The Future Is Now
Given the premise and idea behind Years and Years, it was always going to be difficult to close this one out in a suitably satisfying way for everyone. In a way, Years and Years ends as the first episode did – with plenty of questions hanging over the show and a cliffhanger to ponder over. With a second season seeming unlikely and a relatively unsatisfying finish to the Viv Rook story, Years and Years delivers a good, but never-quite-great finale to a fleeting dystopian drama that manages to strike while the tumultuous political iron is hot.
We begin the episode in 2029. Vivienne Rook shuts down the BBC and declares journalists enemies of the people as they challenge her ideals. As it happens, a flu outbreak spread by monkeys has crossed over to the human population where over 1000 deaths have been recorded.
In the wake of the chaos around the country, Gran is selling the house. As the family discuss what this means for them, Edith asks about Viktor at the dinner table, causing Stephen to remind them all he’s not family. This prompts Bethany to bite back and say the same about Elaine. Gran has decided they all need the money and decides to split whatever she gets from the house 4 ways – with Celeste now accepted into the family by her after weeks of back-and-forth tension. However, her suggestion is backed up by a sucker punch speech about the direction of technology which springs Bethany into life, revealing to Edith the truth about Stephen and Viktor later on.
For now, Viktor is still alive in the camps. He meets back up with an old friend there and as they huddle together in a makeshift hut, they talk about the current state of affairs across the country.
Meanwhile, Stephen gets kicked out of Elaine’s flat and as he truly begins going off the rails, he buys a handgun and brings it to work with him. Given a moment’s respite from work, Steven meets up with Celeste and they decide to try again in their marriage. Things seem to be turning around for Stephen until we learn this was all a ruse to gain his trust. Edith has told everyone what’s going on. Celeste believes she can save Stephen and pleads for more time but Edith is defiant – the plan goes into motion that night. They’re breaking Viktor out of the camp.
From here, the episode splits into two distinct narratives that tip the balance of power back in the favour of the people. Rosie has had enough and spurred on by the words of Muriel, she decides to take action herself rather than relying on everyone else. Despite being locked into the compound, Rosie wants out and drives a van straight into the gates, springing them open and allowing everyone to escape.
At the same time, Fran and Edith infiltrate the camp and manage to bundle Viktor on-board. However, on the way out, armed guards surround the lorry, preparing to fire. However, they haven’t come alone. From the fringes of the horizon, men armed with rocket launchers take out the signal blockers at the camp, prompting everyone to get their phone cameras out and film what’s been happening. Bethany and Celeste work together in their respective offices to make this global and the story spreads like wildfire across the country.
Scrambling to find out what’s happened, Stephen and Celeste come face to face as he arrives at work to find her sending files. He realizes that Bethany knows his secret and gets his gun out, incredulously lamenting that Celeste has been playing him the whole time. Despite pleading for her life, it turns out the gun is actually for Stephen and he points it to his head with the intent to kill himself. Only, he cant. Instead, he shoots his boss Woody who shows up at the door before sending the file to the police, ready for whatever repercussions that has. The scene then ends with Edith collapsing on the floor and wondering what happens next.
If I’m honest, everything after this point is going to be subjectively viewed by people who will either love or loathe this segment. In news snippets we see Vivienne Rook has been arrested for 27 years on accounts of murder but midway through jumping through the years, we cut to an alternate scene with Edith hooked up to large water containers and two futuristic-looking people recording her memories onto a computer. They’re scanning her brain to store her consciousness into a machine. The first of her kind, much to the disbelief of Bethany whose present in the room as a holographic projection.
As Edith passes from our plane of existence and presumably into the machine, we catch a glimpse of our family all these years later. Celeste and the kids appear to be the only ones who have aged while Muriel’s extraordinary ability to never age serves her well as they all gather around Senor and await to see if she’s crossed over to the other side successfully, where we end the series.
Despite the possibility of a second season being unlikely and many questions left unanswered, Years and Years serves its purpose rather well. It was always going to be difficult to tie up all the loose ends in a satisfying manner and in a way, this perfectly reflects life. Not everything will be satisfying or wrapped up in a way that please everyone. Life is messy, unpredictable, euphoric and chaotic. As we’ve learnt over the past 6 weeks, the only thing we have to rely on are our families and not the “smiling pretenders and jokers” pulling the strings in power.
Offering us a thought provoking ending to ponder over for our near-future nightmares, Years and Years ends with an uncharacteristic positive; a glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak sea of despair. Perhaps fitting then that Years and Years ends in this way, although the lack of closure around certain plot points will almost certainly leave many wondering quite why the series ended on such a big hook. Years and Years is 2019’s lightning in a bottle; a thoroughly enjoyable, surprisingly excellent series that bows out triumphantly, despite a few hiccups at the end.