The final episode of ‘Derek’ found Ricky Gervais unashamedly eschewing laughs for tears and introspection, as the residents of Broad Hill gathered to farewell one of their own.
The death of Lizzie, tended to by her husband George, was the cue for this week’s montage - their courtship and her decline playing out like a small screen mini-’Amour’ - and for everyone to explore the meaning in their own lives.
Derek - for whom the only shortcut is kindness, challenged by the arrival of his father
For Derek, this was a chance to expand on some themes we’ve come to associate with Gervais, often in 140 characters... that animals are often nicer than humans, that religion is a big fat red herring in people’s lives when, after all, you can “just be nice”... that things are much simpler than we think.
Even the dreadful Kev got the chance to show his heart in this final episode, about his regrets - "I'm a failure not because I didn't succeed, but because I didn't try" - and the existential nature of his life’s deepest desires... “Muff, that's it."
Of course, we had Karl Pilkington’s Dougie to sum it all up from his dark cupboard... “From the moment you pop out, someone gives you a slap to make you cry, and that's life.”
Dougie on the power of prayer...
"Just have a moan instead, that's my way of getting it out, that's what it is, isn't it? A posh moan, praying."
So to Lizzie’s funeral, where we had Derek’s only real narrative arc of the series, with the unwanted arrival of his long-absent father. Meanwhile, inside the church, could it be? surely not? yes, it was... flipping Chris Martin on the organ, with the dolorous opening chords of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’, just in case we didn’t know that Derek would probably find a way to forgive his dad, and with a song that presumably had little bearing on Lizzie and Gerald’s half a century of life together. Simon Cowell is more subtle with his music choices.
This unforgivable (sorry, I’m not Derek) aspect aside, it was a powerful final episode, with Gervais making decisive choices for compassion over comedy at every turn, but still turning in a script of subtlety and warmth. His own acting seemed to improve, too, with the final scene indisputably moving, if only we hadn't had Mr Martin telling us it was.
Those sticking with ‘Derek’ through the series must be feeling rewarded, as its initial broad brushstrokes made way for something deeper. From his established comedic plinth, this was a brave, interesting thing for Gervais to do, and he's managed to carve yet another corner out for himself on the shelf of British TV staples.
If you’re looking for laughs, there’s always 'The Office’s Gareth with his stapler in the jelly, Keith with his Scotch egg. For a few life lessons on the simplicity of stuff, we now have ‘Derek’, ably abetted by the despairing wisdom of egg-headed Dougie, who deserves have the final word on this series...
"You've only got to watch these documentaries on the telly. That's why they put those things on the telly, to make people like me feel good about myself. It works. I watch Comic Relief… to cheer me up, and I don't mean those sketches you have on there, they're shit, I'm talking about the local stories.”