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Mad Dogs: Series 4 Episode 2 (Finale) Review


Reviewed by James Wynne.

Well, if ever an ending was open to interpretation, that was it. A lot happened throughout the course of Mad Dogs‘ final episode, and I’ll get to most of it in due time, but the frantic internet discussions that have no doubt already ensued will be all about that ending, so where better to start this review?

As the credits rolled on the most bizarre conclusion to a television series that I can recall, I imagine most were staring incredulously at their screens for a few seconds, before furiously rewinding, and repeatedly rewatching those last few minutes to try and glean some modicum of sense from it all. Clarity was all but absent, and so it’s up to us lowly fans to theorise what exactly was inferred during those final scenes.

Theory A

Dominic’s revenge was fulfilled. The lads were gunned down, and the sequence that followed the preparation for their executions was nothing but a depiction of their immediate afterlives. Them driving off in Quinn’s car was a metaphor for the departure of their souls (its eventual flight off the edge of the road could also be interpreted as them vacating this mortal plane), and the reason that Bax glanced himself beneath the Tony Blair mask was because of the self-inflicted nature of their fates, which was discussed just prior to their demise. Rick also briefly turned his gaze towards the masked man in the car, and in all likelihood, saw himself unmasked just as Bax had seen his self.

This might seem an outlandish notion, but then Mad Dogs has never lacked in that regard.

Theory B

Rick’s hallucinations of the Tokoloshe were clearly a manifestation of his own paranoia, and it was clear from the last episode that Bax, at least, was harbouring some fears that there were still forces pursuing the four of them. After Quinn’s partner was assassinated, a state of paranoid psychosis could have feasibly been triggered, and everything from thereon in was nothing more than a shared hallucinatory experience.

The army of ‘Tiny Blairs’ that were remarkably skilled at hide and seek, and who seemed to pop out of thin air on the beach that was in sight for the entire duration of the lads’ conversation before they were alerted to their own graves being dug, were apparitions manifesting from their fear, in the image of Alvo’s killer, and their sole, similarly guised persecutor that arrived at Quinn’s house.

The whole situation from Series 1 onwards was a nightmare, and so the imagined continuation of it played out similarly, and the lads’ were unable to discern what was reality, and what wasn’t, which lead Quinn to steer them off the edge of the road and to their probable deaths, in an attempt to end it once and for all.

Theory C

It was just nonsensical madness that had no real, conclusive meaning to it. Mad Dogs has always struck me as being written off the cuff right from the very start, so it’s entirely possible that when crafting that ending, Cris Cole was simply fixated on emulating the definition of that first word in his show’s title. And Mad, it certainly was.

Aside from the speculative possibilities that the ending posed, this finale wasn’t quite the satisfactory denouement to the series that many would have hoped for. In fact, it wasn’t really a denouement at all. It was just another madcap run-around, albeit more ghastly at times than we’ve perhaps been used to.

Carmen’s (Leticia Dolera) demise was effectively harrowing, especially with how her earlier, imparted story had unwittingly foreshadowed it. ‘Wait and see.’ Because the smallest, most dismissible moments can lead to significant ramifications down the line, be they fortunate or unfortunate. Bax reluctantly taking Carmen’s gun upon her insistences inadvertently instigated the fateful circumstances that followed.

The bulk of the episode wasn’t quite as exemplary as some of the individual moments suffused throughout. It was standard Mad Dogs fare, and felt at times a bit too derivative of previous instances in the show’s past. I praised last night’s episode for deftly paying homage to the past without being too imitative of it, but tonight’s was bordering on trite.

The assault on Quinn’s house was exceedingly repetitious of the attack on Alvo’s villa from the first series, with only a few differences to distinguish the two events (e.g. the CIA woman — arguably the barmiest character Cole has concocted — is shot in the head before being run over in front of the gate, unlike Dominic who was only run over and, hence, survived the ordeal). But the similarities are too abundant to avoid the feeling that for its final episode, what we got was, predominantly, just another rehash.

