Years and Years Recap: Characters Above Plot For The Halfway Point To the Series The calm before the storm?

3.5

Summary

Family shifts and events continue, though minor this week, with a political shift taking place in the background.

This Years and Years episode 3 recap contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.


This week’s episode of Years and Years does have some drama, of course; but these are mostly big events for the Lyons family, not for the UK or for the wider world. Consequently, we have the chance to get to know them a little better, and see how they are adapting to this new(ish) world, what binds them together, and what divides them. Interestingly, even though the four siblings are all so different, nothing seems to pull them apart; it’s the parent/child relationships and the spouse relationships which are strained and stretched.

Daniel’s relationship with Viktor is clearly stretched, taking place purely by Skype… until Viktor finds himself hiding from Ukrainian arrest and Daniel (Russell Tovey) plots with one of Edith’s activist friends on a way to get him to safety. Success is announced at Daniel’s birthday party… but will it last?

Edith (Jessica Hynes) is staying close to home following last week’s revelations about her medical condition; consequently, her activism has to find a more domestic outlet. Instead of campaigning and helping out in third world locations, she finds ways to carry out corporate leaks regarding arms sales, etc. It’s not just the viewer, but her family seems to relish getting to know her more too; she takes little Lincoln out on her spying trips and there’s rather a lovely sisters scene between Edith and Rosie.

Rosie (Ruth Madeley), too, is going to be out of work soon: the school canteen where she works has to lose staff because apparently the government cannot support schools as well as banks in crisis. I doubt her disability will stand in her way; but it’s sad hearing her wonder if the spina bifida was a catalyst in their father walking out, not long after she was born.

Ah yes, the Lyons’ father. He’s been mentioned in passing a few times, as the despised parent who left good old Muriel years ago; but now, as his seventieth birthday is approaching, Stephen gets a phone call to say that their father has died. The cause seems a little unlikely (Russell T Davies is definitely better at drama than satire), and I don’t know if it is intended to indicate worsening health risks in the future UK or worsening healthcare. But anyway, a major feature of Years and Years episode 3 is the funeral, including bonding over drinks afterward, meeting the half-brother Steven (yes), and pointedly not meeting the stepmother.

Stephen (Rory Kinnear) is no longer a banker but has several small jobs, including a cycle courier (with lousy Ts and Cs). Finding his home life stifling and not dealing very well with the guilt of having lost the house, Stephen starts an affair with a new colleague. By the end of Years and Years episode 3, his wife Celeste (T’Nia Miller) finds out about this affair, but Stephen doesn’t know… at least not yet.

And then, there’s Bethany (Lydia West), whose teenage angst is more the stuff of dystopian satire than the rest of theirs put together. Contrary to what she tells Celeste, she doesn’t join the others at the funeral but drives to Liverpool with her new, equally tech-obsessed friend Lizzie, where they plan to progress with their bodily enhancements. However, the clinic they visit is the dodgy sort, and they come away with one of Lizzie’s eyes replaced with a malfunctioning camera, and Bethany in tears. Fortunately, she has the strength to call Celeste to their rescue; and as a good mother, she does what she can regardless of how much she understands.

In the background of Years and Years episode 3, there is one major event which is outside of the Lyons family: Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson, miles away from her role in The Children Act) is elected as MP. I can see the influences of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump more and more as Years and Years progresses: she talks working class, but behaves very clearly capitalist; and you have to wonder listening to some of her seemingly rational suggestions just how far towards fascist she is going to lean by the end of all this. For example, she wants people to vote for her, “but only the clever ones”.

In a recent interview, Maxim Baldry (who plays Ukrainian refugee Viktor) told Attitude “It’s just one family at the end of the day, but **** me, there’s a lot of **** going on.” To some people, I think that makes the series a bit of a mess, but to me… well, some families are like that. The only aspect in my opinion which isn’t working so well is the way they talk about every technological development, for the audience’s benefit, and turn it into a joke (their father’s chosen approach to “burial”) or an add-on to a plot device (the new food preparation tech). Devices and advances shouldn’t be explained just to show off the inventiveness of the writing, but just be there as a natural part of the environment. Sure, explain them if necessary, but we’re too big to get our exposition spoon-fed to us, as if by Dr. Who companions.

Still, I have a feeling all this relatively light action will lead to some bigger events for the second half of the series. The people are engaging, but I’m looking forward to the plot kicking off some more. There is no oration this week, nor cliffhanger, so it really does feel like there could be a storm coming.

Alix Turner

Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.

1 thought on “Years and Years Recap: Characters Above Plot For The Halfway Point To the Series

  • August 18, 2019 at 10:22 pm
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    Hi, nice article. I don’t agree that the viewer doesn’t need to be spoon-fed. When we’re not spoon-fed, some of us may miss some clear references. For example, you yourself missed the meaning/implications of the dad’s death. In the article, you don’t know what it should be interpreted as. But it’s very clear, the dad died because of increasing anti-biotic resistance of infections. This is an issue today and many infections have shown resistance to all antibiotics. Many of these infections happen in hospitals.
    So, see what happens when they don’t spoon-feed us? I understood this, but many people didn’t. As a non-native speaker, I’m sure I wouldn’t understand many other references in the show. Also, Viv Rook is clearly based on all recent populist politicians today; in addition to those you mentioned, the reference to the Italian “5 star movement” is clear and very explicit.

    Reply

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