Friday 24 May 2019

Taken Down bowed out with a tepid finale

Tough competition: Orla Fitzgerald as Niamh and Lynn Rafferty as Jen in Taken Down. Photo by Bernard Walsh
Tough competition: Orla Fitzgerald as Niamh and Lynn Rafferty as Jen in Taken Down. Photo by Bernard Walsh

Pat Stacey

**WARNING: Spoilers for the final episode of Taken Down**

We finally learned the identity of Esme’s killer in the finale of Taken Down. It wasn’t the monstrous Benjamin – an alternately sinuous and scary performance by Enoch Frost – even though he was present when the deed was done and complicit in covering up the crime.

So was the sleazy and repellent Gar (Jimmy Smallhorne). But it wasn’t him, either. Nor was it the psychotically violent Toby (Reomy D Mpeho) – although he was the one who, on Benjamin and Gar’s orders, dumped the dying Esme (Marlene Madenga) at the bus stop and burned the car he’d used to take her there.

The direct provision centre’s useless manager Wayne (an excellent Brian Gleeson) had clean hands too, at least regarding Esme’s death. All the cops can get him on is providing false information and tampering with the centre’s CCTV footage.

He may be a corrupt, venal dirtbag, happy to participate in the sexual exploitation of vulnerable young refugees like Esme, but he’s no murderer.

It emerged that brothel manager Marvellous (Phina Oruche) was the guilty party. She slapped Esme during a row, Esme slapped her back, then Marvellous, in a burst of violent temper, hit her across the head with a heavy ashtray.

Lynn Rafferty and Aïssa Maïga star in Taken Down
Lynn Rafferty and Aïssa Maïga star in Taken Down

We saw this in flashback after DI Jen Rooney (Lynn Rafferty), who’d just released Marvellous after interviewing her, copped that she was left-handed and remembered the killer blow had been delivered by a lefty.

But was this supposed to be Marvellous’s actual confession, or just a way of giving the audience a little closure? It wasn’t made clear.

Aissa Maiga in RTE's Taken Down
Aissa Maiga in RTE's Taken Down

Benjamin’s fate was left similarly up in the air. He was in custody at the end, after Rooney and her team, having discovered the brothel’s new location, conducted an armed raid and rescued Flora (Florence Adebambo). But do they have enough to convict him?

Gar, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found, his identity still a mystery to gardai. The only clue is a fuzzy glimpse of him in the background of Wayne’s raucous stag party video, shot in the brothel.

Even viewers who were more taken with Taken Down than I was might be left with a certain “is that it?” feeling after a finale that was tepid, underwhelming and inconsequential.

Then again, you could say the same about the series as a whole. The pace was often glacial and the plot meandered for long spells.

Co-writers Jo Spain and Stuart Carolan seemed so intent on showing the misery of direct provision and the dehumanising horror of the sex trade (both of which they did very arrestingly at times) that they frequently forgot about the police procedural element.

None of the garda characters were remotely convincing.

They were completely without depth or personality, so there was nothing to get a hook into.

It took them an age to get anywhere with the investigation, and when something resembling a breakthrough eventually came, it had less to do with good police work than with the near-saintly Adebi (Aissa Maiga) finally opening up and agreeing to tell what she knew.

That won’t be “it”, of course. The high viewing figures alone will be enough to ensure there’s a second season.

You got the impression, though, that this was what Spain and Carolan were banking on from the outset. Next time, however, it might be wise not to bank so much on viewers’ patience.


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