After last week’s Years and Years cliffhanger which saw Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson) and her Four Star Party get ever closer to power, I warned you to prepare yourself for this episode. I said it would be heartbreaking and it was. It was quite a huge plot point so this week I’d like to put a little more focus on to what happened with Daniel (Russell Tovey) and Viktor (Maxim Baldry).
The episode starts in its usual manner, with the family coming together (some of them via video link) to discuss what’s going on with them and the world. It’s New Year’s Eve and Daniel and Viktor are engaged. They’re both in Spain as that’s still a country controlled by the Political Left, meaning it’s safe for them to be together there. Daniel wants to move there and as they ponder how long that could take we’re once again thrust forward in time to 2027.
There’s a revolution in Spain and another independent party has taken over, but there’s a problem: they aren’t just a Leftist Party, they’re Far-Left. We know of the Far-Right and what they stand for but I suppose we never considered that there could be a Far-Left too. It’s an accusation that’s currently thrown around in political arguments but I don’t really believe it’s ever taken seriously or even stands for anything much right now. When the Left goes too far (and so does the right eventually) they’re going to meet in the middle and start adopting some of the same policies and laws. This is what’s happened and the first thing they want is for anyone without citizenship is to be deported, which is exactly what Viktor doesn’t want to hear.
Greece has begun withdrawing from the European Union in Brexit Part 2 which has caused riots across the country. It isn’t the only country on its knees as the Italian government has actually resigned, resulting in Martial Law being declared, and Hungary has been declared bankrupt. Trump’s face has been added to Mount Rushmore and the United Nations is threatening to remove its headquarters from American soil. Same-sex marriage has also been suspended across the U.S. and there are even more riots in Washington as Roe v. Wade has been overturned by the Supreme Court. Basic human rights are being taken away on a massive scale and eventually they’re going to end up affecting everyone.
When the season began we got the impression that Daniel had settled for married life. He was working a regular 9-to-5 job and he seemed pretty normal. As the years have progressed he’s evolved into a risk-taker and someone who would do absolutely anything for the love of his life. We know he was married before and, personally, I don’t believe he would have ever taken big risks for Ralph. He might have loved him once upon a time but he definitely settled for him.
Despite working with asylum seekers for many years, he always remained indifferent to them until he met the true love of his life. Each episode has thrown obstacles at them to prevent them from being together but neither one of them has given up fighting for what they want. They want each other so why can they not just do that? Ultimately the government and the people decide who we get to be with, where we get to be with them, and what we get to do with them. We might have come a long way in terms of gay rights around the world but we sure as hell aren’t anywhere near full equality.
I can marry my partner in the U.K. if I wanted to and we could try to adopt a baby should we wish to. But could I walk down the street and hold his hand or kiss him in public? I could, but only if we wanted a severe beating or some harsh abuse. It’s still a world where we live in fear of expressing our love for each other in public despite it being perfectly acceptable for straight couples to have that privilege. Why must it be so different? Viktor has traveled around Europe trying to be safe and has eventually met resistance wherever he goes. If anything this tells us that it really doesn’t matter where you go or how far you go; there will always be people working against you. Daniel’s determination to overcome any obstacle to be with the man he loves reminds us that we must never give up the fight for rights and equality. We don’t know for sure what the future holds for us, but we’re the only ones who can make sure it’s a good one.
If Viktor is found in Spain he will be deported back to the Ukraine where he could possibly face execution for his sexuality. In an act of desperation, Daniel empties his bank accounts of his entire life savings and travels to Europe to bring Viktor back to the U.K. illegally. It feels like an extreme length to go to, but wouldn’t you to do absolutely anything to keep the love of your life from danger?
As Daniel begins the long journey back to the U.K. on a coach, Viktor is hidden in the cargo hold for what they expect to be a simple journey. They hit a snag when they reach the French border and realize that all coaches are being searched, so the pair decide to continue on foot. As they check into a hotel Daniel calls his family and we see Viktor in the shower looking bewildered. It’s hard to know what Viktor is thinking at this point but we know he’s clearly frustrated and tired of never being able to settle. He probably hates himself for doing this to Daniel. Neither of them asked for this to happen to them; they just fell in love.
