Years and Years – BBC One – Season 1 Episode 4 Review


The Cold, Hard Truth

Russell T. Davies’ bleak, dystopian drama feels like a plunge into an ice-cold bath of despair. From an economic crash and cybernetic upgrades to our blissful ignorance in the face of extremism, Years and Years feels uncomfortably close to reality. We return to the near-future this week with New Year celebrations. Danny and Vik are engaged and he plans to move out to Spain to be with his lover. However there’s a Spanish Revolution and what follows is a whole slew of European superpowers slowly dissolving into chaos and fighting.

Meanwhile Rosie buys and kits out a van to sell food from, being given approval for a loan and grant from the Government. While trialing the food from Rosie’s van, Danny and Edith discuss Vik’s future. Danny wants to smuggle him into the country and decides to use Fran, Edith’s friend, as a means to do so. As the wheels are set into motion to bring this to fruition, a general election is called for 2027. By law everyone has to vote and a new political threat rears its ugly head as cybernetic lookalikes pose as the leaders of opposite parties and spew horrible statements. Except Vivienne Rook of course, who dances around this volatile hot pit of negative press.

The plan to bring Viktor home begins, as Danny flies to Spain with all of his money – 15,000 euros to be precise – to buy his way back to England. After their first plan goes awry courtesy of a smuggled coach and checks at the border, they give up 6000 Euros and Danny’s passport to a few shady characters in a bid to secure a route back to the UK. However, it’ turns out to be a con and they take the money and run, leaving them stranded.

Back in England, Stephen continues to juggle all his different jobs, including posing as a drug guinea pig. Despite being rallied on by the prospect of £300 cash, he has an allergic reaction and can only turn his head to the left. Stephen asks the nurse to phone Elaine but the company phone Celeste as well. Awkwardness then ensues as they all wind up in the same room but as Elaine leaves, Celeste figures out whats happening. When they get back to Gran’s she phones Bethany and brings Ruby into the kitchen, forcing Stephen to admit to the affair. Disgusted with his son, Gran kicks him out of the house

Back in France and after some despairing, Vik and Danny manage to find another ride back to England in the form of a boat. They bundle aboard a small, black dinghy, life-jackets in-tow, and huddle up together. The boat is near to bursting, with everyone squeezed together and barely any breathing room. However, less than a mile from shore the boat capsizes in the dark and anarchy washes over the passengers. As the scenes fades back in, we see numerous bodies lying on the British beach. One of them being Danny.

As Vivienne Rook is elected Prime Minister of Britain, it’s revealed Viktor survived the ordeal at sea and heads back to Danny’s, still in shock. He opens the family link and after letting everyone settle down from their bickering, he tells them all Danny is dead.

Years and Years delivers a really dramatic, emotional episode. It’s a cleverly written one too, showing the very real and human side to refugees and just how dangerous it can be for these people to cross over to England. Say what you will about migrants, there’s no doubting the bravery of these souls to make such a perilous journey and just like in tonight’s episode, not everyone survives. Whether you embrace or despise immigration, Years and Years tackles this subject head-on with a tough and brutally realistic depiction of what life as a refugee is really like.

Killing off the main character is quite the ballsy move to make this point too and one that certainly pays off, causing a huge ripple in the family and setting things up nicely for next week’s episode. Russell Davies has always been good at writing characters and this is especially true here. The various subplots all work well together and despite the time jumps initially working as the central narrative early on in the series, the way this has shifted to become more background noise, giving way for the character drama itself, makes Years and Years a really solid series.

It’s one that’s certainly timely and asks some big, thematic questions, all wrapped up in a sinister, dystopian tone. Some people will inevitably find this a little too political for their palette and that’s absolutely fine. For everyone else though, Years and Years is a show that continues down the dark, bleak tunnel with the light at the end fading ever more with each passing episode.


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