20 February 2020, The Tablet

Death knell


Death knell

The End
Sky Atlantic

I wasn’t sure what to make of Sky Atlantic’s new drama series, The End. And I am not sure that its creators are all that sure either. It is billed as a heart-warming yet searing, life-affirming yet death-accepting, tragicomic, bittersweet exploration of what it is to live and to die well. Or something like that. At any rate, it doesn’t seem to have made up its mind exactly what it is, except that its elements are thrown together and are both familiar and unbelievable: the viewer may well feel manipulated without being remotely surprised.

Episode one (10 February) begins with an attempted suicide. Edie, elderly widow of a vicar, leaves the gas on and puts her head in a plastic bag; when this doesn’t work she swigs some gin and throws herself out of an upstairs window. She survives and ends up, rancorous and snarling, in Australia where her daughter Kate has found her a bungalow in a “lifestyle resort for active seniors”. Understandably, Edie is appalled and wants to know why she can’t simply move in with Kate who has, after all, “three-and-a-half bathrooms”. But Kate, who works as a doctor in the local hospital, has her own problems: her husband is in prison, serving time for some as yet unspecified white-collar crime; and she has two demanding teenage children called (poor things) Persephone and Oberon (formerly Titania).

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