Consequences – that’s what Trust is all about. In this concluding episode we find out what happens after most crime drama stops – when the ransom has been paid and the kidnappee returned. The fallout is more than a family affair – with the Getty billions at stake, there were always going to be historic consequences.
So, John Paul Getty III is home, none the worse for wear – well, actually, he’s considerably the worse, malnourished, mutilated and psychologically scarred. Only life as part of the Getty family could have prepared him for that.
But as faithful retainer Chace explains, if you expected a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.
Gail gets her son back, but essentially loses him to his fiancee (and eventually, we know from Chace’s premonitions, to drugs and illness).
For Getty Sr, with one kidnap resolved, he turns his attention to another; that of the Elgin Marbles. His insane plan to pressure the British Museum into giving up their treasures to go in his Californian folly is treated with the contempt it deserves; and for once in his life, he learns that money can’t buy everything. Nor can it stave off the advance of age, no matter how much he spends on facelifts.
Getty also loses contact with his son by Belinda, who wants nothing more to do with him or his money.
Poor weak, middleman Fifty is murdered by ruthless Primo for giving away his identity (we knew someone was going to take a fall from those Roman colonnades). Even more audaciously, Primo murders Don Salvatore, and takes his place at the head of the family. Of the kidnappers, only a couple of minor actors are ever caught and punished.
Leonardo, miraculously, is spared, and joins in Primo’s plan to use the ransom money to build a vast and lucrative port (designed in the shape of an ear) to service the growing narcotics business. For the Calabrians, the future is golden brown – hence the Stranglers on the soundtrack. With supreme irony, Getty, whose loathing of drugs prompted his estrangement from his sons and grandson, ends up financing the explosive growth of international drugs trade.
About the only happy ending (and we’re assuming it’s an invented one) is for butler Bullimore, who finally breaks free and hooks up with the head gardener – who, he finally figures out, has been poisoning the guard dogs. Oh, and Chace is reconciled with his 12-year-old son – but again, this is presumably a dramatic fiction.
Our final image is of a broken Getty Sr, his sexual potency gone, the art museum he regards as his legacy ridiculed as a folly, his family estranged from him, and everything he touches, though it turns to gold, providing no comfort or sustenance.
If Getty Sr’s sin was hubris – he regarded himself as a reincarnation of Emperor Hadrian, and wanted to be remembered through his massive, mausoleum-like museum – then we are invited to take comfort from the fact that he brought his downfall upon himself.
Well, okay. It’s dramatically satisfying to see the old tyrant broken and alone. But one can’t help feeling that the real Getty would not have felt any of that. Currently on BBC iPlayer is a 1963 documentary by Alan Whicker, The Solitary Billionaire, in which the real John Paul Getty Sr is interviewed – watch it for context and character, and to appreciate even more the brilliance of Donald Sutherland’s portrayal.
Considering the breadth of talent involved in Trust, from Danny Boyle to Donald Sutherland, Brendan Fraser and Hilary Swank, it’s no surprise that the series has excelled in spectacle, nuance, and dramatic depth. The structure was such that symbols or phrases from early episodes resonated and reflected in later ones – the whole was like a gaudy, multi-faceted gem.
Yet some critics have found Trust cold, empty, and uninvolving. What were they watching? Every shot was packed with intention, every line carefully honed, every flicker of emotion timed to perfection; by emphasising the mythological aspects of the Getty story, while tying them into the historical background, Trust set out to define a myth for our times.
In effect, this season was an analysis of the way the optimistic 60s turned into the pessimistic 70s; surely there’s potential for another series as the real era of greed, the 80s, rolls around. Getty himself died in 1976; John Paul III had a stroke which rendered him almost completely disabled in 1981. Somewhere around those dates there may yet be material for another helping of Trust.
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