Farewell lovely The Durrells (ITV), we will miss you. It is always such a wrench when a much-loved, harmless piece of sun-splashed whimsy runs out of steam and gets ruthlessly wiped from the schedules. Still, The Durrells got a good send-off, with its writer Simon Nye penning an episode that gave the majority of the characters one last walk-on part (even muscly Swedish accordion player Sven; I mean, when did we last see him?).
The swansong opened with a large dollop of what we love so much about the series: sharp sunlight, azure sky, the crumbling old villa at the blue water’s edge and the happy shrieks of family reunion as Larry (Josh O’Connor) returned from his travels and dived headlong into the shimmering embrace of the Ionian Sea. What bliss.
Unfortunately, the year was 1939 and Larry had brought bad news with him. “Just to update you, Europe is on the brink of war,” he said – a line that, in another series, might be sneered at for its lack of subtlety, yet here it’s how they talk to each other all the time. Yes, the dark clouds gathering over the rest of Europe had finally drifted far enough south to blot out the sun from their little idyll in Corfu. Italy had invaded Albania, just a few miles across that innocent-looking sea.
It wasn’t long before materfamilias Louisa (Keeley Hawes) had even worse tidings: in her trembling hand a telegram informing them that unlucky Basil (Miles Jupp) had been shot and killed on his way back to Blighty. “Just for being English,” Louisa gasped, making quite an assumption given how irritatingly bumptious Basil could be.
There was only one thing for it: to turn their backs on paradise and return, for safety’s sake, to the cold clasp of England. But not before putting on a play – obviously. What else would English people do other than culturally appropriate Homer’s Odyssey in tribute to their Greek hosts and neighbours?
Naturally the heart-fluttering climax of Louisa’s love affair with Spiros (Alexis Georgoulis) had to be negotiated first. That romantic run along a beach, the passionate clinch and declaration of such mutually selfless nobility as hasn’t been seen since Brief Encounter will doubtless have seen many a hankie wrung out. It was a fine – one might even say proper – way to finish off this most heartwarming of dramas. Only Larry was left lingering in Corfu, an unlikely spy. Who knows, perhaps they’re planning a less whimsical wartime spin-off.