I have heard nothing but great things about Years and Years, the latest oeuvre from Russel T. Davies and once I realised it starred no less than our Anne Reid from LTiH and the amazing Emma Thompson: I was all in. Please join me in discovering what kind of dystopian nightmarish future we can look forward to!
We open with Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson) lamenting the world's lack of focus: you used to know what everything meant! Left was left, right was right, up was, well you understand. A bunch of people are watching; Celeste Bisme-Lyons *(T'Nia Miller - I know her FACE. Cannot place it)
goes so far as to ask Siri for Viv's backstory as she and her disinterested partner Stephen Lyons
(Rory Kinnear, who's been in everything but most notably for me: Black Mirror S1:E01 The National Anthem where he played the Prime Minister reduced to on-camera bestiality for poll numbers)
watch audience members grill Viv about Palestine and Israel. Turns out Viv doesn't have much of an opinion on that particular conflict.
Social media is extremely excited! Along with all of Twitter, Daniel Lyons (Russell Tovey - ah yes, Ears from The Night Manager)
is tuned in with Ralph Cousins (Dino Fetscher - hey, I haven't seen him since Paranoid, welcome back to my screen, Dino!)
as Viv quadruples down on how few fucks she has.
The lady in labour calling Daniel doesn't care either! She's giving birth earlier than expected and is probably Rosie Lyons (Ruth Madeley). Cheerful Mr. Jaysundera (Sandeep Sharma) is taking her to the hospital but she needs Daniel to look after her son Lee (Callum Woolford). He reluctantly asks if he should come? Sure!
Texts are flying, Stephen (dad? Brother?) videochats with Gran Muriel Deacon (Anne Reid!!!! From Last Tango in Halifax!) about the impending birth, she thinks Daniel tending to his sister will make him gay if he isn't already but I'm pretty sure that's not how it works.
*Their mother is missing for some reason
Stephen heads off to Manchester the next morning to get his Gran, my god this is a topical story, isn't it? The radio is full of current actual news.
Rosie's had her baby Lincoln Lyons, who truly is extraordinarily Chinese looking. She's not telling the dad, or her dad, and can't tell her mum, but we don't know why yet.
*Since when is giving birth a huge secret? I can't keep anything to myself for a week, imagine carrying around a watermelon on your knickers for nine months and not saying boo?
Hai great grandma!
Celeste and Stephen's kiddo Ruby (Jade Alleyne) is having a weird day, eating breakfast then getting back into bed fully dressed while her mum smiles and queries Siri more things; all activities that don't sound anything like my usual school mornings. For one thing, there's not nearly enough I SAID BRUSH YOUR TEETH WE'RE GOING TO BE LATE NO YOU CAN'T WEAR THAT. Ruby gets in a shot at her mum anyway, so it's not that different.
At the hospital, we getta cuddle baby Lincoln and hear a little bit more about the missing family matriarch. Edith Lyons (Jessica Hynes) is off rescuing imprisoned children in Indonesia.
Edith is not the mum, but maybe an auntie. The mum likes the finer things in life.
Danny goes a bit off; he holds adorable baby Lincoln and talks about his fear of not knowing what to even worry about any more. What's it going to look like in ten years? In thirty?
Montage! Trump is re-elected in 2020
*I adore Anne Reid
Danny and Ralph get married, Lincoln has lots of birthdays, Viv Rook becomes a politician and loses off the hop, China gets an island, the Ukraine is invaded and refugees come to the UK, Gran turns 90 during the Winter Feast, we meet lots of other family members and Bethany Bisme-Lyons (Lydia West) becomes a Snapchat filter...
Is that...on her face? A mask? A type of filter that is strapped on, she makes an appointment to talk to her parents on Saturday, even though they're..right there.
*I think it's interesting how differently Celeste and Stephen are always dressed: he's schlumpy casual gear and she's in brightly coloured silks. Complete opposites but they seem to like each other alright.
Dan spots his neighbour Fran Baxter (Sharon Duncan-Brewster from Cuffs and Unforgotten!) walking and offers her a lift and we hear about the start of the issues in London.
She's a storyteller, for a living. She travels the world telling stories, kids love them! It helps them make sense of the world, and *cough not just kids*.
