Before Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright wowed international audiences with their horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead, they were part of the Channel 4 sitcom Spaced. This show was one of the first sitcoms to use a single camera setup without a laugh track. Spaced also featured quick-hitting pop culture homages almost a decade before Community and blend of dry and surreal humor. However, the show’s greatest strength was its interesting characters who could be simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. These endearing characters are what made Spaced an enduring cult phenomenon in both the UK and the United States.
Before rounding off the character arcs, Pegg and Stevenson overload the script with a huge number of in-jokes and running gags that reward viewers who have watched the show from start to finish. They range from the couple touring Tim (Simon Pegg) and Daisy’s (Jessica Stevenson) flat using the same the dialogue as they did in the pilot to throwbacks to Mike’s (Nick Frost) Territorial Army fiasco where he used a tank to invade EuroDisney. After the painful events of the penultimate episode, it is great to see Frost’s hilarious reactions and solutions to his friends’ problems. He really shows off his knack for physical humor in the finale which involves him wearing a male stripper apron and driving a tank. Edgar Wright also uses quick camera cuts to make sure the punchlines land.
But beneath all the gags and homages, “Leaving” tugs at viewers’ heartstrings. The family dynamic of the main characters has been shattered, probably irreparably, and characters are going their separate ways. The first half of this episode shows the transient nature of some early 21st century who bounce from job to job and place to place without finding a firm footing. Spaced has already shown Tim and Daisy’s struggles with finding housing and employment, and the finale amps up this tension and forces the series to earn its atypical happy ending. The emotional moments are buried in laughs, such as Daisy’s crying fit when her dog Colin leaves or Tim’s homage to Say Anything when he holds up a boom box for Marsha (Julia Deakin) to get her to not sell the house.
In addition to its comedy and pathos, “Leaving” is a fairy tale ending to a show that is more magical realism than a quirkier British Friends. However, Pegg and Stevenson use dangling plot elements, like Mike’s robot from “Mettle”, to resolve the conflicts and ensure the best ending for each of the characters. This shows that the writers don’t loathe their characters, but explore their negatives and positives while finding something to say about life in general through the lens of a sitcom. Tim and Daisy haven’t completely matured, but their actions in this finale set them on a road to something like maturity. With visual flair and emotional honesty, Pegg and Wright (unfortunately not Stevenson) bid adieu to their first great comedic creations and use elements of them in their later works. “Leaving” isn’t just a finale, but some of its themes (friends as family, growing up) and even visual motifs (Resident Evil scene in “Art”) act as a strong foundation for Pegg and Wright’s film oeuvre, especially the Cornetto trilogy.
– Logan Dalton
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 21, 2016