Perhaps contradictory to what I’ve said above, this was still an enjoyable episode to watch. I’m finding it difficult to reach a definitive verdict on it, because on the one hand, as a standalone viewing experience, it was fun; Carmen’s death was painstakingly poignant, and Tiny Blairs’ pursuit of Quinn, Woody, Baxter, and Rick, was fraught with no small degree of suspense. But as a finale to the series as a whole, it brought very little to the table, and offered no admissible closure for those of us who’ve stuck with it since the beginning.

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  • Melody Ayres-Griffiths

    Theory D: They’ve been dead the whole time, and the series was set in purgatory, just like Life on Mars (little surprise with two of the actors coming from there!) To explain: at the start of the series, the four main characters are all in various degrees of personal distress. One’s a criminal, another’s an alcoholic, etc. They record messages for their loved-ones before they go on “vacation”. Is it possible they’ve all run afoul of crime, or suicide?

    They don’t seem to know how they ended up at the villa, only that they did. None of them have seen each other for years. They catch up, and the cracks in their relationships quickly reform. After a small period of ‘peace’, the unthinkable happens and they’re constantly on the run (from some very strange enemies), trying to keep themselves alive, finding respite here and there but they keep making wrong-headed mistakes that put themselves back into jeopardy, eventually killing anyone they form new relationships with (but not themselves) until finally, they come to accept their fates, and surrender on the beach.

    Once they stop fighting, they’re free to go elsewhere — that destination is left ambiguous with the car flying off the elevated highway. Will it go up? Or down?

  • JohnFynes

    I loved Mad Dogs, I thought it was amusing, surprising, great characters, with a plot that was just plausible enough to buy in to, great locations, I could go on …. I’m not going to bother mentioning the bits where it was implausible because that’s not what it was about… 10/10 !
    ….. UNTIL ….. Series 4 the finale, a two episode horror that would have been better never made. Boring, plot-less, pointless, repetitive, wafer thin characters. If it was meant to be dream like it achieved that only by being a TV viewing nightmare in comparison to what it could have been. This could have been wound up in a witty, interesting, and convincing enough way to have made the whole thing from start to end a great TV series. As it was, it looked like some one had decided there was money to be made from wrapping it up, and so had set up to do so in the least imaginative way, least work way conceivable. No one will convince me this was some sort of surreal gem on the lines of the Prisoner or similar. The interest and fun in series 1 to 4 was that it involved ordinary people thrown into ludicrous, just believable events. If the premise now becomes that the events were unreal – then the point is lost and they could just as easily have removed theirs skins to expose themselves as lizard aliens.
    The clue was that Series 4 was only 2 episodes long, and as it turned out not enough of any value happened to make one good episode. Ages spent at the wedding hotel being stupid was the first clue. This was a black comedy, the end result turns it into a feeble low grade “who dunnit”. Frankly I could write a far better ending to this myself. The only thing that would rescue this from being a travesty would be for a further series explaining the c*** that was Series 4, developing and clarifying the plot and then resolving it. People are not commenting because they are intrigued, they are commenting because they are disgusted at the limp, lazy conclusion. It as if a good landscape painting was being created when the painter, too lazy and preoccupied to do more than bodge the finish, slapped some emulsion over it to complete the contract. The fault lies not in the actors, or the direction or the production, but with the writer. If he wasn’t interested he should have drafted someone in. If they are stuck for a better four part script I will do it. Eugh, Overall 1/10.

  • The Random Commenting Machine

    I agree with Theory A, and found the episode a joy to watch. When the credits rolled I just sat there laughing at the screen. Great series, great finale, great show. It’ll be missed.

  • garry perkins

    Well, I laughted at open all hours, and indeed a joy to watch as an Xmas novelity, not as a dramatic bit of our lives, only to be let down,

  • Federica Allegra

    Overall, I have enjoyed watching Mad Dogs. With that being said, I was quite disappointed with the finale. The audience who loved watching the show for such a long time shouldn’t be left wandering as to what actually happened. I still can’t believe that after watching all those episodes, I am now left interpreting my own theory of a possible finale ..

    • GoodYear92

      Well, if it appeases you at all, Max Beesley took to Twitter earlier and confirmed that the first theory I posed in my review (which seems to have been the one most commonly speculated by the fans, and was put to him in exactly the same detail as it’s been presented here) was in fact what happened.