We get an Edith update unexpectedly, the mum has died, wait, is that Gran? No. No because Celeste and Stephen just said they were going to Muriel's birthday party. Hm. Daniel is on the Council.
*I'm a big fan of the explain-yourself-bio woooo!
I gather we're covering the Swedish refugee camps right now by proxy, all the Ukraine immigrants had to be put in a little town surrounded by portapotties. Some frank talk about the difference between refugees and immigrants and asylum-seekers, Daniel explains it to Debbie Green (Jodie Prenger) who's okay with kids coming in but Ukrainians is a bridge too far. There was an election and dissenters are on the run, hence the refugee status Daniel refers to but I'm a little shocked at his casual attitude towards what the people bring.
Of course they'd bring heirlooms and pets, that's what you do with such things/furbabies when you don't expect to ever return to your homeland.
Daniel has Debbie escorted off site and heads over to give bad news to someone who doesn't care coz he's gone. The gorgeous Viktor Goraya (Maxin Baldry) is there instead, Daniel about drools. So much flirting, I completely understand once I see those eyes in motion. Ah Daniel, why would you call Ralph your boyfriend and not husband?
Sorry, back to the story, Viktor explains that he has to prove torture to stay in the UK as a refugee, but they electrocuted the soles of his feet and there were no marks, so. He places his bare foot on Daniel's leg and the air is charged.
Daniel drags himself to his senses and takes his leave.
Celeste looks up Bethany's internet search history, ahh, she is trans. She and Stephen work on their pronouns, then it's time to talk to actually Bethany about it.
Oh. Bethany is not transsexual, but rather transhuman. She wants to leave behind her earthy vessel and become solely digital. Huh. Like Siri (which they call Signor) but their daughter.
The very understanding parents become much less understanding.
Fran is telling stories around the fire in the refugee town, Daniel and Viktor find themselves sitting next to each other then holding hands...but Daniel manages to leave, if only barely.
Viktor drinks alone as Daniel goes home to ignore his husband and calls from his sister Edith.
Rosie's not one to wait for things to come to her; she introduces herself to the adorable Tony Watts (Noel Sullivan - awww from Ordinary Lies) after a shared smile. This is also when we realise that she's in a wheelchair - did we know that? We've always seen her sitting! I'm trying to remember...
Anyway, they're going on a date this Saturday, they seal the deal by touching phones to exchange addresses.
Gran brings coffee for Daniel and Ralph, who are doing renovations and arguing over who's not putting out. That segues into a discussion about whether the concept of germs is a long-running scam from Big Pharma and if the Flat Earth Society is interesting. Daniel and I can't believe he married a guy who thinks germs don't exist.
It just gets worse.
Are we being closeminded to insist that scientifically proven facts are facts? Are we? Daniel calls his brother Stephen and wonders if maybe we just imagined too much, just went too far. What if our brains are devolving? What's real? What's not?
Rosie gets ready for her date, little Lincoln (Aaron Ansari) is 5ish and his brother Lee is 8ish? And if she happens to fall asleep on her date's couch because she talks too much, the babysitter will make sure everyone makes it to bed on time.
*That was glorious, I must remember that particular line.
Tony is a single parent as well; he and his daughter Millie live with Keith, a creepy, super creepy gross robot with a metallic goatee. Oh oh and that's not all he has. Rosie and Tony are just getting down to the fun part when a grab for a condom reveals an even creepier attachment for Keith. It's an orifice that attaches to his face piece. Erm.
Rosie calls her brothers to tell all; everyone laughs until they see Viv Rook is on the news again. She's formed a new political party called the Four Star Party. Daniel's keep calling her a monster, he used to love her.
The US and China are at war over the Hong Sha Doa island mentioned above.
Time for Gran's birthday again! Lots of familial back and forth, Gran getting in a dig on Celeste, with whom I gather there is no love lost. While Stephen hauls his cookies to see his grandmother quite regularly, Celeste only treks to Gran's "little kitchen in Manchester" once a year.
*Bethany used to have to eat gluten-free, but now it's been revealed as a global problem with fructose: is this a real thing? I must ask the Google. Huh. Sort of? Fructose malabsorption.
