Years and Years: 1.04
If you have seen even five minutes of a national news broadcast in the last five years, the sight of an overcrowded boat attempting to cross the English channel will not be new to you. These sights are tragically becoming so ingrained within society that it fails to affect us on the level that it should. We can all remember Alan Kurdi, a three year old Syrian refugee whose family were attempting to reach Canada. The image of his small body was plastered across TV screens for weeks whilst the public looked on in shock at a world which allowed this to happen. Then everyone forgot and moved on; news of refugee boats overturning in the night barely given more than a few seconds on the morning news.
The year is now 2027. Much happens in the fourth episode of Years and Years, and whilst there are some big revelations (Celeste outs Stephen’s affair to the entire family), there is nothing more important to discuss in this episode than the last twenty minutes. Again, Davies and co. chalk up real-life happenings along with the fictional (deep fakes are actually a real thing, and they are pretty scary), but the most traumatic part of the episode could easily be taken from many of the refugee documentaries that have been released in the past few years.
Quite consistently, Daniel has maintained the idea that ‘things like this don’t happen to people like us’. He even argues with Edith, one point rationalising that ‘we’re not poor, we’re not stupid’ as he makes plans to bring Viktor back to the UK. Daniel believes, even after everything, that he can control the situation. That a council worker like him has the ability to make something happen - even when the odds are not in his favour.
So Daniel goes to Spain where Viktor is being housed in shared accommodation, following a government takeover by the far left - another thing Years and Years has spot on is the horseshoe political spectrum. Go far enough one way, you’ll end up on the other side. Their initial plan is to sneak Viktor through the border with the help of Fran (an excellent bit part by Sharon Duncan-Brewster) and her tour bus. This is scuppered almost immediately as soon as they reach the French border; Daniel and Viktor are forced to find an alternative way to get Viktor home. After attempts to get Viktor a passport is botched, the two have little choice but to attempt to cross the channel via a different mode of transport. 22 miles, Daniel keeps reminding us, it's only 22 miles.
For a show which has given us drama but little peril, the following sequence is harrowing to watch. The small boat, the rough sea, too many people in bright orange life-jackets attempting to board. At the beginning there is hope - surely nothing of harm could come to Viktor and Daniel - but after a few panic-ridden shots of the boat crossing the channel in the dark, the rug has been pulled out from underneath us too. Like Daniel, we didn't believe something like this could happen to people that we love. This sentiment is what drives this scene home -this kind of thing happens to other people, not people we know and love. Viktor's call to the family is masterfully handled - Baldry is given few words of dialogue here but each of them land with a blow. Everything has changed for the Lyons.
Before the end of this week’s episode, I began to wonder what the purpose of Years and Years is. Will it be wrapped up, with a real ending - either happy or sad? Or is it a parable - a story designed to make us change our behaviours so that this sort of future can be taken off the cards. On finishing the episode, I think I know what Davies is trying to tell us. Human connection is the most important thing we have and we need to keep hold of it. Episode four is full of tiny moments which enable us to really understand these characters better; Gran taking Celeste’s side, Edith giving John Joe a talking down and Stephen realising that he has trodden in his father’s footsteps. Never underestimate what people are capable of - they may just surprise you, for better or for worse.
It seems highly unlikely that the Lyons will be afforded a happy ending next week, particularly with the election of Vivienne Rook as PM. Her narrative has been relegated to TV screens in the background within this episode but, with a hour left, that's a lot of time for Viv to do some serious damage.