The Trip to Italy series finale begins with Rob Brydon killing Steve Coogan. He sticks a knife in his gut and carves him like a turkey. Ok, so this is a dream sequence where Rob is Vito Corleone to Steve’s Don Ciccio, but it’s the symbolism that counts. Rob takes out his feelings of inadequacy on the person who has been fuelling them for the whole holiday. But for those hoping that the dream is a premonition to some kind of climactic outburst, you may end up disappointed.
This is not that kind of series. People generally avoid confrontation as it’s in their nature to keep their grievances bottled up. Such is the case for Steve and Rob. The characters they play may be fictionalised versions of themselves, but they are realistic enough to know that their insecurities should only be discussed with their reflections and the dead of Pompeii. If you want a resolution to this little arc I’m afraid this is the only one you’re likely to get.
The other matter is Rob’s little entanglement with boat owner Lucy, which is granted a similarly restrained but ambiguous ending. Rob confesses all to Steve’s pregnant agent Emma, not just the infidelity but the intentions to do it again. It’s a cringe worthy scene, Rob does all he can to distance himself from the facts of the matter. He does his Hugh Grant hoping it will soften the story and add some humour, hoping his charm will lessen his sins. But his apprehensive nature betrays his shame.
Later they go out to take in the view and discuss the duel endings of Roman Holiday and Notting Hill. The former a romace that ends with the lovers parting for the sake of duty, the latter saying to hell with duty, let’s elope. Emma likes Roman Holiday better, but Rob – still caught up in the romance of Italy – thinks he can do more to impersonate Hugh Grant than just borrow his voice. It’s a sign of mid-life crisis how delusional he is about the whole affair. He refers to his one night of passion with a boat owner he just met as “unrequited love,” seeing himself as the heroic lead in a doomed romance. Here is a man desperate to be recognised for his work and after several rejections by his wife, as well as numerous successful baiting attempts by Steve, he has finally succumbed to illusion over reality. If he continues down this road he dooms his happy family for fleeting feelings of sexual gratification.
Steve meanwhile seems to have achieved a level of contentment with family life that has seen him at his most relaxed in two series. His boy comes over from Ibiza to share some time with his dad, and unlike most teenage stereotypes in film or T.V. he’s not some ADHD raddled miscreant hiding from the real world on his mobile phone. The bonding between them is brief but believable. It leaves Steve Coogan’s Steve Coogan with a feeling that his arc has been concluded, in way that is sweet, satisfying and subdued.
The comedy of The Trip can often be overlooked in discussions of the series, reviewers finding more to say about the neuances of the characters from week to week than the jokes. This is because, despite the series being consistently funny, its consistently funny in all the same ways. There are only so many times you can talk about the accuracy of their impressions or the bickering in the car. I’m not Steve Coogan or Rob Brydon so I can’t get away with doing the same things every week. I’m afraid I simply don’t have the charm.
But that’s what the series has always been about. Its one long dinner party, filled with good friends good food and wonderful conversation. The fact that the guests are so real and human, who have the same insecurities and fallibility as us, only makes us more invested in their lives.