One of Netflix’s finest originals bows out at the top of its game.
This review of the Netflix series Top Boy Season 3 does not contain spoilers.
The hook of Top Boy, both in its original incarnation as a low-budget homegrown drama on Channel 4 and in its rebirth as a showy Netflix original personally endorsed by Drake, is that its protagonists are the villains.
This is easy to forget sometimes since Dushane (Ashley Walters) and Sully (Kane Robinson) have reliably fallen foul of people who are even more corrupt and murderous than they are. But the simple truth of the matter is that they’re drug-dealing murderers who have terrorized their local Summerhouse estate, corrupted the community, and killed – either personally or by proxy – almost everyone they have ever come into contact with.
The final season, the third according to Netflix’s numbering conventions but the fifth overall, is about the chickens coming home to roost for all these ill-advised endeavors.
Top Boy Season 3 review and plot summary
The six episodes of Top Boy Season 3 are outgrowths of everything that has happened until this point, but most particularly the murder of Jamie (Michael Ward) in the Season 2 finale. That act, perpetrated by Sully, has thrown London’s underworld into flux, with Sully now in charge of he and Dushane’s criminal empire, Stefan (Araloyin Oshunremi) on a path of revenge, and even more dangerous individuals looking to muscle in on the instability at the top of the pecking order.
But a lot of time is also devoted to Jaq (Jasmine Jobson), who through her sister Lauryn’s (Saffron Hocking) ordeal with her psychotic partner in Season 2 has begun to see a glimmer of not only a better, more meaningful life but also the real repercussions of her business. BAFTA-nominated Jobson still manages to steal every scene she’s in, even among highly capable company. Only Robinson’s Sully, one of television’s greatest and most tortured recent characters, can compete with her for raw power and depth of feeling.
Down from ten episodes in Season 1 (or 3) and eight in Season 2 (or 4), the final season of Top Boy moves at a lightning-fast clip, and it’s the leanest outing of the show by far. This and the very real sense of danger, which is reinforced time and again by unexpected, often brutal deaths, sometimes of key characters, gives the show’s swansong a more frantic and potentially fatal feeling than any of the others have had.
This does, admittedly, come with some downsides. Despite all the shootouts, chases, murders, and other such attention-grabbing genre staples, Top Boy has always excelled in quieter, more character-driven drama, and there’s necessarily less of that here in a leaner-than-ever screenplay. But this isn’t to say that supporting characters – or the themes they represent – get short shrift, with Shelley (Little Simz) and especially Mandy (NoLay) remaining important figures who help to ground the action in real-world stakes and give voice to the show’s relevant political undercurrents.
There’s also a great deal of nuance in certain subplots, like Stef’s burgeoning relationship with Mandy’s daughter Erin (Savanah Graham) or the fallout from an attempted deportation of one of Summerhouse’s residents, that serves as a reminder that virtually everyone in this show is a victim of some kind, either of someone else or a system that was intended to protect them.
Is Top Boy Season 3 good or bad?
There’s a case to be made that Top Boy is the very best of Netflix’s original slate, and that remains true in a third and final season that even leaves Hollywood superstar Barry Keoghan, giving a charismatic performance as a psychotic Irish mobster here, feeling somewhat left behind by his homegrown contemporaries.
They aren’t perfect, but the final six episodes of Top Boy are good enough to remind you that this is a supremely talented cast telling a gripping, timely story at the best of their ability, and even if this is the right time to bring the story to a close, it’s almost a shame that it has to end already.
Is Top Boy Season 3 worth watching?
Those long-time fans clamoring for a wild and comprehensive conclusion may not get that here. In just six episodes it’s impossible to tie off every loose end, satisfy every arc, and build to the biggest, most poignant possible climax.
However, Top Boy gives as respectable a go of it as one could reasonably expect of any show, and it’s one of the few to enjoy a full run without ever dipping in quality or struggling to justify its own existence.
What did you think of Top Boy Season 3? Comment below.
You can watch this series with a subscription to Netflix.