To have It’s a sinThe closing of the final episode with REM’s “Everybody Hurts” through its credits may all too clearly explain the mood in which this five-part miniseries leaves us. “Take comfort in your friends,” Michael Stipe sings shortly after we see a fresh-faced Ritchie bowing in front of his friends in the sun-spattered flashback that ends the show. It is a beautiful image, full of joy and possibilities. the First episode it ended with the question of what Ritchie, Roscoe, and Colin hoped to accomplish in their future, and it is bittersweet to find Russell T. Davies choosing to take us back to brighter days when these young men might not have known what awaited them. It is also perhaps too neat a tie to tie what was at times a powerful account of a group of friends in London in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS crisis.
Yet despite all the focus on friendship for most of the series, it was family that framed much of this final episode. Looking episode four, I outlined a persistent complaint that I had with It’s a sin; that is, how he seemed to be totally invested in the complexity of a character like Ritchie (Olly Alexander) often at the expense of figures like Ash (Nathaniel Curtis, here reduced to Ritchie’s “maybe boyfriend”) and more clearly, Roscoe (Omari Douglas). Unfortunately, this latest installment did nothing to convince me otherwise. Roscoe’s complicated relationship with his father, which comes full circle when they meet in the hospital’s AIDS ward, is summarily resolved in a few minutes so that the show can continue and spend its last half hour dissecting feelings and motives (and machinations and confessions and delusions) of Ritchie’s mother. As much as the show promoted itself as a kind of ensemble, I was often worried that it would eventually become the “Ritchie Story,” turning most of its characters into supporting actors.
That is precisely what he did. While there were things to love (Keeley Hawes, from Bodyguard fame, it’s amazing every time) and the things I could have done without (the sweeping melodramatic soundtrack that punctuated Jill’s walk through the AIDS ward at the hospital), I admit I was a bit disappointed by this narrative deviation , no matter how heartbreaking and heartbreaking it is – which was a jerk. Evoking a decades-old framework on how to tell a story about a young gay man dying from complications of AIDS, It’s a sin turned its final chapter into a tale about the loss of a mother. (That is, before he punctuated his narration with a verbiage about shame. But we’ll talk about that later.)
After years of keeping his status (and sexuality) a secret from his family, Ritchie comes face to face with his mom and dad in the hospital. Unable to avoid such thorny conversations, he finally tells them everything: he’s gay, he’s contracted HIV, and now he’s developed AIDS, which in turn has landed him in the hospital with lymphoma. I have often commented that It’s a sin he has a habit of burning his stories at breakneck speed so I was glad to see him acknowledge his most heartbreaking moment by slowing down and having us follow Ritchie’s mom Valerie (Hawes) in real time as she processes what she just heard. . . Watching her go from denial to anger and outrage, blaming Jill, fighting a fellow mother, admonishing her husband, scolding the nurse, and finally landing on Ritchie’s bed with tears in her eyes, was easily one of the most powerful moments of his life. the series. The changes in tone, expertly handled by Hawes, led to Valerie’s disorientation as she needed to rethink everything she knew about her son. You could see her mind racing, both manic and measured, as if she were replaying her child’s entire life in light of this news and finding new ways to absolve herself from being in the dark or, as she ends up doing, hoping she could rephrase. . their relationship during their last weeks of life.
That hospital scene and her last conversation with Jill (Lydia West), where she cruelly admits that she let her son die without giving her a chance to see her Pink Palace friends again, she does her best to complicate Valerie to the eyes of It’s a sinaudience before she represented many other mothers like her. Jill’s afflicted righteousness leads us to view her as the seemingly harmless yet truly insidious villain of the entire piece. Ritchie, whom he previously described as a handsome gay man, grew up in a loveless home that taught him to be ashamed of who he was, who he desired, who he fucked. “The halls are full of men who think they deserve it,” Jill tells him. “They are dying. And some of them think, ‘Yes, this is correct. I brought this to myself. That is my fault. Because the sex I love is killing me. ‘ He goes further, though, putting into words the show’s thesis statement with such painful vitriol that it will be days before I recover from West’s delivery: “The perfect virus came to test you Right. He died because of you. “
It’s too easy? Maybe. But there is also some truth. After all, the virus wasn’t the only thing guys like Ritchie and Colin were fighting back then (and a lot of them since); the shame and stigma made the virus even more deadly, infecting everything from the rhetoric we used to the bureaucratic decision that was made, from the stories that were told to the messages that were spread. It’s a powerful point to take home in a five-hour miniseries focused on gay youths coming of age in the 1980s, even if it sounds familiar to many of us who have seen similar stories told before.
But from the start It’s a sin It was presented as a kind of memory capsule, so it makes sense that this is where it would end, with a kind of moral to the story that is both upsetting and uplifting in equal measure: We’re being pushed to follow Jill’s lead. , not Valerie’s, choosing empathy and compassion over judgment and prejudice. It is a way of betting on the landing of a program that we always knew would end here. If you end up with a tragedy, you run the risk of pathologizing your characters, wrapping their stories in boxed genres that see them only as victims to cry over. However, avoid such a tragedy and you will renounce the pathos that your stories deserve. That’s why we get an ending like this, which stretches both sides of the line and creates as uplifting an ending moment as possible, reminding us that everyone hurts sometimes, so all we can do is hold on.
• Very obvious musical cues continue! This time we heard Kate Bush sing “It doesn’t hurt. Do you want to feel how it feels? “as Ritchie struggles to take his nightly meds.
• True to Ritchie’s unabashed sensibilities, it is no surprise that he excels at Hay fever, a play by Noel Coward, or that he would be so comfortable reciting a monologue from Twelfth night with one of the strangest characters in Shakespeare’s repertoire, Viola.
• “I just got lucky with who I fucked” and “He stays there all day lying out of shame” are two lines that shocked me more than I thought, both work as a kind of inadvertent mirror of each other, giving more nuances. and style to which Jill’s final moments with Valerie captured.
• I’ve yelled at the show’s costume designer before (Humans and Giri / Hajiis Ian Fulcher), but I wanted to take this final moment to give credence to some below-the-line numbers that made each episode of It’s a sin Feel authentic without drawing too much attention to their work: Production designer Luana Hanson and art directors Tom Atkins and Gavin Lewis made it easy to immerse ourselves in the many spaces we visited, from the Pink Palace to the hospital ward. He wanted to spend hours looking at Ritchie’s childhood bedroom, dissecting the many photos, posters, and magazine clippings that adorned its walls.