This review contains spoilers.
Is Anne Reid available for private hire? Could she, as Muriel Lyons, set off on a royal progress to deliver her “It’s all your fault” monologue to the country? Up hill and down dale she could go, to canteens and community centres, schools and scout huts, sparking little fires of revolution along the way? They could call it the Clowns and Monsters tour. We could crowdfund a minibus.
Muriel was already talking to the nation of course. That splendid speech from the head of the dining table wasn’t delivered for the Lyons’ benefit, but our own. It was a call to arms, an articulate kick up our collective backside. Enough moaning, it said. Take some responsibility. These dreadful things only happen because we sit back and let them.
Years And Years has spent six weeks articulately screaming its head off about the state of things and cry-laughing at the insane desperateness of it all (or sometimes, as in the breath-stealing end to episode four, just crying).
In the finale though, it channelled seething rage into decisive action. The fury became fuel, and it made for transcendent viewing. When Edith told Viktor they didn’t just come for him, they came to start a war, it was electrifying.
What followed were old-fashioned over-the-barricades thrills. The rocket launcher! Edith’s video! Rosie’s mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore smash! Bethany’s declaration of independence! Muriel’s “Good girls!” It was a gloriously emotional release to six weeks of pent-up distress.
Moreover, it was entertaining. Seriousness is often confused with sobriety on TV. Issues-based dramas shrink away from frivolity and humour, advertising their importance through austere monotone and misery. Years And Years though, did misery in colour, with energy and laughs and imagination. Its lows were low, but its highs were astronomical.
It wasn’t a perfect series. The sugar rush of the first episode waned around the midway point. Its characters were prone to unconvincingly savvy, god-perspective monologues (natural-feeling from the mouth of a Time Lord, less so an accountant). After Daniel’s death in episode four, it took some reconfiguring to bring Edith centre-stage in his place. And the contrivances required to involve members from a single family in events of such national importance (not only the PM takedown but one of the first experimentally augmented humans and downloaded consciousnesses) weren’t wafted away by Edith’s insistence in this finale that there was nothing special about the Lyons family. That was false humility. Of course they were special.
As was this cast. Jessica Hynes, Rory Kinnear, T’Nia Miller, Ruth Madeley, Lydia West, Russell Tovey, Emma (yes) Thompson … All ruled over by the majestic Anne Reid. Edith’s technician was right, you can’t have enough Muriel.
Ultimately, the finale turned the Lyons into a flattering portrait of us. A version of us that fought back, owned up, stood up and changed the world. It was a kind and optimistic ending that landed on hope and love and in Edith’s digital rebirth, a future.
Years And Years’ real power as drama though, wasn’t in comfort but confrontation. When Daniel told Edith that there must be a way to could get Viktor to the UK, because the Lyons weren’t stupid, poor or lacking, they were clever, he was speaking with the same unblinkingly naïve sense of safety almost all of us share.
In its frightening picture of the future, Years And Years repeatedly prodded our certainty that the terrible things that happened in the past, or that are happening now in other countries could never happen here. Of course they could. Daniel was drowned to make exactly that point. We’re no cleverer or more deserving of safety than anybody else; so far, we’ve just been luckier.
Read more about Years And Years on Den Of Geek here.