Years and Years: 1.03
The year is now 2026 and, whilst still recognisable, life in the UK is steadily getting weirder. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – Davies has a perfect handle on how to keep the show running so parallel to real life that what we see in Years and Years feels just around the corner. Episode three drives home the allegories once again as we see digital implants gone wrong, automation taking jobs and Vivienne Rook win a big enough margin in the 2026 Elections to make a devastating impact.
With the collapse of the banks and personal financial loss, the family are now physically closer together as Stephen, Celeste, Bethany and Ruby move into Gran’s house. Friction, as usual, is high between Celeste and Gran but there’s also a newly formed fracture between Stephen and Celeste. Stephen’s new employment involves five different jobs (including ‘lifestyle enhancer’ or courier) but the kicker is that he is having an affair with a co-worker. Celeste, also working in a job far below her skill-set, discovers his infidelity via text but there is no confrontation yet – this may be a sticking point later in the series. Though out of character for Stephen, T'Nia Miller’s Celeste has a breakthrough this episode and no longer feels like the cardboard cut-out of a Strong Independent Business Woman. She’s got softer edges than we’ve been led to believe, and this news cuts deep.
With Viktor attempting to make his way, illegally, through Europe to claim asylum, most of Daniel’s story this week focuses on the emotional toll this is taking on him. Their reunion is heart-breaking, as is their situation, but the episode plays solely off of Daniel’s reactions to Viktor’s situation and the whole thing feels a bit off. It’s hard to say at this point (you never know when Davies might pull the rug out from under you) but it feels like Viktor’s story is being used to make us feel sympathy for Daniel and not properly engaging with Viktor’s experience as a refugee.
The other major plot-line involves Bethany and her new friend Lizzie who sneak off to get start their conversion to being trans-human (still not entirely sure what that involves – something about the cloud?). As expected, things go horribly wrong but Celeste is, finally, able to be there for her daughter resulting a touching moment between the two of them.
There is a lot going on in episode three, and with so much packed into 50 minutes, there’s a fear that some of the more nuanced storylines will get lost. Not so – Davies and director Simon Cellan Jones trust the audience to keep up. They might race through exposition but the pacing is just right through the emotional highs and lows. One of these key moments is the funeral – the Lyons siblings discover that their estranged father has passed away and have to contend with their grief of a man who left them for his second family. The Stephen/Steven joke was still funny the fifth time, and watching the family share their grief for a man they barely knew gave a deeper insight into their characters – something we need at this point. Their individual musings about whether their mother would be proud of them betray their darkest fears - each of them have feel guilt over something, whether it's out of their control or not.
Still in the background but edging steadily closer is Emma Thompson’s Rook: the perfect antidote to the British political elite. It makes complete sense why she wins with the public despite her horrific policies - who hasn’t, for better or worse, wondered whether voting would lead to a better outcome if IQ-tested? Rook is an embodiment of the anti-establishment (much like Nigel Farage) yet, (also like Farage) is someone with a huge amount of wealth and everything to gain from keeping the working class poor and her own self rich. She’s populist and she’s popular – a woman of the people for the people with her very own TV channel.
The voting sequence felt particularly apt this week with the very recent European elections which has seen the UK more divided than ever before. The Lyons may seem united, but they are just as divided politically as the country is today. It is impossible to separate the events of Years and Years from what is currently going on – May’s resignation only hammers home just how unstable and volatile the situation currently is. It’s certainly a very poignant time for the show to be airing, and one wonders how real it would all feel if the unknowns of Brexit had been wrapped up on the 29th April. We will never know.
Episode three concludes with Viv in the driving seat, ready to ensure that ‘British wines for the British’ and a multitude of other meaningless statements are fought for in government. Hopefully Edith’s data leaking will come in handy, or we’ll all be doomed. Come back Theresa, all is forgiven.