Years and Years: 1.06
Years and Years is over, and I’m not quite sure where to begin. Should we discuss the rebellious gene that clearly runs through the veins of the Lyons women, or maybe the Doctor Who inspired ending, complete with BBC budget water tanks? Maybe we should start with Stephen’s attempt at redemption, or the uncanny timing of the 10 O’clock news Prime Minister’s debate recap following Gran’s warning to beware of clowns who will surely bring the country to its knees?
We should and will start with Gran - her anti-globalisation, anti-capitalist monologue which was arguably the high point of what came to be a bizarre, yet satisfying ending to the series which has consistently forced us all to face truths we don’t want to. It’s 2029 and it’s Christmas again. The constant use of holidays and birthdays as a framing device has been a welcome one throughout the series, and Christmas ’29 is no different. Things have changed irreparably for the Lyons. Last year they were coming to terms with the death of Daniel, this year the bonds that used to bind them all are fraying left, right and centre. It’s Gran (a fiery performance from Anne Reid) who puts the world to rights this time, though. A show of hands for anyone else who audibly cheered when Gran included Celeste in any profits from selling the house? The relationship between the two of them has been amongst the most rewarding sub-plots of the series – Miller and Reid giving a new edge to the mother-in-law trope.
We’ve had an uncanny insight into the decisions made by each character on the show, and Gran has consistently been a voice echoing right-wing, non-pc sentiments. She’s older, she hates the way the country is going and she voted for Viv Rook to stick it to the establishment. She’s that relative you argue with about Brexit over your Sunday roast. Yet, of all the Lyons, it’s Gran who forces everyone (including herself) to face up to how responsible we are as individuals in this world. The uninterrupted two minute speech (which touches on fast fashion, climate change and automation) is essential viewing for every single person – regardless of whether you’ve watched the rest of the show.
From here, it’s revolution all the way. Seemingly inspired by Gran, Bethany decides enough is enough, leading to her giving much needed digital assistance to Edith to try and break Viktor out of Erstwhile 4. Everyone gets involved (even the lawyer from the first second episode), and it’s only after the fact that Edith and Fran’s real plan is revealed to us. They were never intending to only free Viktor. They are freeing everyone.
Simultaneously, on the other side of the country, Rosie is embedded in her own revolution in her fenced off council estate. Angered by the situation and fired up by the abusive security guards, Rosie takes matters into her own hands and drives her food van through the main gate, severing the wall that has kept the estate sealed off from the rest of society. Rosie, Edith and Fran sitting at the wheel of a vehicle, fully prepared to do what is necessary to uproot the system – there’s not many TV moments that are comparable. Likewise, watching Bethany and her team of robo-humans take over the system from inside was a welcome sight, and also a hopeful ideation that perhaps the future generations are going to make this world better. I've got all my hopes pinned on Lincoln, to be honest.
Emotional moments came thick and fast in the finale, but (in keeping with the idea that the kids are alright) it was Bethany’s handling of Edith’s (physical) death which left a lump in my throat. Bethany has always been ahead of the curve, giving her body over to technology with an excitement that the vast majority of adults would be revolted at. Yet, it’s Bethany who supports Edith in her final moments, and who then leads her tribe through the house in a perfect continuous shot where we get to really feel every single family member’s emotions.
Edith’s sci-fi digi-download wasn’t entirely convincing – I, personally, am a huge fan of everything Russell T Davies ever touched on Doctor Who but I can recognise here that it doesn’t quite fit. The rest of Years and Years is familiar, gritty and realistic – the sci-fi elements always slotted in seamlessly – but the final scene felt a bit big-concept-not enough-budget to be taken seriously. Edith’s speech about love and family was a nice element (and Jessica Hynes was absolutely fantastic here) but the winner of monologue-ing this episode goes straight to Anne Reid. Digital-limbo just doesn't really work - at worst it undermines the nuance of Edith's speech.
Whilst it might not be the ending we expected, it feels like the one we deserved. There’s hope in there, but reality strikes at the very end and yes we should beware those men, the jokers and the tricksters and the clowns. I have no doubt that they will laugh us into hell. Some have called the episode preachy and sanctimonious. I wonder whether it’s because they might feel slightly attacked by the revelation that this is all of our jobs to save this goddamn world. All in all, though, this might just be Davies’ finest work, and just the tonic we all need in these trying times.