Appellate Judge James A. Stewart watches another Brigadoon disappear into the mists, this time in Ireland.
Our reviews of Ballykissangel: Series One (published February 14th, 2004), Ballykissangel: Series Two (published February 14th, 2004), Ballykissangel: Series Four (published March 29th, 2006), and Ballykissangel: Series Five (published March 7th, 2007) are also available.
"What is your problem with me?"—Father Vincent, to one of his many angry parishioners
After the death of actor Tony Doyle, Brian Quigley, Ballykissangel's leading citizen, is gone. Other major holes in the cast came from the death of Birdy Sweeney as Eamon and the departures of Don Wycherley as Father Aidan, Victoria Smurfit as Orla, Tina Kellegher as Niamh Quigley Egan, and Colin Farrell as Danny. Can Ballykissangel: Series Six get viewers involved in the lives of a new set of Ballykissangel residents?
Series creator Kieran Prendiville returned to helm what turned out to be Ballykissangel's final season.
Facts of the Case
Ballykissangel: Series Six features eight episodes on two discs:
"Drink"—Father Vincent's awaiting the results of a blood test, even though he thought he was drinking non-alcoholic brew. Paul Dooley's got his eye on a derelict cottage and Siobhan's upset over Brendan's attitude toward parenting.
"The Cat and Daddy G"—When Paul finds out how daughter Grainnie's goat helps a racehorce compete, he starts thinking of both animals as his own. Thanks to a confession, Vincent knows an innocent man is about to be charged.
"Spirit Proof"—Paul Dooley discovers that the pub has local fishing rights and wants to exercise them. That doesn't sit right with the regulars—or the ghost of a notorious highwayman. Dooley isn't worried, because ghosts bring business.
"In a Jam"—The parish fete isn't a festive occasion for Kathleen, who fears losing the jam competition; Avril, who might lose her horse farm; or Siobhan, who awaits the results of a breast cancer exam.
"Getting Better All The Time"—Faith is on everyone's minds as a faith healer comes to the area, Dooley wants to move a "mass rock" used during repression, and Vincent is asked to grant a wedding dispensation to a mate.
"Smoke Signals"—Fathers Mac and Vincent face conflict with the bishop. Vincent's also facing homelessness. Dooley considers a land deal that could bring a rubbish dump to the beautiful Ballykissangel countryside.
The season opens playfully, with the gang at Fitzgerald's Pub watching an Aussie soap about a priest having an affair with a parishioner. In walks Father Vincent Sheahan, who upsets his new flock immediately by telling them how it turned out when it first aired Down Under.
As Ballykissangel returns, Brian Quigley's departure weighs heavily over the proceedings. Brendan's first thought—"Must be some kind of scam"—is echoed by villagers throughout the episode.
Throw in a plot about a bogus confessional Web site and quick introductions to Avril Burke (Susannah Doyle, About a Boy) and Edso Dowling (Paul Ronan, Veronica Guerin), and you've got way too much stuff crammed into an hour of television. This must have made heads spin in England back in 2001—and probably turned a few dials.
Aside from moving too fast, a possible side effect of the series order being cut from 12 to eight, creator Kieran Prendiville makes Father Vincent, a new character, the center of the series. Vincent usually becomes involved in some Ballykissangel brewhaha, finds a mystery of some sort in it, and investigates with the help of and a lot of bickering from Garda Frankie (Catherine Cusack, Conspiracy of Silence). When did Ballykissangel become a mystery? Moreover, Frankie's suddenly developed a nasty streak that wasn't present last season. Robert Taylor's chemistry is a little better with Susannah Doyle as Avril Burke, as the two support each other through personal problems, but the early stories don't give his character a chance to fit into the Ballykissangel community.
Since the best moments of the season focus on Paul Dooley and his clan, Ballykissangel might have lasted longer by focusing on the conniver with a conscience. Owen Roe as the troubled Dooley and Marion O'Dwyer (Agnes Browne) as his loving but skeptical wife Oonagh have the best chemistry in a show that works on relationships and characters. As an added bonus, the stories drop hints that Dooley's struggles are having a bad effect on his kids, Dermot and Grainnie.
And Louis (Mick Lally, Alexander), the new old farmer, only seems to be there to speak with a thick, unintelligible accent. That one-note gag gets tired fast.
I noticed some slight flaring in one scene, but as usual, Ballykissangel has a stunning look to it. There's less of the beautiful Irish scenery in this season, since there are a lot of characters to develop quickly, but the music's excellent as always.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While Ballykissangel: Series Six isn't as good as the seasons before it, fans will still want to see the last few episodes—at least to see the opener about Brian Quigley's departure. The episodes get stronger after all the character backstory stuff in the first few episodes is gotten out of the way.
While British TV has long been better at handling sudden cast deaths and departures, they can still hurt a thriving TV show. Ballykissangel: Series Six proves that, even after the show survived major changes after the third series.
In a way, the final series provides closure, since the first episode says farewell to Brian Quigley. However, the actual end seems unsatisfying, because it leaves viewers with a lot of semi-resolved dilemmas in the lives of characters we didn't get a chance to know.
Guilty of falling short of high expectations by trying too hard.
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