It’s been an incredible rollercoaster of a ride from start to finish, with major cast changes along the way, but now we’ve finally reached the outstandingly satisfying finale of Hustle.
With one of the best pre-titles sequences in television history, the show’s 48th episode instantly set itself up to be something special as we see a helpless Mickey and his crew fail to talk their way out of a speeding bullet. Gunned down and bleeding to death, Mickey sprouts his final words: “Most of you must have thought, one day it would end like this.”
Four days earlier…
The gang set their sights on multi-millionaire businessman Madani Wasem (Abhin Galeya), a stock market trader who uses intimidation, murder and a shadowy enforcer to make his cash. However, the threat of death isn’t enough to sway our master thieves from their potential £10m payout, and they soon set out a plan, luring the dangerous mark in by embarrassing him, playing to his inflated ego.
Not even when he physically assaults Ash and Mickey do they back down. Then of course there’s the surprise appearance of ex team member and one time love interest, Stacie Monroe (Dexter’s Jaime Murray), who appears to be working for the mark.
After some clever deception and a van-load of con-men playing Police Officers, it appears our heroes have made their getaway and bagged a tasty retirement fund… until they’refollowed back to their hotel that is. What starts as a celebration soon becomes a chase to the rooftop where they’re confronted by Wasem and his new enforcer.
Brave and emotional looks speak thousands of words, conveying their last ‘thank yous’ and ‘goodbyes’ before one last desperate attempt at the famous Mickey waffle fails and they’re riddled with bullets.
With fifty-pound notes gently fluttering to the street below, Wasem and his cronies make a quick withdrawal, leaving the supposedly dead grifters to rot. Mickey delivers his heart wrenching line and closes his eyes.
But come on, did we really think it was going to end that way?
The camera pans around to reveal the beautiful sight of original Hustle star Danny Blue (Marc Warren) posing as the enforcer, stood boldly like he’s never been gone. Stacie arrives to see them climb to their feet and observe the chaos below as Wasem struggles with dozens of citizens claiming the falling money.
So all that was left was one final celebration with Eddie before heading off in to the sunset with £10m in the bank. Which would’ve been a nice ending, but not the best…
Instead, writer/creator Tony Jordan goes one step further. In a final fourth-wall-breaking speech, the Hustlers gradually summarise what they’ve taught us over the years; reminding us that you can’t cheat an honest man, that we should always look a gift horse in the mouth, and not to trust anybody at face value, before one by one, exiting Eddie’s Bar through the studio back-lot, climbing into a Cadillac, donning sunglasses and leaving us with the knowledge that the entire series has been one large con. Genius!
We’d like to say how beautiful it was to see old regulars Danny and Stacie back or how thrilled we were that they walk away happy and rich, but we just can’t get our heads around how truly satisfying such an ending was – an ending that only Hustle could get away with.
So, as Mickey said, never be a mark.
Aired at 9pm on Friday 17th February 2012 on BBC One.
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