Years and Years is back and after last week’s jaw-dropping cliff hanger of Trump pressing the big red button in his last days of office, the bomb detonating near China, and the threat of an all-out nuclear war it was hard to know what scenes would be welcoming us in Episode 2. You can breathe a sigh of relief as the episode picks up six months after those terrifying events and the world has survived. Or should that be, the world is surviving…just.
Edith (Jessica Hynes) is appearing on TV news to speak about what happened when the bomb went off and the family has got together to watch. They haven’t physically gotten together though, instead, they’re using their Signor devices to conduct a big group call. Part of me thinks it’s a great idea as they can get together at the drop of a hat without going out of their way, but the other part thinks that they’ll become too dependent on the easiness of Signor. Phone calls are great, but sometimes we just need a more physical gathering. Technology has already evolved so much that it is so easy to keep in touch with loved ones no matter where they are, but how much further will it go? Will we end up just virtually spending time with the people that matter?
45,000 people have died in the explosion at Hong Sha Dao but just like Hiroshima, the world just carries on. People wake up the next morning and see the news but continue with their lives. They go to work, they go to school, they go about their everyday routines just assuming that because it happened so far away that the repercussions won’t be felt here. China hasn’t retaliated to the attack and instead sanctions are being taken out against America for the actions of Trump. Desperate to show the world the true devastation of the bomb, Edith and her team have sent drones into the blast site to capture footage of it. Except Edith has gone too close. She’s exposed herself to the radiation and has limited her life span to 20 more years…if she’s lucky.
She’s forced to reveal this news to her family live on TV and understandably they’re upset. Edith doesn’t seem to be though; she’s more angry about the state of the world. It keeps racing to one disaster after the other and none of us know what’s next. It’s completely true as we live in a world that’s so unpredictable. Did we ever imagine that Brexit would happen and divide our country so much? Did we think it was possible that someone like Trump would become President? Did we think that we would revert back to the days where racism and homophobia were so rife? I know I personally didn’t think those things were possible, but here we are.
While Edith is keen for the sanctions to be taken out against America, I don’t think she realizes the harsh effects they will have on her family in the future.
As Edith and the family ponder where the future will lead, we’re once again thrust forward years, getting glimpses of what has happened in the world during this jump. Trump is out and has been replaced with President Pence, the imposing sanctions are resulting in the US swinging further and further to the right, Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson) is continuing with her quest to win over the British public by appearing on the quiz show Pointless, the population of birds in the UK has fallen by 50%, the insect population by 80%, people can no longer work from home and are being called upon to return to offices, and after opening a drone park an MP has been decapitated by a drone. This comes much to the delight of Vivienne Rook who uses his death as an opportunity to run in the local elections to take his place as MP.
Daniel (Russell Tovey) has now left his husband Ralph (Dino Fetscher), and after his passion with Viktor (Maxim Baldry) during what he thought were his final hours on earth, the two are now happily living together. We learn that Viktor had to flee his own country because his parents reported him to the authorities for being gay. Muriel (Anne Reid) calls them disgusting people, she tells Viktor he’s beautiful and he will always be welcome in her home. It’s a really touching scene. I’ve seen first hand the older generation being stuck in their ways when it comes to casually making racist or homophobic comments and I know how hard it is for them not to do it after spending a lifetime thinking it’s acceptable. Muriel has perhaps had to alter her view of the world over the years due to having a gay grandson but I like to believe that she’s always been an open and accepting person. (Except for Londoners obviously).
Daniel wants a divorce as he thinks it will help Viktor’s case for becoming a UK citizen. Ralph is obviously angry and reports Viktor to the home office for secretly working in a petrol station. The results of Ralph’s actions will have massive consequences for the entire family in the coming episodes. All I can do is tell you to be prepared for some big heartbreak later in the season.
While these events are taking place in the future the country’s laws have gone back to the past and the “deport first appeal later” policy from 2014 has been reinstated. The policy deports people back to their home countries regardless of whether their lives will be at risk there. The fact that this was something that even existed is horrendous and the fact that it was so recent is even worse. Potentially sending someone to their death with them only being allowed to ask questions or ask for help later feels so brutal. I lived through that once and I couldn’t bear to see it happen again.
Unfortunately, Viktor has to go through it as within 12 hours of being detained by the authorities he’s already back in Kyiv. Due to the huge growth of the far-right across Europe LGBTQ+ rights might as well no longer exist as gay people must “live discreetly” or risk being arrested or tortured. While we still haven’t reached real equality in 2019, gay rights have definitely come a long way in the past couple of decades. The prospect of those being eroded down to next to nothing in just a matter of years is frightening. What’s even more frightening is that in this future the government is nowhere to be seen in cases like Viktor’s, it’s now up to normal people like Daniel to fight for basic human rights.
