Mad Dogs: Series 3 Episode 4 (Finale) Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
Mad Dogs concludes its third run with a faltering finale that owes much of its appeal to the individual performances of Phil, Max, John, Marc and, most of all, Stanley Townsend (The Shadow Line), as the hilariously barmy, ex-C.I.A. operative, Lazaro.
I can’t quite fathom why Chris Cole seems so intent on shoehorning repetitive quarrelsome antics into each and every instalment (barring Episode 2, where the lads were separated for almost the entire duration). It’s just become a ceaseless monotony of the series that occupies more time in any given episode than it really should. This episode’s altercations don’t even feel like a matter of course; the dialogue is specifically aimed at arousing some superficial animosity between the four of them, presumably so Chris Cole can fulfil his quota of one argument per episode (if you watched Mad Dogs: Behind the Madness, you’ll have learned that Rick and Bax supposedly butt heads so often at Marc Warren’s insistence).
With that said, it’s not all bad. Rick’s overzealous – and I suspect, somewhat insincere – attempt to reconcile with Bax is rather amusing, as is Bax’s aggressively mouthed, ‘F*ck off’, in response. Similarly, Quinn’s unwarranted assault on Woody cue’s a highly comical ‘What have I done?!’ from his bewildered victim. But the first quarter of this fourth and final episode is largely spent with the lads at each other’s throats; repeating the same accusations and antagonism we’ve seen ten times over by this point (even the ‘blame it all on Bax’ routine from the previous series crops up again).
It is with the entrance of the slightly crazed Lazaro that things finally pick up. This being Mad Dogs, the “C.I.A.” angle is typically and brilliantly humbled in its depiction. Whether it’s Lazaro’s dodgy internet server disconnecting him as he’s in the process of removing all records of “Operation Wimphammer”, or him offering the boys their freedom in exchange for them doing some household chores – the triviality of his aid, and indeed his disquieting state of slight delirium, throws a deftly humorous spin on the whole thing, and Stanley simply excels in all areas.
We are also treated to a gloriously psychedelic sequence of events, wherein a bout of golf is played during an eerie mergence of day and night; the murderous Tony ‘Tiny’ Blair makes a welcome, hallucinated reappearance; Woody engages in a bongo jam in the middle of the desert; Bax experiences firsthand the beginnings of a beastly devolution; and Rick learns the literal folly of “giving” one’s heart to another – Chris Cole crafts a superb consecution of drug induced lunacy that wholly encapsulates the aberrant ethos of Mad Dogs.
Unfortunately, the episode ends in much the same fashion as it begins; poorly. The daunting presence of the Tokoloshe (the ‘Dwarf Zombie’ that’s been harassing Rick) turns out to be an omen of Lazaro’s death – which one can’t help but see as a mild cop-out. Mercedes’ arrival on the scene was abhorrently convenient as well. Whilst the character has been an amusing presence thus far, it’s rather frustrating that she figures into things as nothing more than a plot device to save the lads just in the nick of time. Likewise, the simplification of her entering ‘all targets eliminated’ into Lazaro’s computer without some sort of password being required beggars belief.
If it were a sandwich, it would be one with a delicious filling enveloped by stale bread. What’s in between a poor beginning and end is some of the most enjoyable Mad Dogs material over the last three series, and Townsend’s Lazaro is surely the best supporting character to have featured during that time (an honour previously held by David Warner’s Mackenzie).