After last week’s incredibly shocking and dramatic episode, we return to Years and Years this week with a deeper dive into near-future Britain. If you’ve found yourself disappointed with Black Mirror this week, Years and Years fills that bleak Black Mirror void nicely with another difficult episode, one that tackles a potential future we may yet face as the truth behind missing people and the mysterious Erstwhile Sites rears its ugly head late on.
We return to Vivienne Rook addressing the people. Great Britain is going it alone in the world and with Vivienne at the helm, things don’t look good. People are lapping up her empty promises too although the ones who do seem to be questioning her authority, are being snatched up and taken away. As we slow down to celebrate Christmas in 2027, the festive period for the family is a bittersweet affair after Danny’s death.
Stephen then goes and sees Viktor who has been incarcerated and thrown into a holding facility. Vik is on the verge of being deported back to the Ukraine but we flash back to the day everyone in the family lashed out at him. Interspersed around these silent moments, Stephen grits his teeth and tells Vik he hates him, promising to never forgive him for what happened to Danny.
As he leaves, things go from bad to worse in the country. 80 days of continuous rain cause millions to be displaced while dirty bombs explode around the country’s major cities. Vivienne instills the bedroom law – if families have at least 2 free bedrooms, they have to take in Britain’s homeless. As the inspectors come to see Muriel’s house, she tells them she’s going blind so Celeste takes her to the doctors who tell her they can fast track her for £10,000. She accepts, of course, while Bethany undergoes a transformation of her own.
Beth continues to evolve into a machine and syncs up with the family, excitedly informing them of what she can now do. Bethany’s joy is a great contrast to Stephen’s despair here who finds himself at rock bottom. He asks for a job in property management in the government with an old friend who tells him the Government are in shambles but he needs a yes man. Stephen begrudgingly agrees and finds himself caught in the middle of Government affairs involving the missing people.
Coinciding with an infiltration mission between Edith and Bethany, Stephen learns that the Erstwhile Sites are basically concentration camps and people have been thrown in and never seen again. An intriguing conversation with Vivienne Rook then follows, where he learns she’s a puppet being controlled by higher powers. However, the Prime Minister is far from squeaky clean as she likens genocide to orange juice in an incredibly spine-chilling moment.
Stephen then heads back to the office and transfers Viktor into the nearest camp on his computer. However, Bethany hacks into the mainframe and sees her Father transfer him, sickened by the gleeful smile he ends the episode with after what he’s done.
Years and Years is uncomfortable, dramatic and bleak for much of its run time. While not quite as dramatic as last week’s finish, there’s enough here to make for tough viewing nonetheless. Stephen really takes the reigns of the episode though and his descent into grief-stricken rage and revenge is something that’s incredibly well written. Danny’s death has really hit him hard and while I’m certainly not advocating his actions, you can also understand why he’s done what he did. He will, of course, get his comeuppance for this, especially if Bethany has anything to do with it, and next week’s finale is shaping up to be an incredibly dramatic one. Personally, it’s one I don’t want to see end.
Throughout the episode I kept thinking the Doctor would show up to save everyone. It’s such a strange feeling as Turn Left, the bleak alternate-future episode of Doctor Who, draws so many similarities to this episode I genuinely forgot at times that this isn’t a Russell T. Davies Doctor Who special. Years and Years is a timely reminder of the power fear has over a nation and perhaps more so than last week, Years and Years’ message is a strong and poignant one, reminding us that no matter how bad things get, genocide is never, ever the answer.