N.B: Spoilers within.
I would love to say that SS-GB went out with a bang and everything was satisfactorily resolved. However, unfortunately that would be to do what most of the characters spent half the time doing, and lie.
Sadly, a final episode which had so much to reveal ended up being disappointing, putting the emphasis on all the wrong things. The King was liberated fairly swiftly, supposedly leaving more time to focus on other events. But Archer, Woods and Sylvia spent half of the episode in a van in the country, doing nothing much to advance the plot.
And when the final battle with the Germans near nuclear facility Bringle Sands came along (which is the closest the book ever comes to out-and-out action), it was over in a swift, bloody heartbeat. The one chance to offer something genuinely thrilling and pulse-quickening to the audience was missed.
You would think the consequences of this battle should be moving, after having spent four hours in the company of the characters. But, because of the perpetual dourness of the series, we didn’t care. The deaths of Sylvia and the King barely registered, because we barely knew them (or any of the characters, for that matter) as people. If anything personal did surface over the course of the series, it often seemed like an afterthought. Archer and co started as enigmas, and unfortunately enigmas they remained. The most interesting person throughout was SS Officer Huth, who had more wit in his little finger than the rest of them put together.
The one thing which could have saved the finale, which was the brief emotional notes of the penultimate episode, was never revisited. Archer’s son was never seen again. And for an episode that took its time, its ending was too rushed. Woods, Archer and his lover Barbara Barga were all in various states of limbo at the end, diverging widely from the source SS-GB was based on. For an adaptation of a book, it left several loose ends untied, as well as leaving this reader of the book confused through muddled exposition.
Given some of the changes that the writers have made in this adaptation – in the book, Sylvia is killed earlier than here, and Barbara is also dispatched – I would have thought that they could have gone the whole hog and given us a few happy endings. As it is, the grim, uncertain, emotionally detached SS-GB ended just as it began, and that left me cold.
Although there is the vague possibility that the showrunners could be leaving it open for a second series, as per 2016’s The Night Manager (also based on just a single book). But based on the reception this series has received, Archer and co won’t be holding their breath. SS-GB started off in the murky gloom, and sadly did little to shift its territory before it finished.