Right from the off, the latest episode of Sky1′s middle-aged men on the run series tells you this is gonna be a different instalment of Mad Dogs. Very different indeed.
The pre-titles sequence reminds us of the reason why the gang were out on their hols in the first place, Series 1 footage of their buddy Alvo (Ben Chaplin). Your spidey-senses would be tingling, alert to the fact that his unusual appearance was to prefigure events – and it did.
Without as much of a breath we’re presented with a delicious flashback (though it states “Two weeks previously”, it seems like an age ago) featuring Alvo and the new villain Mackenzie. Played by The Omen‘s David Warner, this cranky, ice-cream loving gardener is a hoot to watch though his underlying unpleasantness is more than apparent.
And so we learn just how Woody, Quinn, Baxter and Rick got into so much trouble in the first place. Alvo, trapped by Mackenzie and local policewoman Maria (with Maria Botto reprising her role), is scared and isn’t afraid to admit it to his questioners. Chaplin’s performance is extraordinary and his face off with Warner could have lasted for hours with no complaints from us.
It almost Lost-ish in feel; like a dream, even more so with the “dead” characters resurrected. Writer Cris Cole has crafted a tale that would have seemed straightforward (men on the run), but has now taken another turn.
The flashbacks act as a relief, it has to be said, as John Simm and company have rather become stuck in a rut, literally and figuratively. When we return to the action “now”, you may well be slightly disappointed as the scenes of middle-age buffoonery aren’t quite as engaging or challenging as the moments form the past.
Mainly because these guys are grating on each other. Rick, so expertly played with cowardly slime by Marc Warren, annoys intensely with his constant moaning, deflecting all blame at any and every chance. Baxter (John Simm) says, “I would hate to be stuck in the trenches with you, Rick.” We can’t help but agree.
The men are reduced further as their attempts to obtain extra cash (any small amount), may well raise the funds but also laughs and derisions. For example, phoning partners and ex-wives begging for money renders them childlike and pathetic, whilst dropping the safe from the hotel balcony, stealing from street performers and a church. The last third is comedy gold.
These final moments, from the church to the beach, sitting eating ice cream, may be chucklesome but also hide the fact that Woody and his chums are less than men. Desperate, flailing and grabbing anything that comes their way.
The plotting of the back story works superbly and lifts the story markedly, thrusting Mad Dogs further in terms of quality. Not satisfied with the already excellent story, the makers of the show have pushed the narrative in the most pleasing of fashions, giving us high expectations for next week’s finale.
Aired at 9pm on Thursday 2nd February 2012 on Sky1.
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