Recently I rewatched all five seasons of Irish crime drama Love/Hate, whose twenty-eight episodes were originally broadcast between 2010 and 2014. It was exhilarating, and I caught a lot more second time round than when first I caught it.
I can’t remember how I first came upon it – I vaguely recall someone mentioning something on Twitter, and seeking it out using the usual methods, and quickly getting hooked, a bit like with Underbelly. It’s one of the few TV shows in recent years where I’ve seen it unfold episode-by-episode like in The Old Days, though because it was not broadcast in the UK (except, I think, series one getting shown on Channel Five a couple of years after it was made), some weeks it was harder to find than others. All five seasons are now available as a box set on BritBox, however.
The show’s strength for me is that creator Stuart Carolan executes a masterful feat of misdirection, encouraging the audience from the very beginning to invest emotionally in the wrong people, and playing with genre tropes to wrong-foot viewers in terms of expected outcomes. Simultaneously he builds in long-term arcs, he respects dramatic inevitability, and he has his characters act as real people, despite the artifice that cannot be ignored. Finally, his story is one which reflects real life – both Dublin criminal underworld-specific, and more universally (friendship, loyalty, stupidity, greed, betrayal).
Season one sets us up for a breezy, roustabout crime drama where sure, there’s violence, but it’s aesthetic and for a reason, and the good bad guys are clearly distinguishable from the bad bad guys, there are codes in place which everyone is aware of and generally abides by, and so on. By the close of season five, many bad things have been done by good people and good things done by bad people, heinous violence is routinely committed almost as a tic rather for any real reason, and we the audience root not for blameless innocents, but for the most charismatic sociopaths.
Anyway, in case anyone is interested I went through all of the incidents of violence in the show and created a spreadsheet to track who did what to whom. Naturally enough, it contains spoilers. Many, many spoilers.