By Any Means: the Series Finale.

Previously on By Any Means: Episode 5.

If only this show had had that much bite during the first five episodes.

The trouble is, really none of the seeds that were planted early on — Charlie’s doubts about the justness of their actions, Jess and Jack’s determination and possible dark side, or TomTom’s rebellious spirit really paid off anywhere throughout the narrative so far. What we got, except perhaps for Episode 2, was lacklustre and one-dimensional. Great guest stars were wasted on too-small roles, and the quality of the scripts varied from piece to piece.

With this one, there is suddenly a threat hanging over the team that the writer attempted to introduce during Episode 4 — that of everything going wrong and Helen not being able to protect them or pull enough strings to get them out of trouble. However, the dark tone of this finale doesn’t match the lead-up at all. While I had expected more darkness to follow directly on the heels of the relative levity of Episode 1, the series just sort of bumbled along the edge of comedy, speaking too much of its roots in Hustle rather than Spooks. It’s a staple of any genre that the series finale comes with a shock or two, and that’s always either a character death or some other drama mixed with a case nearly too tough to break, with the stakes up in the sky. The point isn’t that such a storyline is predictable, because that’s what a genre relies on, that’s what genre fiction means. The point is that it doesn’t add up.

It was as though, suddenly, the writers realised that they needed not just one, but three cliffhangers to keep viewers hanging — whether Charlie’s going to make it, whether Jack really murders Caine, and whether the unit will be allowed to continue. We had no sense of actual threat to these characters’ lives during their missions before, so the contrast is so stark… it’s just too jarring.

So are Jack’s actions towards the ending: is he really going to shoot Caine? It’s a grey area, alright, but, again, this is too sudden. If the show had expanded on Jack’s reasons for going down this path beyond just the death of his brother, if there had been more of a glimpse into how dark his thoughts can really turn, then this wouldn’t have surprised me so much, but as it is, the writers’ teasing at his willingness to kill, to go an eye for an eye seems wildly out of character. It’s ramping up the drama for drama’s sake. As I’ve said before, if I had connected more with his character, perhaps I’d feel differently, but in my opinion the show didn’t do enough to foster that connection. Especially after having seen Warren Brown absolutely knock it out of the park in the 2012 drama Good Cop, this is an unfortunate rehash that, sadly, cannot hope to compare.

So, on balance, while this was a good episode that finally managed to keep up the suspense, its efforts are overshadowed by the fact that such a conclusion to a lightweight series is far from the icing on the cake.

Update: Warren Brown has confirmed on his twitter that By Any Means was not commissioned for a second series.

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