The smoked salmon slaps wetly against the wood as Malcolm throws his lunchtime bagel at the door. In the background, what we were really meant to notice: the children’s paintings pinned to the wall. The Thick of It series three, episode seven, where comedy became drama, saw Malcolm Tucker at his most fragile and protective.
Fragile when we see him trying to curry favour not with the prime minister (did he already know that was a lost cause?) but with journalists. Trying to save his job on the inside by going to people on the outside.
Protective when we see him thundering rabidly around Number 10 during the end credits, all wild anger and unfocused rage, coming down on the men surrounding his secretary and scattering them like scared animals. For the first time we saw him show genuine care for someone.
Over the last few episodes we’ve watched Malcolm slowly lose control, yet the second half of episode seven was utterly unexpected. As Fleming placed the pen delicately on the envelope while the news of Malcolm’s resignation broke on the TV behind him, I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.
Glenn was right: ‘It feels good, but is it good?’ Working for Malcolm was horrifying, but when there was a problem he was there to help solve it. Malcolm’s nemesis and replacement, Fleming, was all demands but no help once DoSAC had made their inevitable cock-up.
David Haig’s portrayal of the demented Fleming was terrifying. It was far more offensive to hear him call Nicola ‘sweetheart’ repeatedly than anything Malcolm had managed. And again when he kicked the door, screamed ‘Malcolm!', and started giggling. There’s nothing to love in Fleming, but Malcolm is a man that, bizarrely, inspired respect and loyalty. DoSAC will come to rue the loss.
So what now for Malcolm Tucker? He certainly won’t cross the floor, he believes in the party too much. As Peter Capaldi says, Malcolm has a ‘higher purpose to pursue … to maintain a Labour government in power’.
But The Thick of It can’t go on forever. There’s something to be said for killing off a character in his prime. I know I’d prefer the nine outstanding hours of Tucker we have now rather than see the character go on ad infinitum. I’d miss the swearing, I’d miss the rage, I’d miss the bug-eyed stares and the moment’s silence in the calm before the storm, I’d miss the fear in the eyes of the people around him. But I’ve seen Malcolm berate the opposition’s ‘Shitehead Revisted’ Phil while a delighted Olly listens behind a door; I can die happy.
The only problem would be to reward Peter Capaldi’s sublime performance as the spin doctor extraordinaire by getting rid of him. So perhaps I can wait to see Malcolm (and Jamie) return to open up a six-pack of shitstorm on Fleming. Either way, I can’t wait for the last episode — and the next series.