Thirteen, episode 5 (finale) – review

“Quite frankly, all the police on this case need to be put on gardening leave.”

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© BBC

Written by Michael Lee.

If you go down to Cabot Circus today you’ll be sure of a big surprise and it’s not that Next have an up to 50% sale on. The scene is set for the most action packed scenes of what has been a steadily paced series. Ivy, in a bid to save Phoebe Tarl has been summoned to meet her kidnapper in this most public of places. The police are hiding in the shadows keeping a watchful eye on events, well maybe watchful isn’t the word as she gets lost in the crowds before our villain of the piece shows up in a photobooth with Phoebe on his lap. He whispers something into Ivy’s ear, presumably that he will set the girl free if she goes with him and this is where shit gets real. He removes her earpiece, puts Phoebe into a lift and takes off with Ivy. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to the CCTV footage we had at another shopping centre earlier in the series, this time Ivy is reluctant and internally fighting rather than emotionally attached to him. They flee in a van with, as chances would have it, only Elliott and Lisa is the way. Mark White (played by Peter McDonald) puts his foot to the peddle and DC Carne (Richard Rankin) puts his on the brake in the middle of the road, a one car roadblock. Our favourite incompetent officers are flipped over in the collision while White speeds free. It’s a heart skipping opening that almost feels lifted from another kind of show but it works brilliantly all the same.

In White’s new home a fascinating exchange of mind control versus maniplulation takes place. Ivy thinking on her feet, her freedom having given her some confidence convinces him she didn’t escape, that she went to look for him and the police chanced upon her. She also gets him to free her from her ropes. It’s great that White wasn’t played as typical madman or butch alpha male, he is a standard looking guy with Russell Howard’s accent but not his lazy eye. He is quietly spoken and not at all physically imposing but the threat is always bubbling under the calm exterior. The tension becomes almost unbearable as events turn darker. There’s an attempted murder, a head smashed against a wall and arson. Not forgetting the creepy need to dress Ivy up in a granny dress. Does he have some sort of mummy issues? In a poetic shot she flees the house seconds before it explodes and the emergency services show up with the Moxam family in a moment of perfect synchronicity. A soulful version of Royal Blood’s ‘Out Of The Black’ kicks in and the emotion flows. She has burnt her bridges and left a rather scolded Mark White in the rubble.

Elliott and Lisa (Valene Kane) spend most of the episode laying on their backs – and not in a fun way. Following the accident they are hospitalised but Carne, ever the stubborn mule limps out and back into work. As usual with this programme there are several questions that need to be asked of the police. Why didn’t they put a tracker on Ivy just in case? White didn’t check for one and how on Earth did their target allude them when they supposedly had the building surrounded? Quite frankly, all the police on this case need to be put on gardening leave with immediate effect. These can be overlooked because it is a drama and if everybody did their jobs properly there’d be no fun in that. Elliott did finally come good when he noticed that what looked like a badly drawn picture of a ladder was actually a local landmark tower, resulting in the discovery of Mark’s whereabouts. Not that it mattered in the end as he was already charcoal by then.

The real downfall of this series finale is the avalanche of unanswered questions it leaves in its wake. Never should a TV show give you everything on a plate but keep a lot of the ingredients locked in the cupboard after all the intricate build up is a travesty. While it’s true the story we’ve been told has until now has been removed from Ivy’s perspective, there is a slight flip reverse as soon as she enters White’s home. For the first time we see their relationship from her viewpoint and what follows is a wasted opportunity to provide answers. We do learn two things: That Ivy was pregnant but lost the baby and that for the last year of her captivity White allowed her more freedom, even creating a “homely” bedroom for her. However too many pieces of the puzzle are lost – what happened for the first twelve years? There is no backstory at all. Why did he choose Ivy? What was all that stuff about him working at the school for? Why the pseudonyms Alison and Leonard? Most importantly, there is no hint of any motive. Writer Marnie Dickens has stated that putting the villain to the foreground takes away from the victim’s story. Surely even a hint of answers in the finale would not be putting him centre. Ivy’s story feels somewhat diminished by the lack of any hard facts. Even now, we don’t really know what she went through or why and this lack of information is what takes away from her tale. Nothing else.

And so to the supporting characters, who added to a web of intrigue finely spun, only to be sucked into the hoover of script confusion (there is no such thing as a hoover of script confusion).

Mr Headmaster man’s relevance faded more and more each week. So much so that he didn’t even turn up here.  Did it matter that White worked at his school in the end? Nope. He was a bit part player in the reunion of Christina and Angus at most. Tim. Oh, Timmy Tim Tim. He had so much to say to Ivy and ended up saying nothing. Which is an fitting statement for the minor cast in general. Did he realise he wasn’t in love with Ivy? Who knows? Do we care? Still, he and Yazz are all good again so you could say the only way is up from here. Yes, second week in a row of that joke and not even sorry. All Craig’s hints of contol issues just came to nothing as he briefly showed up to reunite with Emma and all was forgotten – literally. Eloise proved perfunctory TO EVERYTHING. Still, at least Elliott and Lisa look set to be together, once she’s forgiven him for nearly putting her in a coma and/or nearly giving her brain damage. It’s difficulties like these all strong relationships need to get through.

Harsh maybe, but it’s also a compliment that the build up was so finely worked that it in terms of arc it fell at the final hurdle. That should not take away from an exceptional portrayal by Jodie Comer throughout and a strong cast in general. Thirteen has proved intriging, suspenseful, thrilling and a little bit frustrating but in the same way someone you care about has annoying quirks, you still forgive them all the same.  As a series conclusion it is deeply unsatisfying but as an hour of television this was drama played with maximum tension and plenty of class. 8/10