“I am not perfect, but I did not do this.” - The hinge on which the whole narrative of ‘National Treasure’ turned came in the 35th minute of this gripping final episode, as Paul Finchley admitted in court to serial philandering, sleeping with prostitutes, swimming in contrition for the way he’d treated his wife… everything except the crimes of which he stood accused.
It was a gruelling conclusion to a claustrophobic tale as Robbie Coltrane’s light entertainment personality - an Everyman figure summing up many of the real-life famous faces both innocent and guilty brought under the spotlight in recent times - received the benefit of the jury’s doubt, after his complainants’ accounts were questioned and found wanting. It was a tour de force from the Scottish star, dripping in palpable shame, even as we knew his character was lying as planned. Or so we thought.
The previous three episodes had focused on the damage wrought on his family by the police knock on the door, the charges, the media attention. Here, however, it was Finchley’s complainants who got writer Jack Thorne’s attention - one caught writing adoring notes even after his crimes, the other naively selling her story even while the verdict awaited - both swayed by celebrity, both victims of a different time with different values.
However, clever writing by Thorne meant that, while the courtroom afforded Finchley his freedom just as we learnt of his real guilt, he by no means emerged a winner, although it was left to real life to mete out justice where the law was found wanting.
Justice came instead in the form of abandonment. After three episodes of grim-faced, joyless devotion, Julie Walters’ wife Marie finally upped and went, leaving her husband to his cronies, his restored career, and the loneliness of self-interested friends, and a victory hollowly earned.
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