PLOT SUMMARY: The final episode covers the events of the Conservative Party leadership election. Francis Urquhart (Ian Richardson) declares his candidacy, "reluctantly" persuaded by the clamour of his colleagues. He eliminates the weaker candidates by dredging up scandal from their past. After the first ballot, Patrick Woolton (Malcolm Tierney), Michael Samuels (Damien Thomas) and Urquhart remain in the race. Urquhart uses the sex tape with Penny Guy (Alphonisa Emmanuel) to blackmail Woolton into withdrawing. Elegantly for Urquhart, Woolton thinks that because Penny was seeing Roger O'Neill (Miles Anderson), and he in turn worked for Lord Billsborough who is now backing Samuels, that it is Samuels who is behind it all. Woolton therefore gives his public backing to Urquhart. O'Neill, distraught that Penny left him, drinking increasingly heavily, is casually murdered by Urquhart, who stages an overdose. Meanwhile, Mattie (Susannah Harker) listens back to her taped conversations with Urquhart and realises that he was behind it all. She confronts him in the roof garden, he throws her off. We do not know if he has been elected leader, but we do know that someone has picked up Mattie's tape recorder.
COMMENTS: For those of us who grew up in the era of Tory sleaze the idea that extra marital conference shags were commonplace is easy to accept. But the comment from Woolton's wife to "inform me if I need an HIV test" is very much of its time - at the height of the AIDS scare - and chillingly cool in its delivery. The political machinations are handled beautifully and far more convincingly than in the remake. However, I believe that Corey Stoll's depiction of Peter Russo emotional decline is far more convincing than Miles Anderson's O'Neill, and the subsequent murder is therefore less emotionally impactful. That said, I love how Urquhart's actions are so very callous, his mischievous smile, his self-justifying, mocking, nasty soliloquy, and the final congratulatory full-mouthed kiss with his wife Elizabeth (Diane Fletcher). I hadn't remembered that Urquhart was't actually elected leader at the end of this episode. Maybe in my memory I just took it for granted because I'd seen the following series. So, to that end, the series has a more ambiguous ending that I'd thought, but still with more of a conclusion that the US remake.
"This is an act of mercy. Truly. You know the man now. You can see he has nowhere to go. He's begging to be set free. He's had enough. And when he's finally at rest, then we'll be free to remember the real Roger. The burning boy in the green jersey. With that legendary, fabulous sidestep and brave, terrified smile."
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