Top Boy Recap: You Can’t Wash Away Your Sins

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: September 13, 2019 (Last updated: December 4, 2023)
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Top Boy (Netflix) Episode 5 recap: "Smoke Gets In Your Hands" | RSC


“Smoke Gets In Your Hands” establishes that the so-called top boy isn’t on top anymore and that his young adversary is a real threat.

This recap of Top Boy Episode 5, “Smoke Gets In Your Hands”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.

As the upbeat introductory montage of “Smoke Gets In Your Hands” makes clear, Dushane (Ashley Walters) and Sully (Kane Robinson) are back in business. They’re making more money than they can count by hand, which is probably just as well since Sully’s apparently stink of smoke. Dushane insists it’s in his head, and he’s probably right. The problem is what else might be going on in Sully’s head.

What’s in Dushane’s head — or more accurately who is in his head — is Shelley (Little Simz), but it’s going to need more than just a nice bit of jewelry to win her over. She has a kid, and plans, and Dushane doesn’t really have either of those things, except obviously his plan to make lots of money selling drugs, which hasn’t really changed much across three seasons.

But London is changing around him. In the club, Dushane and Sully are the oldest people there. And according to Dris (Shone Romulus) —  who seems to be experiencing some kind of encroaching paralysis, perhaps multiple sclerosis — and Jaq (Jasmine Jobson), they aren’t the only ones in east London with “food”. Some new players are practically giving it away, and it’s imperative that Dushane finds out who. He deploys Dris and Jaq on a surveillance mission.

Sully, meanwhile, runs into his baby mother while spying on his kid in the school playground again, but she’s really warm and lovely and insists on taking his number so he can come for dinner with her, her fiance Paul, and Sully’s daughter. When Sully says he never really got over their breakup, I can believe him — she seems incredibly reasonable. Quite unreasonable, on the other hand, is Sully’s cousin Jermaine (Ashley Thomas), who you’ll recall he kidnapped and threatened to kill last season. He turns up quite randomly in “Smoke Gets In Your Hands”, and there’s no love lost between them. But as for how or if he’ll factor into the rest of the season, only time will tell.

Ats, adorably, lies to his mother in Top Boy Episode 5 about being on free school dinners, just so she doesn’t have to give him any money. He then asks his very nice teacher if perhaps his mum could work in school, given how clever and how good at cooking she is, which is honestly just heartbreaking. The teacher thinks so too; she later sees him stealing butties out of other kids’ rucksacks at lunchtime, so she figures out something is up and calls his mum in for a chat.

Speaking of mothers, Dushane’s is taken into hospital. While waiting at her bedside, he has another go at charming Shelley, to slightly better though not entirely successful effect. She’s evidently a smart and self-aware woman, and something tells me Dushane isn’t used to those. Neither, for that matter, is Jaime (Micheal Ward), who in “Smoke Gets In Your Hands” enjoys a lusty liason with his supplier in the back of a covert antique shop. But he’s unprepared for how seriously she tells him it’ll never happen again; this is a woman from a family of Irish criminals, and she’s used to having her own way. Since Dris and Jaq are waiting outside, she also finds herself a captive, used as leverage to entice Jaime to a meeting at a local cafe with Dushane, and I assume she won’t be thrilled about that, either.

That meeting is a clear highlight of Top Boy Episode 5. What starts out as Dushane ridiculing and threatening someone much younger than him quickly becomes Dushane being surprised by how much Jamie means what he’s saying. And what he’s saying is that if Dushane continues to sell drugs that aren’t supplied by Jamie, he’ll kill him and his people in the same way he did the Turks. Just like that, the battle lines are drawn. And it’s difficult to tell who we should be rooting for — or who might actually come out on top.

“Smoke Gets In Your Hands” ends with Sully returning to Ramsgate, to the pub where a lairy bunch of white men hurled racial abuse at him and Jason. He follows one of the men into an underpass and beats him half to death. After, still smelling his hands, he submerges himself in the ocean he had to wait thirty-odd years to see.

Netflix, TV Recaps
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