TV reviews

Curfew 1×08 – Review

“It’s not about how hard you fall. It’s about how you pick yourself back up.”

It’s the final push to reach the finishing line and take the chequered flag. And Curfew has definitely fallen on more than one occasion along the way, yet it’s also managed to pick itself back up. It’s been a gruelling (sometimes for the racers taking part, sometimes for the audience) eight weeks, but the end is finally in sight. And you know what? I’m strangely going to miss it all. Read my reviews of the first and second episodes, and you’ll see why that’s so totally unexpected.

We’ve come a long way in these last two months together, facing both death and life across the course of a single evening, but this is the culmination of everything we’ve seen so far. It was never going to be plain sailing on this last leg, and we get to hop back in time a short while to see just how the chaos from the cliffhanger in last week’s episode unfolded, with some of the competitors dead, and others dying, while holed up in a tiny Scottish service station, under attack from the creatures that were created by the November 13th virus some five years ago.

One puzzle we get solved early on is just who the mysterious figures are that have led the race in the latter stages – it turns out that millionaire Max Larssen (Adam Brody) and one of his lackeys have been behind the wheel of the high performance bike and sports car which have been at the head of the pack lately. Larssen takes an almost perverse pleasure in watching what’s going on, weighing up the survival instincts of the various racers, as he’s set up a colony on his remote island which he will use to take back the world when the creature crisis and the curfews have all ended.

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Larssen clearly has a Messianic complex, seeing himself as a saviour – he views this as an almost Biblical situation, referring explicitly to his island refuge as being an “ark”. He also appears to be something of a sociopath, having just one blank facial expression throughout, as well as his calm and measured tones when speaking, and his attempts to get inside people’s heads by telling them he knows how they feel. He’s just the sort of unctuous little git you hope comes to a suitably sticky end, but it seems the only reckoning anyone will get is when Grieves (Robert Glenister) throws himself to his death off a skyscraper in London in what’s a shocking and visceral moment, after he starts to transform into one of the creatures shortly after he was bitten in the last episode.

An attempted act of sabotage by one of ‘Team Awesome’ backfires significantly, ending up in a Mexican standoff which goes south in a big way, triggered by – of all things – an ill-timed belch, which ends up spooking someone who has an already itchy trigger finger. An Irn Bru powered burp leading to carnage: how very, very Curfew. The series really has managed to get a grip on its own utter absurdity, and has been at its very best when embracing its more cartoonish aspects. Billy Zane’s ‘Joker’ Jones and his ‘Team Awesome’ are the perfect embodiment of this daftness, albeit with a dark undercurrent, and the programme would have been a whole lot less entertaining without them.

There’s no better demonstration of this than when they realise they will need to lighten their load if they want to take the lead: cue a sequence of them pitching all their worldly goods into the path of other racers, from ladders, inflatable toys, bags, and even their own clothing. They even literally have a kitchen sink, which ends up clattering alongside the site of a dying Lou Collins (Miranda Richardson), who’s busy expiring from a fatal gunshot wound when her big death scene gets undercut by a casually discarded piece of kitchen equipment. Gloriously bizarre, and such a Curfew way of doing things. Such a pity that Richardson’s character felt so poorly served in comparison to some of the other racers, and hers seems like such a hollow death.

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The series’ soundtrack game has always been consistently strong, and picking A-ha’s ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’ is a perfect choice for the final push towards the finish – for the first time in the entire race, night has finally gone and sunrise finds us in a whole new day, literally and metaphorically. The track also acts as the ideal backing for a character montage, showing us just how far we’ve come over the course of the eight episodes. I’m not going to spoil who actually crosses the line first, as I’d encourage you to see for yourselves; however, I’d venture to say that it’s a fitting result, albeit one which is tinged with a bittersweet quality, as we get to see who else came so very close, and would have proved equally worthy winners.

Even at the end, there’s a strong hint that there’s more to come – not all of the loose ends are tied up, as Kaye (Phoebe Fox) and Michael (Malachi Kirby) both vow to return to Kiloran in order to try and find a possible antidote to the virus. It’s all left open-ended enough for us to do the whole thing over again next year, particularly as Larssen is busy talking to all of the losing drivers about entering the race in twelve months’ time. Thankfully, we also do get some of the reckoning it felt we would be denied, as ‘Joker’ Jones gives Larssen a solid right hook straight in his implacable phizog, which feels like satisfying closure. It all feels like being a decent setup for a potential second series, which I – for one – would heartily welcome.

So, there we have it: the climax of a series which has been only 50% brilliant, but in retrospect that’s a good 50% higher than it first seemed would ever be possible. And so Curfew ends not with a whimper, nor with a bang, but a dance number (as if there would ever be any other way for it to go out), with ‘Team Awesome’ getting on down in their own inimitable style to the strains of Juca Chaves’ ‘Take Me Back To Piaui’. Eclectic and zany right to the very last. Perhaps not a whole greater than the sum of its parts, but Curfew is ultimately far better than it had any right to be, and worthy of a lap of honour.

So… same time next year, then?

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