Years and Years is back and last week’s cliffhanger saw the banks collapse, causing Stephen (Rory Kinnear) and Celeste (T’Nia Miller) to lose over a million pounds. Viktor (Maxim Baldry) was deported. Edith (Jessica Hynes) has ten years left to live, and Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson) was elected as a local MP. With things already this bad for the Lyons family, and the country, it’s hard to imagine things getting any worse. Well, they can get worse and they will.
It’s Christmas and Stephen and Celeste are still living with Muriel (Anne Reid). The family is still getting together regularly. Well, they’re getting together regularly in the virtual sense to discuss the world of politics and to criticize each other’s political choices. I’ve been there and I know the feeling. I don’t share the same political views as some of my family and they sure as hell don’t share mine. Politics is definitely something that drives a wedge between some relationships and friendships as we become too firm with our opinions.
Given the state of today’s political climate around the world, it’s definitely important that we all take an active interest in politics. I’ve seen people say “Well I’m not voting because nothing ever changes” far too many times now. We can’t complain about the state of the world’s politics if we aren’t prepared to get out there and try and do something about it. If this show teaches us anything it’s that things are only going to get worse if we don’t change them now.
Before we can get settled in for some future festive fun we’re swept forward a year to 2026 and a lot has changed in that short time. Due to the financial crash in the previous episode the country has hit a radical recession. This results in some pharmaceutical companies going bankrupt meaning that some regular medications are no longer available. (This is something we’re already seeing today as it’s been reported multiple times that the government is stockpiling certain medications in case they aren’t available after Brexit.) France has had an emergency election resulting in a 30% swing to the right. They deport anyone that goes there without a visa meaning that Viktor can no longer travel there to safety as he intended.
The UK prepares for another general election by employing over 10,000 data sweepers to make sure there isn’t any Russian interference. One of those data sweepers is Bethany (Lydia West).
Daniel (Russell Tovey) is having a tough time contacting Viktor and after a video call is answered by the authorities he has good reason to worry. The Ukrainian government is on a mission to criminalize homosexuality once again, so Viktor has fled the country and has entered an LGBTQ+ friendly country to try and claim asylum. As a gay man, this is the kind of thing that terrifies me about our future becoming our past again. It was illegal to be homosexual here in the UK right up until 1967, which sounds like a long time ago but it actually isn’t. Can you imagine a world going backward with countries trying to make homosexuality illegal again? I can.
Did you know that it is still illegal to be gay in 72 countries around the world? And that 12 of them will punish homosexuality with the death penalty? It’s a shocking statistic and worrying to think what could happen to the rights we’ve fought so long to obtain should the far right continue to get into power. People have been fleeing their home countries because of their sexuality for decades and I love that Viktor’s story is finally highlighting it.
Eventually, Daniel and Viktor are reunited in Spain for a conjugal visit. It’s heartbreaking to see just how much hardship two people who love each other must go through in order to be together. It happens every day in the real world. Not just to partners but to parents and their children. Families are torn apart instead of being allowed the freedom to live together. Why can’t they just be together?
The story also allows us to learn about Rosie’s negativity towards others. In Episode 1 we were presented with a happy go lucky single mother who was completely independent despite being in a wheelchair. Now she’s laughed when Stephen lost his million and then quickly fell for the charms of Vivienne Rooks Four Star Party campaign. She seems unsympathetic towards Viktor and instead comes across as jealous that he’s receiving the attention. She questions whether Daniel is sending Viktor money and seems bitter that he probably does. It’s another common thing I’ve seen that people get themselves bothered about what others are spending their money on. Family or not, it is up to him what he spends his hard earned wages on. He’s trying to support the love of his life.
Maybe her bitterness comes from the fact she’s been made redundant. The latest invention on the market is ready meals that heat themselves up meaning she’s no longer needed as a caterer. This is all still an effect of the sanctions imposed on American for Trump bombing China—sanctions that the Lyons family wanted to be imposed. The ramifications of something so serious can and will be felt for years. They can affect anyone of them at any time.
Despite having her life expectancy rate cut to just another ten years Edith is continuing with her activism work. This time she’s infiltrating the offices of a corporation called Wytell that has links to the current Syrian Dictatorship. She gains entry using Rosie’s youngest son, Lincoln, by dressing him as a girl and telling him all the right things to say to people. What’s beautiful in this story is that Lincoln, despite his young age, wants to dress as a girl and wants to be called Susie. Nobody ever questions it or makes a big deal of his choice, which is pretty much the whole point of the story. Even Muriel, who’s of the older generation, doesn’t care and says that he looks cute.
