Ghosts season 5 review: Are the final episodes sitcom heaven?
The acclaimed series is poised to ascend to new heights.
This review is based on Ghosts season 5, episodes 1-4.
While the much-anticipated Ghosts finale was not released to critics in advance, it's hard to believe that the beloved BBC sitcom won't stick the landing – especially if the opening four episodes of season 5 are any indication.
The final instalment in the series kicks off with arguably one of its strongest chapters to date, picking up the pieces after that chaotic season 4 finale and having delirious fun with the premise of April Fools' pranks.
The gags come thick and fast as Alison attempts to dupe each of her paranormal pals before midday; a silly, fast-paced storyline that brings several genuine surprises that I'd be remiss to spoil here.
It's a testament to the creative team that they are still finding ways to shock and delight even in their fifth season, with almost 30 densely-packed episodes already behind them – an unusually high number by UK sitcom standards.
But while the opener makes for joyful viewing, there is also a sense from the beginning that the end is nigh – and it never entirely goes away.
Each episode of this season offers a reminder, however small, that something big is coming, but the scripts keep you guessing about how exactly the story of our adorable Button House family will end. I suspect, however, it will be bittersweet - as so many of this show's most memorable moments have been.
The creators give unsurprisingly brilliant performances, effortlessly inhabiting roles they've become synonymous with over the past few years.
It's business as usual for the most part – that means gurning for Fanny (Martha Howe-Douglas), pontificating for Julian (Simon Farnaby) and general giddiness for Kitty (Lolly Adefope) – although there are some moving moments that demonstrate how these characters have genuinely evolved since meeting Alison (Charlotte Ritchie).
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Indeed, while many fans aren't ready to say goodbye, they'll find comfort in how the show thoughtfully builds towards its ending, surely stamping several squares on their season 5 bingo cards along the way. It's enough to assure anyone the grand finale, which has been the subject of wild speculation, will be just as carefully considered.
The chemistry between Ritchie and on-screen husband Kiell Smith-Bynoe is also sharper than ever, as our golden couple are faced with some of their greatest challenges to date – and that's no small thing, given everything that's come their way before.
The blending of goofy hijinks with genuine emotional stakes continues to be this show's area of expertise, with an understandable feeling of stress, worry and exhaustion underpinning every decision the homeowners make.
Alas, not every skit hits the mark. In the second episode, a debate between Julian and Pat (Jim Howick) about England's north/south divide is stretched far too long, with the ultimate pay-off not worth the time devoted to setting it up. A couple of other moments are signposted so glaringly in advance that they induce a little eye-roll when they finally occur, too.
But Ghosts has always featured a scattering of predictable gags and they have never been a major issue before – nor are they here. If anything, they only add to the appeal of the show as a comfort watch.
Ultimately, if you've been enjoying the Button House rollercoaster up to now, there's nothing here that will make you want to get off early. Instead, get ready to savour your last ride – and brace yourself for a bumpy landing.
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