This week, with the UK under deep snowdrifts we bid goodbye to the always summery Detectorists. As the watchful magpie reminds us, our heroes should be looking up not down. Their metal detectors are pretty useless in this case, and it’s in the branches of the lovely old tree, beneath which we’ve seen them shelter for so many years, where the trickster magpies have hidden their ancient hoard.
The tiny heartbreaks of this series have done their job and we are rewarded with stronger happier relationships. Lance with his daughter Kate and his girlfriend Toni, who are not at odds with each other for his affection, and who seem like they could be excellent friends. TV writers take note; women can be friends, not just bitchy rivals. It was a shock to see Lance’s horrible ex-wife Maggie return (played with relish and skill by Lucy Benjamin). She had a useful but very short storyline. Her evil plans were scuppered easily. Maybe she was a little underused?
Andy has proven himself to his demanding mother-in-law, again not just a stock bitch character but just a normal woman worried about the choices her daughter makes, how they will afford to live and the welfare of her grandson. And despite their general uselessness, occasional insensitivity and underhanded sneakiness both Andy and Lance truly deserve this upturn in their familial fortunes.
This good feeling is mirrored in their relationship with the dastardly Paul and Art of Terra Firma (they’ll always be the Land Sharks to me). After years of rivalry, jealousy and generally winding each other up they’re willing to make peace for the good of their hobby. The scene in the dingy White Horse pub is played with comedy in mind, but is really moving. Lance and Andy have decided they want to cover every inch of their field before the permission runs out, so they bring together friend and foe for a detectorists rally. “It’s meant to be a nice day” they’re told. “Will there be a bbq?” their guests wonder. It’s all very British. Tempers do not fray over erecting the massive gazebo – anyone who has the misfortune to befriend campers with ideas above their station will know they’re a total arse to put up. “Coils to the soil!” announces Terry, and they begin in earnest. It really is a very nice day and there’s a lovely call back as Shirley’s famous (maybe infamous) lemonade is passed around.
As happy endings for even the minor characters surround them it’s all good news for Lance and Andy even without their long-awaited treasure. There’s hope here, not just hope for the one big find that will change their lives, but hope for the future; that the next day will be better than the last, come what may. And they won’t stop now – even without their field. “We carry on. We’ve got to keep searching” says Lance. There’s such a lot of love here for this niche hobby. It’s an emotional release for people who might be rather uptight in their everyday lives.
The rally finishes and the detectorists make their pilgrimage to the pub. We pan across the fields, hedges and hills as the credits roll, and there’s a lovely touch of Las Vegas about the English countryside, but any more detail would be too gauche for a series of this caliber. And I won’t spoil your pleasure by telling you any more. But the real treasure has been visible the whole time – it’s their perfect surroundings that they treasure above all. We will all miss this healthy dose of fine clean country air, and the lovely little stories of hope and joy. So much comedy comes from awkwardness and one-upmanship; it’s been a pleasure to watch something so joyous that makes you laugh.
Close the curtains, catch up on Series 3 on BBC iPlayer and forget it’s December for a while.