  • farthingdr

    The song choice in the final moments of the episode, right
    before they drive off the road into oblivion, is by Patsy Cline, called
    “You Belong to Me.” The lyrics suggest that the narrator is
    describing to her sweetheart the exotic locales he is heading toward, much like
    the adventures shared by our four lads. In the end, though, she declares that
    when he sees a “dream,” he will know that ultimately he belongs only
    to her, no matter how far he may roam. This speaks to one of the themes of the
    series: that all roads end in one place– not in the arms of the beloved, but
    in the embrace of oblivion. The “civilized” world where the four men
    are from, and from which they finally decide to escape, suggests reality is
    orderly, like mathematics (which is why Rick likes numbers). But the unknown
    “primitive” world, symbolized by the billboards with the woman in the
    mud mask, as well as the small djinn figure seen by Rick, is also the world of
    the untamed unconscious. Western concepts of meaning and order have no place here.
    The four men are continually drawn to it, despite plentiful warnings and omens
    that to return there is madness. Return they do, but as the song suggests, the
    siren call they are heeding is not that of a lover, but of death itself.

  • Paul Messer

    I agree with John Fynes below. Personally, Series 4 was boring and a waste of time. This has been a really slow placed series, hard to watch at times, but did not cop out and jump the shark until the 4th series. I can’t understand why, after having watched series 3, episode 2 where the guys rescue Rick – why they just didn’t end it there and then. It was a beautiful, if very neat, ending in that episode. It also would have left enough questions as to whether they would have gotten away with it to not be a cop out.
    There are loads of comments from cast and crew on the net about how Sky gave them the freedom to make the programme they wanted to make. For me, they fundamentally failed to address why they are still friends, particularly after the fight at the wedding. Given that this theme was supposed to be at the heart of the series, they let the audience down in a big way. I’m also not sure why killing the entire cast off including girlfriends, was deemed the best ending – after 14 really, really slow episodes, I expected much more.
    Gutted, 0/10 from me overall

  • Charles Davis

    There are so many possibilities its bewildering – I watched the whole thing over three days last week – I have read many many answers to this question in an effort to understand the ending and the symbolism throughout. They all make some kind of sense but that’s not the point – making no sense was the whole point of the message of the series. So here’s my trippy explanation – they all died in Majorca in Series 1 – the rest was purgatory where the mistakes they had made throughout their lives informed the choices they subsequently made in the series and over and over again they took the wrong option with increasingly upsetting consequences for them all. One definition of madness is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” – their souls in purgatory continued to make the same poor choices until ultimately they were sent to hell for being hopeless cases all round. The zombies, the eyes, the posters, the body snatchers, the Rick death scene in bed in CP, the all pervasive surveillance, the flight to SA, the family reunions confirming their worthless natures as far as their families were concerned, the death of those they loved – the disease of their bad decisions just kept infecting everyone they came in contact with – in the end although they innocently went to Alvo’s in Ep1 for a lads holiday – ultimately their life choices to that point informed their decisions and the outcomes from there on out – the flowers on the wheelchair villains shirt have a significance but I will keep that to myself – I have no religious beliefs BTW but the purgatory / hell analogy suits the theory. They died – they had a chance to redeem themselves – they failed – they were damned. ATB. Graham.

  • Glyn McCallum

    The very last scenes reminded somewhat of Fallout 3 ( video game). I enjoyed the series but the ending did not live up to the quality that was laid before us, a bit like LOST. The writer had a stunning vision to conceive this idea, pity that vision didn’t last. Even doing GCSE English, my teacher always said dream endings are a cop out, it is an inability to finish your story, shame this writer obviously forgot this simple basic

    • GoodYear92

      As much as I’d agree that the ending to Mad Dogs was far from perfect, I fail to see how it was a dream ending. There was no dream that was woken up from (everything that occured from the start of the series up to the four of them kneeling on the beach happened for real), and neither was the final sequence a dream. It was their afterlives; the car flying off the road was them journeying to hell, as punishment for all the selfish decisions they’d made that led to their deaths. It was metaphorical (not literal, in the strictest sense of the word, obviously), but it wasn’t a dream ending, or a cop out.


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