Episode 1 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 4/5
Compared to 20 years ago, the world has never been safer. However, between extremist right wing press, global chaos and the impending doom of Global Warming, you’d be forgiven for thinking the world is on the brink of imploding. Step forward Russel T. Davies and his latest dystopian drama, Years and Years. Set in a near-future Britain and following one diverse family through all the trials and tribulations they face as the world collapses around them. Years and Years is not just a great show, it’s also one of the biggest surprises of the year and one that’s thematically relevant and scarily eye-opening.
At the heart of this drama are a Mancunian family in England. Stephen Lyons works as a successful financial investor with a family of his own while sister Rosie is wheelchair-bound but adopts a child with all the trials and tribulations that come with that. Rounding out the trio is Danny who falls in love with a Ukranian refugee in the middle of his tumultuous marriage. All of this ties in to the other members of the family too, including freedom fighter Edith, Stephen’s wife Celeste and Nan Muriel. Across the span of 6 episodes, we see their life descend into a continuing spiral of despair as the world around them cracks and crumbles before the finale sees them all fight back against the system.
Where there’s chaos, there’s opportunity and amidst the carnage, political candidate Vivienne Rook seizes her chance to snatch at power. Acting as the voice of extremism and exacerbating the fear and anger felt across the country, Vivienne slowly worms her way to the top of the political ladder as things become ever more disastrous. Whilst the various problems around the country continue to get worse, the grounded, realistic approach to proceedings by sticking to the point of view of the family is partly the reason why Years and Years works as well as it does.
In true Russel T. Davies style, it’s the characters and way exposition is delivered that makes this so enthralling. Whether it be passing comments about world events in normal conversations, the deep characterisation for each of the main members of the family or the interesting dynamics they all share, Years and Years continues to deliver progressive growth throughout the 6 episodes. There are a lot of issues touched on here though and, admittedly, the first episode is pretty heavy with the way it introduces all the different characters. On the same note, the way this ends will almost certainly divide audiences and the open ending is a little disappointing.
Much like his work in Doctor Who, Russel includes a fair amount of news reports here to help add to the authenticity of what’s being show. It works too, and as we cut forward in time across the years, these work really well in place of traditional establishing shots to deliver news stories that aren’t too far removed from our own reality. Ironically, Years and Years feels more closely aligned to Black Mirror this year than the most recent season of Black Mirror itself.
Years and Years is a very timely and cleverly written show. It’s one that plays on all the usual insecurities and chaos depicted in the news and exacerbates them, delivering a near-future dystopian Britain that isn’t a million miles away from what could come to pass. This is especially true given the current political climate and social issues affecting Britain today. The characters are charismatic, memorable and boast some really nice dialogue segments that breathe life into every scene. It won’t be for everyone but if you can take to this, Years and Years is likely to be one of the best dystopian series released this year and one that’s a harsh reminder that if we let the smiling pretenders have their way, we could see this bleak future come to fruition sooner rather than later.