Having an equally bad time are Celeste (T’Nia Miller) and Stephen (Rory Kinnear) who are feeling the effects of the U.S. sanctions more than anyone. She’s lost her job as an accountant due to the firm being owned by Americans who are replacing the real workers with artificial intelligence. Stephen’s job in banking is also suffering so they’re being forced to sell their house and move out of London due to rising prices. Considering it’s £12 for a cup of coffee there I’d be up and leaving too. City Centre prices are already extortionate. I was recently charged £3 for a small bottle of water so I can definitely see this being the future. The cost of living rises every year but the wages at work don’t rise enough to keep up with it. This is why so many are currently in poverty. It’s only going to get worse.
Their oldest daughter Bethany (Lydia West) is now an adult and seems to be taking subtle steps to become transhuman. She’s had cybernetic implants surgically installed, which give her hand most of the capabilities of a mobile phone. It’s beginning to feel that the whole family is resisting the future and the changes it brings, whereas Bethany is the only one to be embracing it. She wants to be a part of what the future holds regardless of what changes she might have to make to her body to accomplish it. Is she going to be the only member of the family to be fully equipped for what the future holds or is she setting herself up for something far worse?
Just as things start to look up for them, as their house sells for over a whopping £1.2million, a big disaster strikes. They leave the proceeds of the house sale in a single bank account and after an American Investment bank collapses their money is wiped out. Just like that, it’s gone. It feels like the financial crisis in 2008 except this time everything really is gone, there is no bailout from the government or anywhere else.
With their money and home gone, they have no choice left but to pack up their belongings and move in with Muriel, much to Celeste’s dismay.
This week we see a different side to the youngest Lyons sibling Rosie (Ruth Madeley). Previously we’d seen her as a fun and humorous person to be around but now something is changing. Much to the anger of Stephen she’s been drawn in by Vivienne Rook’s campaigning and is heading off to the wrong side. She laughs when her brother loses everything, she shows no sympathy and almost revels in what’s happening. I suppose it’s giving us the warning that we can’t judge a book by its cover. When we first meet Rosie we’re obviously meant to love her, but now we slowly see a different person emerging. I get the feeling that Rosie is going to perhaps be hit the hardest with whatever Vivienne is planning for the future. She’s a single mother who’s in a wheelchair and despite being independent she’ll obviously receive some kind of benefits. I can’t help thinking of the iconic line “‘I never thought leopards would eat my face,’ sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party” when I think of where Rosie’s story could be going.
Vivienne however, is on fire. She’s begun privatizing public services such as the Council Housing Department, meaning she’s now Daniel’s boss. She’s ignorant of real politics and ends up getting humiliated at a debate after showing she doesn’t know the basics of our Trade Deals with Europe. She uses the humiliation to her advantage though and as a way to win over women and feminists by pointing out that women are not allowed one mistake in politics.
She pulls out a (highly illegal) device called a Blink which instantly shuts off any mobile device within a 30-meter radius. People are angry but she’s trying to prove a point that people spend too much time on their phones, and she wants to have a face to face conversation with them. It’s scary but I found myself agreeing with her on this one particular point. I would love a Blink device. I’d love to shut off people’s phones and have some quiet time. I’d love for people to see the world around them and what’s happening in it instead of viewing it and its events on their phones. This is Vivienne’s aim though: to appeal to people on all sides of the political spectrum by talking about the problems at our own front doors.
What the Blink device really is, though, is a distraction from the fact that Vivienne has no real political policies. Vivienne’s granddaughter has viewed pornography through her smartphone and somehow she has twisted this round as a reason to vote for her. Who is to blame in a situation like this one? Do we blame the website creators for making pornography so accessible? Perhaps the fault should lie with the company that made the phone for not having stricter parental controls? Or is it the fault of Vivienne’s family for allowing to do as she wishes on her phone without monitoring it? I suppose the fault lies with all three but more so with her family. If we want to give our children smartphones that have access to the world then we need to be in control, we need to monitor their use and we need to protect. Obviously, Vivienne wants to blame someone else and plans on taking down the company who made the phone.
It works and she not only wins over the public, but she also wins the local election and becomes the Manchester MP. As Rosie sits cheering her on something unexpected happens, Vivienne begins to win over Edith too. The Four Star Party are rising and with no real policies to speak of it’s worrying to know what this could mean for the country or even the world.
Oh, and where did all the chocolate go?