The past bleak few weeks have been improved by the return of Mackenzie Crook’s Detectorists, possibly the most perfect piece of television of the last decade. This charming, witty, beautifully shot series about hobbyists, archaeology and village life is also one of the most profound portraits of friendships and relationships, of many kinds, that I’ve ever seen on TV, all captured in a string of half hours that glitter like gold coins on a field.
Having watched it from the start, I was looking forward to a third series, although with some apprehension about whether the high standard could be maintained. Three episodes in, it’s already clear that series three will take the show out on a high note, as Crook spins his small-scale dramas into a story that connects to so much more about England and its place in the world.
That, sad to say, is one of the bittersweet aspects of watching Detectorists series three. The rapturous trance has been shaken, if not broken, by events since its 2015 Christmas special. Watching it now, you can’t help wondering which of the resolutely English residents of Danebury voted Leave. Terry, almost certainly. Sheila, probably. Lance?
I’d rather remember them, and rural England, as unsullied by 2016 and 2017. But there’s no escaping the times we find ourselves in, and in the face of Brexit, Detectorists remains some of the best escapism going. For one and a half more hours.
The final: perfection.
Added by Rory on 13 December 2017.
It’s a week ago now, but I don’t want to forget watching the final episode, and particularly its very last scene (walking to the tree, onwards). So perfectly shot, and such a satisfying resolution. Just enough, in a tiny corner of a 40”+ flatscreen TV, to know that it’s worked out as we all hoped.
When Lance and Andy slung their detectors over their shoulders I feared for an instant that we might have some hokey resolution where the detectors go off as they walk under the tree, breaking the realism (because they couldn’t possibly be in range); but Crook handled it so, so much better. Once we knew all that gold was sitting above their heads, any positive outcome was going to feel contrived, whether it involved the bat-box or the metal detectors, so why not go full-on, and shower them with it? It may not feel true to life, but it feels just: we want these characters, all of them but especially these two, to be rewarded for being such decent, likeable people.
The auction: perfect. The resolution with Simon and Garfunkel: also perfect. They’re real human beings, not pantomime villains. In a similar vein, in the previous episode, was that small moment after Andy confessed to his mother-in-law, when he apologised for lying and kissed her on the cheek; one of my favourite moments in a series full of them.
I loved it. I loved everything about it, from S01E01 to S03E06. Some of the very best television of the decade, no question, and if there’s any justice people will be rewatching it forty years from now.
Added by Rory on 19 December 2017.