One of the greatest strengths of Hit & Miss has been its use of imagery and music – and frequently, the juxtaposition between the two.
Yes, the story has been a well-constructed mixture of criminal brutality, everyday tragedy and hope amid the humdrum and horrific alike; the scripts have been excellent (the occasional dishonourable exception in the dialogue notwithstanding… Levi saying to Mia, ‘You can’t tell me what to do – you’re not my mum,’ is a rare lowlight, even if the writer was aiming to parody the cliché rather than deploy it) and economic, with the plot drawn-out but never stretched too thinly, the pacing slow but never dragging; and the performances of the principal cast have either been praiseworthily superb or realistic enough to convince.
However, it’s the brief but compelling glimpses of apparently disconnected objects, animals and bleak landscapes that foreshadow scenes to come or flashback to previous incidents that linger longest in the memory – particularly when they’re accompanied by jauntily cheerful and apparently inappropriate music. This almost Brechtian technique has never been further to the fore than at the beginning of Episode 5, where the younger members of the extended family cavort around the fields with Uncle Liam, a jolly song about sunshine soaring on the soundtrack, while Mia and Riley try to clear away John’s bloodied carcass and the associated gore.
Sometimes, the standalone imagery is a bit obvious – dark, stormy skies indicating ominous events to come – or crude – pigs snuffling in their pen mirroring the sight of a policeman sniffing a pair of knickers in the back of John’s abandoned truck – but on other occasions, it’s subtle and effective. The sight of the wind getting up to power the roof-mounted turbine indicates the speeding up of events towards a climax; Ben goes down on a woman he pulls in the pub, something he can’t – won’t? – ever be able to do with the woman he’s fallen in love with; Eddie symbolically passing the phone to Levi so the latter can answer Mia’s call, as clear a sign as any (if one were needed) that the gangster’s patience with his troubled transgendered executioner has almost reached breaking point; and – perhaps most cleverly of all – Ben’s apparently unassuming disposal of a condom that later takes on a much greater significance.
It’s these small touches, as much as anything else, that remain in the viewer’s memory once the episode is over. The song about sunshine is more than annoyingly catchy enough to earworm you for hours, but humming it also brings to mind images of bloodstained mirrors, Eddie doing some DIY dismembering and Mia packing up body parts with the businesslike air of a mum wrapping Christmas presents before work. It’s also going to be very difficult in future to see a picture of Frank Sidebottom without immediately associating the papier-mâché-headed hero of the North with a prosthetic baby bump.
From the teaser, it looks as if there won’t be much time for wistful, allegorical shots of sheep, pylons and moorland in next week’s final episode amid a lot of violence, the appearance of Mia’s hitherto unseen family and a haircut as severe and shocking as the discovery of a partially-wrapped bonce on a beach. But that’s okay. Brecht said: ‘It’s alright to hesitate if you then go ahead’ – and the time for hesitation is over.
Aired at 10pm on Tuesday 19th June 2012 on Sky Atlantic.
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