I quite liked the ending and I feel like, as with The Sopranos (which this is a lot closer to than GoT, kids today), people who didn’t like the ending didn’t really understand the show.
Literally all the major events in the show were ripped from the headlines/annals of British crime over the last 30-40 years. The level of police corruption and violent crime was based on the Met and London in the 1970s and 1980s. AC12 is A10 from the 1970s. The cover-up of institutional corruption was always going to happen because it happened with A10 in the early 1980s. Gail Vella was essentially a spin on Jill Dando, right down to fitting up someone to cover up what was obviously a professional hit (the BBC program on Jill Dando’s murder is accidentally hysterical btw, because the copper and CPS dude just come off as monumentally bent/full of shit, and they both have such clear attitude that they’re brilliant and everyone else is a moron). Lawrence Christopher was Stephen Lawrence (duh, but there are clearly people on Twitter who didn’t even get that). The encrypted communications thing was based on real encrypted communications used by organised crime more recently. Jimmy Saville literally got photoshopped into a bunch of the stuff to do with child abuse, making that very clear. I could got on, but the point is, the show was always about real crimes and the ending we got here fitted perfectly with that.
As for the fourth man, like Vandelay, I was expecting it to be Buckles ever since his weird reaction to a murder being committed in front of him, so it wasn’t a shock in the least, and I also thought it worked. And it made sense. It had felt like a “dead hand” was running this whole thing since the John Corbett season. There was no sense that there was a plotter behind the scenes, just someone reacting, and not very competently. I think a lot of the negative reaction explains why someone like Boris’ corruption is just ignored, because people want a criminal mastermind, not Buckells, but Buckells ran the US for years, and now he’s running the UK.
Re: more than colleagues, I don’t really think that was the intention, I felt like it was more like Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser or a number of other classic duos. They’re truly and unbreakably bonded, which is important because it seemed like they might not be earlier in the season.
And yes the timing is hysterically perfect, and the “IT WASN’T FUN ENOUGH!!!” responses are like "Yeah that’s why Boris will continue to be in charge, because you, the fucking lackwits of the UK only want to get rid of evil masterminds, not greedy idiots. Also people comparing it to the GoT ending are just monumental drama-babies.
Re: Carmichael I hope she does turn “good” but remains a complete smirking bastard, because good god is she great at being a smirking bastard.
I agree that this all looks more like the setup for another season (probably with less Adrian Dunbar sadly), more than a true finale. Particularly as in order for the fourth man to keep operating, someone would have had to bring in all that stuff to his prison and help him hide it and so on, and he wouldn’t have easily been able to arrange that, because he didn’t see it coming. So there’s certainly an OCG out there who knew it was him and were protecting him.