliantly awkward and clumsy. The extra screen time of characters like Ralph, Ramesh and Bill from last series, as well as the introduction of new characters Mark and Sophie gave depth to this series that the first was lacking.
It’s not perfect and, for all her growth, Allison still isn’t quite there with all her understanding of autism, and Paul’s regression from his original acceptance plummeted to the point where I just wanted him gone. It was rushed at times, too much drama packed into a short series, one of the smaller story-lines could have gone and it would have helped with improving the pacing. But it was much better and there were many genuinely enjoyable scenes between the characters.
So now we wait to see what the third series (which there almost certainly will be) brings – will it be another long gap to allow Max Vento to age? It would be nice to see more of Joe’s voice and views – although he also had great lines throughout this series – and the introduction of an adult with autism to continue Allison’s growth in acceptance and understanding would be good as well.