Years and Years: 1.02
The Lyons, the UK and Gran’s back yard are still standing. Nuclear war appeared impending, but seems to have been narrowly avoided in episode two of Years and Years. Not everything remained intact however - it’s quickly established that Daniel’s marriage is over as Viktor is now in his life, sanctions on the US are causing issues with the banks and job markets in the UK, and Edith Lyons might be harbouring an explosive secret.
After the bombing of Chinese military base Hong Sha Dao - Trump's final act in office - sanctions are quickly placed upon the US. This has a knock on effect to the UK markets as, since leaving the EU, Britain is more American-ised than ever. As Stephen says, 'we're hardly European, are we?' Combined with the now lifetime presidencies of Pence, Putin and Kim Jong-un (as explained on the news), the world feels like a far more volatile place - but the Lyons haven't got to the worst of it yet. There is one shining ray of hope though - Edith (Jessica Hynes) finally returns home, her arrival only slightly tainted by the revelation that she might have been subjected to the radioactive fall-out of the nuclear bombings. How long she has to live is unclear.
Edith’s return brings joy and hope to the Lyons family, but the rekindled relationship between sisters Rosie and Edith is one of the greatest sources of joy to watch. The two have a wonderful chemistry - the type only sisters can have - as they joke, tease and then share a bed with one another. Their discussion on the 'in womb treatment' for spina bifida (a condition which Rosie also has) is nuanced and brings up issues in how we frame the idea of disability and ‘normality’ that are not often talked about. Rosie’s assertion that the curing of the treatment will almost certainly be only available to those who can afford it, and that test-baby Poppy was perfect before and after the procedure, could have formed the crux of episode two on its own. It’s actually hard to think of a TV show which has treated differently-abled people with so much autonomy and respect as Years and Years; Rosie’s character is certainly one the most interesting in the series so far.
Unless you somehow slept-walked through the 2008 crash, Stephen’s predicament in this episode might feel a bit too close to home for some. Stephen and Celeste do reference the events of 2008, naturally - the show is comedically meta sometimes, but even they can’t quite understand what is happening to them until it’s far too late. Rosie’s comments about how it is people like Stephen and Celeste who caused it cuts deep - mostly because it may just be true. Gaps are continuing to widen in Lyons family and social class is one of those which is beginning to open up. Rosie is clearly not in the same social standing as Stephen and Celeste, and their despair at losing more money than Rosie could ever dream of owning shines a light on their relative privilege.
Stephen, like many people, is in a state of disillusionment (“I’m a friend of Brian McNulty… the area manager”) but in this new Britain, everyone has to queue outside the bank’s glass doors just the same. It's the same situation with Viktor's deportation - Daniel cannot fathom that he (a housing officer) can't intervene to stop Viktor being taken away.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Years and Years is how each detail aligns with some real event, concept or law - Three Bridges detention centre is a clear allusion to Yarl’s Wood, Viv Rook’s speech about children accessing pornography echos the UK porn ban due to come into effect later this year. The references are not subtle, but they work because we can recognise the shape of our countries (mostly abysmal) policies in the needlework of Davies’ patchwork quilt. Viktor’s sudden deportation may be shocking but it’s worth remembering that this kind of thing is really happening in the UK right now.
After last week’s introductions, this week’s episode feels far more intuitive and settled. The dynamics of the Lyons family has been established - now the focus is on watching these characters react to life altering situations. Years and Years also feels authentic - the Lyons family on hands free phone calls with one another around the country, only really able to meet up once a year, is a true reflection of how many families in the UK live and connect with each other.
Though Years and Years might have taken us six years into the future, Edith’s fears about the word feel more relevant than ever; “The world keeps getting hotter and faster and madder, and we don’t pause, we don’t think, we don’t learn, we just keep racing to the next disaster. And I keep wondering where are we going, when’s it gonna stop?”
And when is it going to stop? Certainly not episode three - there are no signs of slowing down now Years and Years has hit it's stride.