And so, it all ends, writes Graeme Andrew, but not without a disjointed, jumbled exploration of the fragility of the human spirit, the quest for answers and in grief, the need for closure.
One year on after the shootings, we find reporter David (played with tremendous pathos by Rory Kinnear), whose childhood home was Southcliffe (Channel 4), but not one that brought him happy memories.
He is surprised to find a strange note sent to him, written on the back of a picture of one of the rifles used by gunman Steven Morton.
Among the scrawl are the words ‘happy returns’ which sets him on the mission to go back himself, if not for covering the news – as it appears he is no longer a regular reporter – then maybe just to satisfy his own curiosity.
It is obvious that his previous outburst among the residents of the town in the local pub, which was caught on YouTube, may possibly have led to his downfall and he has lost his job and his marriage.
Meanwhile in the town, Shirley Henderson and Eddie Marsan’s characters, the couple that lost their daughter in the atrocities, are struggling to find their own way out of the depths of despair they have found themselves locked within.
He, Andrew, feels alone and doesn’t want to grow old without children. He calls on her, Claire, to consider trying for IVF treatment once again to fill the void in their lives left by the death of their bright and beautiful Anna.
The scene is played beautifully and must have had couples among the viewers all over the country nudging each other in recognition – the male’s typical need to try to fix things without taking into account the woman’s feelings, or the woman putting herself first – welcome to married life!
The interaction between the two is probably key to the final episode as Claire goes on her own odyssey to try and piece things together by following up her concerns about sex trafficking in the town, after she remembers Anna talking about a Romanian girl she knew who worked at a local farm.
Using Anna’s phone for clues on pictures of places where she and the girl, Maria Dobra, were captured on camera, she resorts to making herself up to look like a prostitute and confronts the people she thinks may be behind the scam – only to find Maria is perfectly well.
Andrew then comes across Claire, sobbing curled up in a lane near their home and carries her back in the hope that that is the end of her obsession with Maria.
David in the meantime tries to make amends for the things he said before and gets forgiveness from Andrew, who is referred to as being useless by Claire in a flashback to a conversation between her and Anna.
However, he ultimately proves to be the steady rock that brings stability to people’s lives without the need for recognition, which is hardly useless in my book!
David retraces his own steps and those of Steven, and we soon realise that his personal knowledge of the gunman’s house and garden must mean that the two were friends as children.
As much as ex-soldier Steven was left an outsider, David was too, but while he was taken away from the situation by his mother, Steven was forced to stay, with tragic results.
The reporter follows the clues to young soldier Chris’s possible problems dealing with the death of his girlfriend, after he outwardly seems to be showing no signs of psychological damage, but David seems to think he is responsible for sending the ‘happy returns’ note to him in the first place.
We then see Chris gathering ammunition and weapons – will he be the next to vent his angst with an attack on the townsfolk?
Eventually, David catches up with Chris at his home, having asked for him down the pub and being threatened by Chris’s ex-soldier uncle and told to get out of town.
Chris, sat on the bed with a pistol, threatens to shoot David, and then himself, but David manages to talk him out of it.
In the end, there are no real answers, no revelations, no shocking discoveries, no neat tied-up loose ends, just life trying its best to go on despite everything, and that is perhaps the greatest lesson to take away from Southcliffe – whatever happens, life goes on.