BBC One’s hit dysfunctional family drama Us reached a very grown-up conclusion on Sunday, with the reasons for the disagreeable nature of son Albie becoming clear and Connie and Douglas coming to the realisation that their marriage was over but their friendship wasn’t.
On the European route of the final episode in the four-part series based on David Nicholls’ novel, viewers encountered the gay awakening of Albie (Tom Taylor), a jellyfish attack on Douglas (Tom Hollander), which led to a heart attack, and the gently played-out dissolution of a marriage, which still managed to end on an upward note, as the final scene featured Douglas meeting Freja (Sofie Gråbøl), the Danish tourist he attracted in episode two.
#Us (by @DavidNWriter @HPalindromic @scrowecasting @CatGrieves @bandstandprods @DramaRepublic) makes me want to travel the world! It’s a perfect, honest & relatable story which made me smile & at some stages but some stages had me in tears. It has a beautiful score by @olijulian! pic.twitter.com/olXy63XPwO
— Adam Murphy is STILL recovering from surgery ???? (@Anonymous_Riter) October 11, 2020
The finale opened with Douglas’s tense meeting with Albie after he tracked him down in Barcelona. Albie revealed part of the reason he was so angry: he felt less loved by his parents than his sister, the daughter Connie (Saskia Reeves) and Douglas lost as a newborn.
The scene cut to a set-piece which epitomised their difficult relationship, as a younger Douglas tried to engage an infant Albie with his LEGO Space Shuttle set. Albie wanted to make a dinosaur out of the pieces but with characteristic control Douglas ploughed ahead with the shuttle, breaking up the dinosaur to complete it.
Upset Albie was consoled by his mother and the template for the father-son relationship was established.
The two-handed Spanish sojourn was never going to be a buddy movie but the fractious father and son bonded long enough to go to Barcelona nightclub together.
Douglas’ awkward chat included the memorable opener: “What’s the public transport like in Barcelona? Do you use the Metro or the busses…?”
Douglas got drunk on sherry but was together enough to notice Albie flirting with a man at the bar. Suddenly he realised his son was gay.
“You’ve always had such lovely girlfriends,” said Douglas.
Albie responded: “That old trick.”
The revelation triggered the first meaningful exchange between them and the first surprising acceptance by Douglas in the series. Perhaps the tumultuous developments in his life had led to real change in his conventional, overbearing attitudes.
A bonding day on the beach was ruined by a jellyfish attack on Douglas. He made it back to the hotel but Tom soon found him on the floor – he’d had a heart attack.
Douglas can't even chill out when he's near death !#US
— Mace Windu (@Mayce_Windu) October 11, 2020
The flashback structure of Us has worked well and a pivotal scene featured the younger couple at a prospective new home. Douglas urged Connie to try for a new child to fill the house, while she wanted to get a dog. A symbolic exchange and a premonition of their future.
Connie was reluctant to move into such a big house, but Douglas pledged to fill it with fun and noise. “It will never be dull,” he promised.
Which is exactly what their marriage became and the finale eased towards a sombre acceptance of the end of their life together.
There was a very autumnal sense of change in their lives, always tinged with pathos, as Connie revealed that she always wanted to be an artist, while Douglas admitted to his failures as a dad.
Tom Hollander’s performance as control freak Douglas has earned accolades from the beginning of Us and the finale was no different.
Such a stellar performance from Tom Hollander. Completely inhabits this role, totally believable as Albie's dad, this might have been an absolute stinker with a below-par Douglas but he's knocked it out of the park. #Us
— Miles Evans (@milominder) October 11, 2020
Back in England, Douglas implored Connie to stay in their marriage.
“It’ll be different, it’ll be better… I want us to stay together, to grow old together, but in a fun way,” he said.
“I understand why you wanted to go. But I don’t think you should. Not now. I know it’s frightening it just being us two again. It frightens me too.”
The next scene featured the couple settling Albie into a college hall. Were they still together or not?
Not, as it soon became clear, and the episode wound down with a series of touching scenes as they divided their effects, mixtapes, films on VHS and, heartbreakingly, a meagre but meaningful box of their daughter’s things.
Connie got the last monologue: “Meeting you, marrying you… It was the best thing I ever did. And when our daughter died, I wanted to die too., and the only reason I didn’t was because you were always there. You’re fine, brilliant man Douglas. You’ve no idea how much I’ve loved being married to you. And now you can be my fine, brilliant ex-husband.
“And we’ve a son who’s exactly as maddening as he should be, and he’s ours… Ad the fact that we didn’t stay together forever, well, you’ve got to stop thinking of it as a failure or defeat.”
Us managed to finish on an upbeat note.
Douglas really should have got Freja's number.
— Mace Windu (@Mayce_Windu) October 11, 2020
He did. Viewers were happy with the ending, despite the pre-lockdown travel inducing pangs of nostalgia.
I’ve enjoyed the drama #Us – such a sweet little story, though it has really made me miss travelling a lot!
— John (@TVChatty) October 11, 2020
Another wrote: “Oh wow what an ending to #Us. I just knew the lady he met on holiday was gonna be with him in the end. Such a feel good ending. I was gripped by that it was one of the best dramas for years I really enjoyed it.”