Top Boy Season 3 Review: Outstanding British Crime Drama Goes Out On Top

Netflix's Top Boy bows out on a quality conclusion that confirms its status as one of the best crime TV series around.

Ashley Walters and Joshua Blisset in Top Boy Season 3
Photo: Ali Painter/Netflix © 2022.

Warning: contains spoilers for Top Boy & summerhouse seasons 1-2

After 12 years, five seasons, and a revival aided by Canadian rapper Drake, the thrilling UK crime drama Top Boy has ended fittingly for a show that had become known for its authentic reflection of a specific part of British culture. 

Through the story of drug leaders and best friends Dushane (Ashley Walters) and Sully (Kane ‘Kano’ Robinson), viewers witnessed how the dreams of young men wanting to provide for their family and overcome the poor hand they’ve been dealt leads to a life of crime – the only option they feel is open to them. From building a drug empire to violently fighting – and often killing – those who threaten to take their positions, the Summerhouse Estate has gone through a lot to make those dreams come true. But in the final season, Top Boy shows those dreams becoming closer to a nightmare.

The last season opens immediately after the brutal killing of Jamie (Michael Ward) by Sully, in which you can still hear Jamie’s youngest brother Stefan (Araloyin Oshunremi) begging for him to wake up. The loss of Jamie this season is still felt at times, but gives the show time to develop other compelling storylines. It allows the writers time to hammer home a point they’ve made consistently each season: that the life of crime isn’t one to aspire to. A day that starts out well can end with unexpected violence and devastation.

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Moreover, the final season makes Jamie’s death significant by tying it into how gang culture entraps young people, seen previously through the demise of innocent characters such as schoolboy Ats (Keiyon Cook) and Sully’s surrogate son and friend Jason (Ricky Smarts). This season, we’re able to see the effects more vividly in Oshunremi’s outstanding performance as Stefan, who throughout the show’s time on Netflix, we’ve seen transform from a carefree boy to one struggling between two sides of himself: one a teenager experiencing his first relationship with Dris’ daughter Erin (Savanah Graham) and the other a boy turned into a man by the death of his older brother, catapulting him into the world from which Jamie tried to protect him.

The final chapter of Top Boy builds to its climax very slowly, sometimes leaving you wondering if it’s left enough space to give itself an appropriate ending. The benefit of this is that we’re shown smaller moments, from Dushane finding out midway through a date with his partner Shelley (Simbiatu Abisola Abiola Ajikawo aka Little Simz) that “Jamie’s been dun,” to how new leader Sully deals with the latest enemy in town, Irish gangsters played by Brian Gleeson and Barry Keoghan. While Keoghan is a brilliant actor and plays the role of the brutal yet charismatic Jonny well, for the time allotted to Gleeson and Keoghan’s characters, you could ask how necessary their roles really were in this packed final season. At times, it contributed towards the pacing feeling off for this much shorter six-episode run, especially when the issues closer to Summerhouse and its crew are much more captivating.

Top Boy’s final season grounds itself on the East London soil that started it as the Summerhouse community comes together to fight issues close to home. We see them stop someone who came into the country as a baby being deported, as well as tell stories of postnatal depression, gentrification, and the struggle to provide for your family. It’s a reminder of why the show has gained so many hardcore viewers over the years, because while it does focus on the life of drugs and the estate, it focuses more on community and the individuals that make it up.

There are also glimpses of nostalgia as the show reflects on everything that brought this story to its conclusion. While these moments are powerful, until the final two episodes there is a feeling that the six episode time frame won’t do it justice.

Other standout storylines this season include that of Erin’s mum and ex-con Mandy (Natalie Bianaca Athanasiou, also known as NoLay), who after the death of Dris changes her life around to look after her daughter. Mandy’s story this season sees her as a community activist wanting better for those around her and the people on the Summerhouse Estate. There’s also the journey of fan-favourite Jaq (Jasmine Jobson) whose vulnerability we get to see in full force as she struggles to come to grips with how the career that funds her life also destroys it. 

In a teaser Sully says “If we’re not monsters, we’re food, and I could never be food” and that couldn’t be a more fitting quote for his direction this season. Walters and Robinson’s acting continues to be top notch. This season, they’re as compelling as ever but from a different angle as the show gets to the core of what drives their characters. The writers’ ability to consistently allow viewers to learn something new about each character is another aspect that has contributed to the show’s longevity and deserved reputation.

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Overall, Top Boy continues strong with the thrilling writing, beautiful cinematography and infectious music that made it successful. The final season’s promise of “no loose ends” however, isn’t exactly true. How could it be, because crime – as this season shows to devastating effect – never stops.

In the final two episodes, everything really does come together, dismissing any previous fears about how the show would reach one of its characteristically gripping season endings. In the story’s final minutes, Top Boy secures its place on top with one final trick up its sleeve, a moment that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Top Boy: The Final Chapter streams on Netflix from Thursday September 7. 


4 out of 5