Love/Hate has been billed as "The Irish Wire" and it's not a terrible description. Just a few episodes in and I'm as hooked as that undersized snapper that's being pulled aboard a sea kayak off Bean Rock as we speak.
Nidge - played by relative newcomer Tom Vaughan-Lawlor - is the deputy kingpin of a crime ring that this sprawling crime-soap revolves around, but for series one - which is reportedly the best - the limelight is stolen by Aiden Gillen, who played Mayor Tommy Carceti in The Wire as well as that slippery conniver on Game Of Thrones known as Littlefinger. His Johnny Boy in Love/Hate is a Caligula of man who is surely destined to go down in brutal fashion. Not that there appears to any justice in the particular world portrayed here. If he's not shot I'm guessing his Nigella shaming level of cocaine abuse might just indicate a cardiac infarction of monumental proportions. But if Gillen is the cold dead heart of the show the soul is surely Darren Tracey, played by pretty boy Robert Sheehan of Misfts fame. He wants out, to leave the game, but as we have learnt from every gangster drama from The Godfather onwards, there is always some fecking shite waiting to pull you back in. There will be blood, there will be drugs and there will be God.
Like The Sopranos, which is another obvious influence, the absurdities of pious religious traditions alongside brutal money grubbing bloodletting is deftly deployed here as is the financial crisis that hit Ireland so brutally. As Johnny Boy subtly puts it, "Ireland is f***** for the next 10 years."
Made by RTE, whose biggest success to date has been Mrs Brown's Boys, the show marked the entrance of the Irish into the ranks of the best crime drama makers, putting them up there with the best of British, American and Scandinavian. Naturally, a US remake is also on the cards.
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Apparently the final series, which aired last year in Ireland, met with mixed responses and some disappointment, but ignore that and get stuck into this from the beginning. I have a feeling that even if I only go with it for one or two series it will be up there with some of the best, and that's surely what matters. It's easy to get hung up on news that this or that series has been cancelled, about as pointless an exercise as giving a crap about what the box office is of a particular film, unless of course your primary interest is in bookkeeping. Any of you who saw the first series of the Australian series Tangle will know that sometimes it's important to get in at the beginning to get the real juicy stuff, even if eventually the show doesn't measure up and we have to throw it back.
* Love/Hate is screening as a box set on Rialto this Sunday, January 12, from 11.25am, and series 3 and 4 start Mondays from Jan 13, at 8.30pm.