The kids are bored and watching TV, once again showcasing Viv Rook opining about the US/China war brewing. Off to the Winter Feast, which seems to be everyone grilling in freezing cold weather while eating outside. I'm Canadian and I'm taking a hard pass, fanks.
Gran brings up something odd: back in her day there were no tsunamis and now I must research. By that I mean ask the Google, stop at the first page of results and call it confirmed/denied. When did we get so lazy? For the record: tsunamis have been around as long as we've had water, so no clue what she's talking about. Maybe they just didn't affect her before, in her little kitchen in Manchester.
*I'd have agreed with her if I hadn't looked it up, though.
Stephen brings up news about his dad, Gran's not having any of that. Celeste tries to mess about, she's shut down summarily by a suddenly angry Gran.
On to talking about Ruby's p*rn class! What? They're teaching 11 year olds about pron? It's compulsory??
After supper, the kids stare at their phones until the noise of an Emergency Broadcast interrupts. At the same time, Edith calls all the grownups on their phones. She's in Vietnam, close to the disputed island and almost frantic.
Edith explains the island to us! It's a manufactured island, created by the Chinese to house 26,000 people on a military base complete with nuclear weapons. Huh. According to the Americans, anyway, but sometimes tracking down reported WMD can apparently be a little tricky.
Sirens go off; it's not just in Manchester but also where Edith is. The Americans have fired a missile, as D*nal* Tr*m*'s last act while in office. Celeste is trying to figure out where the sirens are coming from, they're not at war, right? They finally watch the broadcast; it's chaos as they try to comprehend the obvious fact that they are very much at war.
Gran sets out cups for tea, no sense in being bombed without a cuppa.
The sirens die off while we wait for a boom. Daniel leaves. If this is the end of the world, he's not spending it with that lot. He drives off without his husband Ralph, who knows exactly what that means. As do we.
Gran brings in a tray for tea with a side of racism; they'll be fine because they've got their own Chin*m*n (indicating young Lincoln). Celeste has had quite enough of Gran for one year and jumps on that: what does that mean?
I do not agree with calling Gran names.
I don't agree with racism either.
A nuclear bomb is detonated.
Daniel races to the Ukranian village to find Viktor, but there is chaos there too, with refugees burning effigies of various political icons. It's burning at Gran's, too, since Ralph kicked over the charcoal grill.
Daniel spots Vitkor at the calm centre of the storm, he's disappointed again and moves to run away.
*It's a bit exhausting watching Daniel be continuously rude to the man he wants to hump; it's not Viktor's fault he's adorable and Daniel is unhappy in his marriage. It's as though Daniel holds Viktor responsible for his own feelings.
Then they're kissing in temporary housing and its all worth it. Then they're, well, yeah.
A lot of sexual tension built up and released as we get a montage of Ralph letting everything burn and the rest of the world screaming and crying trying to figure out what's happening. We're out.
That last part felt very much like Mad Men when JFK was shot; the overwhelming panic and fear that comes from loss of stability. An interesting tableau in the living room, with Celeste mothering as hard as she can, everyone looking at Stephen for answers while he ineffectually tries to shut everyone up so he can hear what's going on via the telly, Rosie shouting and Gran clutching herself mutely. Only little Lincoln was calm, looking as disinterested as only a small child can be in current affairs.
So. Hm. I guess the chilling part for me is this bit:
Because it was clearly calculated but just as clearly impossible to not draw attention. It's our nature to take notice of the bizarrely confident because it's a definite outlier as far as human behaviour is concerned (don't @ me, I have a PHD in Fake Internet Science). I may have the wrong end of the stick here, because I don't know as much about English politics as I should to watch this show (Brexit was the catchier slogan, shame it's RUINT EVERYTHING), but the first impression I had of Vivienne Rook was that she was a Trump-like character. Wealthy and outspoken in a way that's not often seen in politics. But the arrogance and awareness that is displayed in that one little soundbite is sort of terrifying. This is a person who will sell you anarchy with a brand name and stride off with a pocket full of rye.
I can't wait to see where else we go! Until next time; feel free to tweet at/with me on Twitter @gingesbecray to explain everything I got wrong, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It's always lovely. Cheers!