Years and Years: 1.05
Reeling from the tragedy of last week’s episode, the Lyons are in mourning. The cliff-hanger ending - the Lyons racing to Daniel’s house to either comfort or confront Viktor - is (thankfully) swiftly addressed - a momentary confrontation compounded by grief and then a reconciliation for Edith, Gran and Rosie. Not so for Stephen. Whilst the others have since mounted a campaign for Viktor's release from the detention centre he is now living in, Stephen makes it clear from the start that he believes the blame for Daniel's death lays solely at Viktor's feet.
On one hand, Stephen’s vitriol is understandable – he lacked the power to save his younger brother and blaming someone else rectifies the imbalance he feels. On the other hand, I now feel that Stephen losing £1 million is less than what he deserved. More spiralling is on the menu for Stephen, and Rory Kinnear does an excellent job of portraying a man who is very much on the edge.
Appropriate for this week’s weather (a whole month’s worth of rain on this Monday alone), 2028 sees 80 days of non-stop rain, causing flooding and chaos across the country. This forces many people out of their homes as they become refugees in their own country. Similarly, radiation bombs in Bristol and Leeds force immediate evacuation of those living there – the UK is gripped with a homelessness crisis unlike anything it has seen before. With so many needing homes, Prime Minister Viv Rook installs a new law; those with more than two bedrooms are required to take in refugees. Though the concept itself has pros and cons, there still aren’t enough resources to help all those left without shelter and Edith (among others) become suspicious that something terrible is taking place.
To no-one’s surprise, everything else is also getting worse. Rosie and her new boo Jonjo get engaged but their happiness lasts mere seconds as they are soon informed that the estate they live on will be fenced off – to keep the crime in, rather than out. Gran and Celeste’s fiery relationship continues, but the two have clearly developed a deep love for one another underneath the annoyances that come with living with your ex-mother in law. Who knows what will happen when Gran’s bank balance has run dry after paying £10,000 for eye surgery, though. Edith, ever the activist, does some digging on the ‘disappeared’ (also known as the ‘erstwhile’ project) with the help of now half-human, half-computer Bethany who seems to be able to hack into any network, despite her technological side being 100% property of the government. The two make an excellent spy team, however.
Stephen, desperate for a job that doesn’t involve cycling, dives into some seriously shading dealings, and here is where we get our first glimpse at Viv Rook without the cameras. Whilst attending a property auction (which we later discover is actually an auction for what are essentially concentration camps), Stephen accidentally walks in on the PM sorting through paperwork. Thompson is effortlessly chilling as Rook – her dialogue may be minimal but her pointed delivery has an impact that few actors can achieve. Her speech to the potential bidders on the camps of the Boer war was horrifying most because she is, of course, correct. No-one remembers the genocide that the UK perpetrated in South Africa, and she’s almost certainly correct in her assertion that no-one will even blink twice about the ones she is proposing either. Is Viv the one pulling the strings though? As Years and Years manoeuvres into political drama territory, Viv implies that she is being held to a higher authority - is someone else pulling the strings or does she mean the frustrated voter base who got her into office?
The further into Years and Years we get, the more I get the sense that Davies is trying to tear down the British Empire mentality that has gripped the UK in recent years. Honing in on the camps of the Boer war (where over 27,000 people died), to the UK’s appalling refugee policies in recent years – the UK is a nation that has been blind to its own heinous crimes of the past and continues to be to this day. Everything else – the ghettoization of council estates, the worsening climate conditions, the three year NHS waiting lists – these are all just around the corner if we don’t pull our heads out of the sand, and soon. Think of Rosie – she, and her children, are now literally imprisoned within the estate she lives on by a policy implanted by an MP she voted for.
Yes, it’s bleak and yes, sometimes the metaphors come across a bit too heavy handed but Years and Years accurately depicts a country that is heavily divided – across all lines – and the consequences of where this division can take us. For the Lyons, it’s now a divide through the centre of their family – Bethany is now a witness to Stephen’s unforgivable actions and, you can bet your £56 glass of wine that this will have devastating repercussions.