If a little boy wants to dress as a little girl then who are we to criticize them? Why must people take it upon themselves to be so negative and hurtful about things that don’t concern them? We live in an age where young people can take a quick route to fame by becoming social media or YouTube sensations. I’ve seen young boys performing makeup tutorials etc. If you venture into the comments on their posts you enter a very murky world indeed. People who really are old enough to know better act like it’s their business to get involved, insulting not just the young performers, but their parents and families. It’s shameful. Why can we not just let people be who they want to be?
Bethany is still on a quest to become who she wants to be too: transhuman. She meets a girl in her new job, Lizzie, who wants to become transhuman too and using her savings they plan to do it by any means necessary. They decide to do it the quick way and opt for an operation on the black market instead. In one of the most frightening scenes on the show so far Lizzie is given a bogus eye implant which doesn’t work properly. She can no longer see directly through it and instead sees the room through a laptop. She’s scared and it scares Bethany enough not to have it done. It’s interesting because so far Bethany has been the only member of the Lyons family to embrace the future and whatever technology comes along. Now she’s been given a wake-up call that it might not be as fantastic as she first thought. Her mother Celeste has received a huge wake-up call too.
She’s discovered that Stephen is having an affair with one of his co-workers, Elaine. Interestingly, she doesn’t choose to confront him over it. So far Celeste has been the most outspoken member of the Lyons family and has gone up against Muriel several times. With this revelation, she manages to control her anger and keep her hurting to herself.
I was genuinely shocked by this storyline, as so far Stephen has come across as the dullest member of the family. He’s like a traditional family man who works hard to provide for his family and only seems to want what’s best for them—not that there’s anything wrong with that! But when you have a gay brother traveling across Europe to be with his deported lover, an activist sister who’s dying from radiation poisoning, and another outspoken sister who wants to take on the world…then you are going to come across a bit ‘middle of the road’.
We see a different side to Stephen during the final moments of the episode, a side that shows that he’s truly fed up with the world. The Lyons siblings’ father has died and they must attend his funeral. He’s been knocked over by a bicycle riding courier and developed sepsis. He isn’t being cremated or buried; he’s being dissolved. It’s the latest thing for funerals. After the funeral service, Stephen sees a courier and decides to destroy his bicycle with his hire car. None of the siblings had a close relationship with their father after he left them to start another family when they were young. They don’t react to Stephen’s actions though, they allow him to do it for himself and probably for them too. Are they angry that a courier killed their father? Or are they just angry that the world constantly throws shit at them?
Despite coming together in scenes like this one we’re reminded just how completely different the family is when they go to cast their votes in the big general election. Stephen’s traditional personality shows again when he casts a vote for Labour. Edith unsurprisingly gives a spoilt vote and votes for no one. Rosie and Muriel both vote for The Four Star Party. But the most surprising vote of all comes from Daniel, who votes for The Conservatives.
Why would Daniel, a gay man, vote for a party who actively blocked gay rights for decades? The party also introduced the ‘deport first, appeal later’ policy which is exactly what’s preventing him from being with Viktor.
The only character to actually be having a good time is Vivienne Rook who continues to go from strength to strength in her election campaign.
Vivienne proposes that people must take an IQ test before they’re allowed to vote in elections. There’s outrage, but when questioned about it she claims that it’s not her that’s saying it, it’s the public. She’s right. People say that the vote should be taken away or that some people are too stupid to vote all the time. I’ve heard it and read it during almost every election there is. Hell, I’m probably guilty of saying it myself at some point or another.
In one of my favorite moments from the entire season, Vivienne launches her own TV channel, The Four Star Channel, which she uses to get inside the minds of the general public. She gets Lee from Steps onboard and as they dance to the song ‘Tragedy‘ we see a montage of the Lyons family voting. She’s saying exactly what the public wants to hear. By making it seem like she’s just like us, with an interest in everyday problems, she’s winning the country over. It’s nothing new. We see these tactics in every election. But there’s still something sinister about Vivienne. We still know nothing of her true motives.
If you’re familiar with an alternative British sitcom from the 1980s called The Young Ones then you’ll no doubt remember the character of Vyvyan Basterd played by Adrian Edmondson. Vyvyan, or Vyv for short, is a psychopathic, sociopathic, sadistic, misanthropic medical student who just so happens to be a punk. He also just so happens to have four metal stars embedded in his forehead. Vyv stands for all things anarchist, he’s anti-establishment, and is utterly crazy. Is it just a crazy coincidence that his name is Vyvyan and he’s represented by Four Stars just like Vivienne Rook and the Four Star Party? I think not.
Whatever Vivienne is doing is working. Her party wins 15 seats in a hung Parliament, giving her the balance of power that she needs. She’s in and she’s winning. A country ruled by The Four Star Party is a scary prospect, especially as they have the potential to make things worse for everyone than they already are.
The future country is almost on its knees and you’ll be glad of the break until next week’s episode. Episode 4 is one of the most heartbreaking pieces of TV that I’ve ever seen. You do not want to miss out on it!