"You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.” Lulu and the Lampshades’s take on the Carter Family standard Cups (When I’m Gone) has book-ended every one of Mum’s (BBC Two) 18 episodes and, now it’s over, the sentiment has never felt truer. Like so much else with Stefan Golaszewski’s masterful series, its farewell was impeccably timed and perfectly judged.
The first series began with a funeral, the implications of which Mum’s walking wounded had being grappling with ever since, whether Dave had been father, son, best mate or husband. The grief, both raw and suppressed, bubbled to the surface sporadically, but more often, like Seinfeld, it has been a show about nothing and everything.
As a distillation of the show’s best elements, the final episode, as Derek’s (Ross Boatman) birthday finally arrived, was more or less unimprovable. Banal chitchat honed to fine art, with a definitive takedown of racquet sports – “Why does the net have to be high? Why is the ball made of air? You start to question badminton, you’ll never stop.” Finely tuned character comedy allied to a palpable affection for those it depicted. And ultimately a preoccupation with, in Kelly’s (Lisa McGrillis) words, “kindness, and boring stuff like that”, as Michael (Peter Mullan) and Cathy (Lesley Manville) negotiated everyone else’s peccadilloes and reservations to come out as a couple at last.
Lesser writers would have wrapped things up neatly, contorted their characters into giving viewers what they wanted or, worse still, have squeezed a further series out when nothing more needed to be said. Golaszewski, however, ensured that everything was consistent with what had gone before; people stuck in their ways were nudged reluctantly towards some sort of evolution, without ever reaching anything as crassly obvious as redemption or catharsis.
Thus, Jason (Sam Swainsbury) reached out to the man he feared was supplanting his late father, then mansplained being a woman to his mother; suffocatingly adoring Derek and insecure social climber Pauline (Dorothy Atkinson) clung to each other because no one else would likely have them; Kelly drifted nervously on in her own little world, blissfully unready for imminent motherhood; Reg (Karl Johnson) and Maureen’s (Marlene Sidaway) spiky mutual affection and antipathy towards the world was undimmed; and Cathy and Michael skipped defiantly off into the bushes, bottles of bubbly in hand. If there’s any justice, cast and crew will be cracking open the same at next year’s Baftas.