With the parish council election looming over Pagford, it’s too close to call between mummy’s boy Miles Mollison and wheezing Colin Wall.
In the end Miles wins the coveted chair and no time is wasted on the vote on the fate of Sweetlove House. As newly elected Miles raises his hand in favour of the spa, he asks ‘What difference will it really make?’
Over on the wrong side of town things are going well for Terri and Krystal Weedon. Terri is off the heroine and Krystal has seen that Fats isn’t the man for her, and the Weedon’s spend time reconciling and bonding. With Sweetlove House closed, Terri has to go out of Pagford to get to her narcotics anonymous meeting.
Faced alone with the biggest task she’s had since becoming clean, Terri inevitably falls off the wagon. When Krystal comes home to find her home has been turned into a drug den of iniquity, she sees that she has no choice but to flee, with little Robbie in tow, but with no money or direction.
Celebrating Howard’s 70th birthday party, Shirley hosts a flash ‘do’ for all of the ‘right’ people from town. An uninvited Samantha makes a dramatic return and Miles defies his overbearing mother to win back his wife, and realizing that the Sweetlove’s have used them, cracks start to appear in the usually solid Shirley.
Krystal has nowhere to turn, so misguidedly she goes to Fats, and asks for help. Whilst the ex-couple argue, Robbie wanders off, leaving his toys next to the riverbank. Fearing the worst, Krystal jumps straight into the water, soon becoming tangled in the wires of Simon Price’s abandoned television, and tragically drowns (leaving not a dry eye in telly land).
Robbie is saved by Vikram Jarwanda and put into the social care system, and when social worker Kaye goes to tell Terri the bad news, the true ramifications of closing Sweetlove House starts to ripple through the cobbled streets.
With Pagford’s ghost back in business, Shirley’s world comes tumbling down when it’s published that Howard had an affair with his employee Mo. The shock of the revelation causes Howard to have a heart attack, but he has a strong heart and survives. Shirley on the other hand is broken, morphing instantly into a small, frail, old lady; Samantha rises and finds her own strength, and is the one who picks Shirley back up (and more tears!).
As The Casual Vacancy comes to a close we’re left reeling from seeing the best and worst in human spirit. J.K. Rowling described the original story as being about ‘…responsibility. In the minor sense — how responsible we are for our own personal happiness, and where we find ourselves in life — but in the macro sense also, of course: how responsible we are for the poor, the disadvantaged, other people’s misery…’
With the future generations of Pagford carrying on with life, starting a new school term in sparkling new attire, you can’t help but wonder that when Miles asked ‘What difference will it really make?’ he knew the answer all along – that when the dust has settled, nothing in Pagford will really change at all.
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 1 March 2015 on BBC One.
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