Warning! The following contains mild spoilers for BBC Two's Giri/Haji.
There are lots of reasons to watch the BBC’s Giri/Haji (translated as Duty/Shame). 1) It gets dark at lunchtime now; 2) Sometimes I like watching TV more than my friends; 3) It’s a slick/surprising British/Japanese thriller/drama hybrid that lends itself to a forward slash; and 4) Rodney.
"Who is Rodney?" you ask. Rodney is only the best character on British TV this year, nay, ever! That’s who.
Played by the inimitable Will Sharpe, who now ranks top of my internet search history (with "Nearest place to get an STD test" in close second), Rodney is a troubled rent boy living in a flat the size of a biscuit tin. He is mighty fond of the gak (and sometimes the crack – naughty!) and deeply damaged (mummy rather than daddy issues for a change) but doing his best to party and fuck his way through the pain (hard relate). Throughout the eight imperfect episodes of Giri/Haji, Rodney takes us with him on a sweet, sarcastic, caustic, self-sabotage bender, delivering some withering one-liners along the way (while sporting some excellent bomber jackets).
Now my little butterbeans, before I present some indisputable Rodney facts – some necessary Giri/Haji backstory. When world-weary detective Kenzo Mori (Takehiro Hira) travels to London in search of his brother Yuto (Yosuke Kubozuka), who is believed to be dead but lives, he meets Rodney by chance in a Soho boozer and enlists him to help him track down the baddie brother. Kenzo also meets police officer DC Sarah Weitzmann (played by the wonderful Kelly Macdonald) and the two embark on a slow-burn, ill-fated romance. Sadly there's as much sexual chemistry between Hira and Macdonald as there is between David Cameron and the queen but forget all that because we are here to talk Rodney and Rodney only.
Our intro to Rodney comes in episode one, where he’s arguing with his boyfriend (who he swears is not his boyfriend) Tiff. "Can I call you back? I'm in the middle of a Greek play," Rodney tells someone on the phone when Tiff comes to confront him about being brutally dumped with no explanation. Kenzo overhears and seeks Rodney's help as his local liaison. From here, the pair form a dynamic duo. "So what are we investigating? Someone preying on beautiful young mixed race boys…how worried should I be?" Rodney asks Kenzo.
Throughout the series Sharpe steals every scene he is in, managing to make everything from switching on a lamp to commenting on paint colours extremely funny. His turn of phrase is wonderful; he describes Kenzo's aesthetically pleasing brother thus: "Drape a curtain round him, have him point at a naked baby and he’d be a fucking Renaissance painting." His "Let’s never do it again sometime" line is up there with Malcolm (Peter Capaldi) in The Thick Of It's "Fuckity Bye!"
As well as fucking men in toilet cubicles, knocking back vodka tonics and chain-smoking like there's no tomorrow, there is a soft, vulnerable side to Rodney. His tragic storyline with Tiff almost broke my old bootleather heart and made me cry so hard I had to blow my nose into a sock.
In episode three when Kenzo's adorable teenage daughter Taki arrives in town, an unlikely bond forms between them and we see a kinder side of Rodney, even if he is a shitty babysitter. When Taki wonders why gay men are sometimes referred to as 'queens', Rodney deadpans: "Because she's a fabulous old bitch with a hat for every occasion."
Later, when Rodney wants to escape with Taki, he has this lightning exchange with her dad:
Rodney: "I'll have her home by 11pm."
Rodney: "11.10! Understood!"
Rodney: "11.10! Understood!"
During this same episode, Rodney takes Taki out to a gay club in London and something that NEVER, EVER happens on TV occurs – they manage to pull off a nightclub scene that doesn’t just have a bunch of extras mouthing "I wonder when we get paid?" to one another while moving their weight from foot to foot, pretending to dance and drink red wine (clearly Ribena) while a Sophie Ellis-Bextor song plays softly in the background. I have seen so many shit nightclub scenes on British TV that I truly believe no director has ever been to an actual nightclub or stayed up past 10pm.
When Taki’s grandfather dies, a trip to the seaside to honour him is planned, to which Rodney enquires: "Couldn’t you just honour him in the pub?" After a pit stop to score more coke, they finally get going and Rodney utters this delight as they set off: "Let us bring light to the provinces!" which I intend to say every time I undertake a car journey from now on. When they arrive at the beach Rodney has his come to Jesus moment, and for him the series ends with a telling visit to his mum, which made me need to blow my nose into a different sock.
One of my favourite moments in the entire series is when Rodney goes to rehab. He sits in a community hall and listens as a man called Terry tells his story to a hushed NA group. Rodney rudely interrupts with: "You had a nice thing and you threw it away because you hate yourself." He is told not to devalue Terry's experience and pipe down 'til it's his turn to share but he goes on: "Terry chose drugs over his children, so let's not gild the lily too much vis à vis Saint Terry."
Then he delivers this razor sharp monologue on addiction: "We all have some fundamental flaw in us that refuses to be happy or satisfied… Someone comes along and tries to help us build a little world and we let them but then the time comes and the time always comes when we shatter it into a million tiny pieces because that’s what we do… That’s why we hate ourselves and that’s why we do drugs." After the session, when PC Plod comes to collect him he asks: "Please don’t embarrass me in front of the other drug addicts."
Righty-oh puddings, I think that's enough Rodney evidence for now. If you still don't believe me, please go and binge watch the show. Then, when you too can't get enough of Rodney, you can either hope for the Beeb to announce season 2 (they certainly left the ending open for it), get your fix of Will Sharpe in Flowers on Channel 4 (which he wrote and starred in) or join me in a petition to get a spinoff for Rodney. The world deserves one.
The concluding episodes of Giri/Haji will air on BBC Two on 7th and 14th November. All eight episodes are on BBC iPlayer now.