Try as you might to delay it or ignore it, the deadline will come. No matter what level of preparation you’ve put in, the paper must go to print, the show must go on, the baby must be delivered. There are two ways you can look at this: You can ruminate over everything you would’ve done differently—all the mistakes you could’ve avoided, all the time lost to procrastination—or you can stand up and take pride in what you were able to accomplish in the time you were given. As Twenty Twelve comes to an end, the Olympics Deliverance Commission has to hand their version of the 2012 Summer Olympics to the games’ “live” team. What they’re delivering is not the best-case scenario, but it’s what the deliverance commission was able to achieve and create over a seven-year span. Sure, thousands of tickets to women’s soccer events are going unsold—but, hey, at least they got the Olympic Stadium built! Their execution isn’t perfect—but it didn’t cause any surface-to-air missiles to go off, either.
Time is the driving force of Twenty Twelve, and it’s intriguing to see what the show does as it and its characters are running out of time. While the show’s finale is dedicated to wrapping up the “Loose Ends” of its title (to varying degrees of success), the penultimate episode, “Inclusivity Day,” has great fun with the show’s recurring conflicts and the often-improvisational problem-solving skills of the deliverance commission members. In that way, the episodes represent differing ways of dealing with a deadline: “Inclusivity Day” goes forward with what’s already there; “Loose Ends” rushes to sneak a few final developments in under the wire.
The finale is smart, however, to leave a few threads hanging. Both of this week’s episodes cut out before a next step can be taken—both times involving Ian and Sally’s potential romance (and, in one case, a literal step). It’s a tease, but it’s also an acknowledgment that the viewers know what’s going to happen next: When the deliverance commission ceases to be, Ian and Sally will most likely undergo some sort of courtship. But that’s not essential to the story that’s being told in the here and now—and it can only detract from the humor of Sally making overtures to Ian and Ian being too caught up in his work to notice—so it’s left offscreen. The characters’ lives don’t end when the London games start—they don’t end on the last page of John Morton’s script, either.
There are a few definitive periods placed at the end of “Loose Ends”—for instance, no one in the deliverance commission will be overseeing the legacy or the sustainability of what’s left behind when the Olympics pull up stakes—but it’s far more satisfying to watch the minor payoffs and peaks in “Inclusivity Day.” True to the many mixed signals and empty gestures that dot the Twenty Twelve landscape, the episode hinges on the celebration in its title, one that’s being held simultaneously with Seb Coe’s Diversity Day in Oldham. If there’s a cruelty to this series’ comedy, it’s in the way the work of the deliverance commission is either overshadowed or outright ignored. Its members are faceless middlemen and middlewomen, people with enough power to address the BBC, but nonetheless lacking the clout of a Seb or a Boris Johnson. It’s that lack of acknowledgement that makes Ian’s speech to his soon-to-be-former co-workers at the end of the finale all the more poignant. (Even the crusty cynic Nick gets caught with watery eyes.)
And while interpersonal relationships aren’t the series’ strongest suit, it squeezes one final, fantastic comedic sequence out of the professional rivalry between Kay and Fi. Already concerned that no one involved with the Olympics knows the difference between their deliverance commission jobs, the two women find themselves both going for the post-game position that will maintain the sustainability of Olympic facilities and ensure the games’ legacy. With that scenario fueling the conflict between the characters, Morton throws a little gas on the fire by putting Kay and Fi in a situation where they’re constantly being confused for one another. Amelia Bullmore and Morven Christie play the scene perfectly, their characters’ hurt over the ignorance of their efforts tempered by the shocking revelation that maybe, just maybe, their jobs really are one and the same. The vaudevillian pacing of the scene merely sweetens the deal.
In-office pettiness makes for a good comedic catalyst, but, ultimately, Twenty Twelve believes in the inclusivity, diversity, and, er, multiculturality that the members of the deliverance commission so casually dismiss. It’s hard to think of another series that’s found so much joy in taking the piss out of young creative types and charlatans posing as performance artists; “Loose Ends,” however, puts an entire thesis statement about the Olympic spirit into the mouth and duffel bag of one such character. Christian Jebb’s entrance in the “Big Bong” contest—the poorly named commission for a peal of bells that will ring across England to mark the start of the games—is a found-object clatter, tasking Britons to use the nearest noise-making device in a nationwide symphony of din. Staged in miniature in the deliverance commission offices, “Noise 27” is a cartoonish clangor (especially after Jessica Hynes goes all Harpo Marx on the bulb horn in Christian’s bag of tricks), but it’s also a product of collaboration. Like the Olympics, it’s a single event that requires the efforts and input of many, many people. And like everything that’s important to Twenty Twelve—the meeting between Seb and the Brazilian delegates, the Orbit tower wrap, the Olympic Games themselves—it comes with a deadline. You only get one minute to execute “Noise 27.” And when that minute’s over, there’s no way to get it back, no way to add or subtract honks from the cacophony. You turn in the noise you can turn in, and then, like Ian Fletcher in a London hospital room, you gather yourself up, say “Here we go,” and move on to the next step.
“Inclusivity Day”: A
“Loose Ends”: B