They begin searching for a woman named Elodie who can create Viktor a fake passport using Daniel’s as a basis for the copy that can get him into the U.K. It quickly transpires that Elodie belongs to a group who are exploiting vulnerable migrants in the area and stealing their money. They’re both left without passports and most of their money is gone. When they head back to the hotel Daniel takes his frustrations out on the room and repeatedly punches the bed as he screams and cries. It’s a scene that brings a lump to my throat every time I see it. We’ve never seen Daniel really get angry or upset before but to now see him breaking down is horrible. The world has thrown so much negativity at the pair yet they’re still determined to keep going. Their final option proves to be more fateful than any of us could have imagined, though.
They use the last of their money to pay a man to smuggle them back to the U.K. on a small boat. As he boards the boat without a passport, Daniel has now himself become a refugee. The boat is overcrowded and when a storm hits the boat capsizes and sinks just half a mile off the coast of Dover. Many people drown in a desperate attempt to reach land and sadly Daniel is one of them. As the camera pans across the beach and we see Daniel’s lifeless body lying there, so close to home, my heart still sinks. I first watched this scene around a month ago and I still find it harrowing to watch to this day, so much so that it feels like a struggle to discuss it. But it’s something we have to talk about. It’s undeniably one of the most harrowing and emotional TV moments of the year and needs to be talked about for a long time.
I think that our emotion for this scene comes from the fact that this is something we’ve seen happen ourselves. We’ve seen people crossing the channel in boats to reach the safety of another country and we’ve witnessed them dying doing it. How can any of us forget the haunting images of the three-year-old Syrian refugee, Alan Kurdi, lying dead on a Turkish beach after his boat capsized in 2015? It’s such a powerful image that prompted outrage around the world. Everybody cried for the refugee boy they didn’t know and insisted that the world must change. But it didn’t change. Things stayed the same. Refugees still risk their lives to get to safety and the world continues to look the other way.
You naturally expect Viktor to be the one that dies (which would have been bad enough) but it’s much more shocking that it’s Daniel. When people think of refugees dying as they flee their countries, they imagine it being a million miles away from here. It wouldn’t happen to us, just other people. But the Lyons family are believable characters that we can relate to. They represent us: ordinary people. In the end, it really doesn’t matter whether this happens to one of us or somebody else in the world; the fact that it happens at all is what needs to change.
There’s a bit of a homophobic cliché that exists in the world of film and television which has become known as “Bury Your Gays.” It basically means that a lot of LGBT characters are often killed off in TV shows or movies as they are viewed as a lot more expendable than their straight counterparts. The statistics add up to show that a gay character is more likely to die than a straight character. It’s something that definitely needs addressing and changing, but I personally don’t think that trope applies here.
One thing that Russell T Davies has provided us with over the years is strong LGBT characters who are anything but throwaway and definitely aren’t there just to be killed off. When you look at some of Russell’s other LGBT characters who’ve met a grim fate–such as Phil in Queer As Folk, Lance in Cucumber, and now Daniel in Years and Years—their deaths had significant meaning. They weren’t killed because they were disposable characters; their deaths served as a talking point to raise awareness and make people question the world around us.
Those characters may have been LGBT but, in Russell’s world, they weren’t side characters like they are in other shows. They were the main characters and once someone who’s LGBT becomes the main character then they can die just like anybody else in the show. There isn’t an outrage when a straight character is killed off so we mustn’t create one here. People tend to get angry that these characters are often forgotten about rather quickly and life goes on without so much as a mention of them. But (as someone who’s seen the rest of the season) I assure you that isn’t the case here. His death will continue to affect the Lyons family right to the end.
As hard as it is to watch, we need to embrace Daniel’s death and think about the issues it’s highlighting. People die every day just for being who they are, wanting to be with the person they love, or just for simply wanting safety and shelter. We can’t let it continue.
It feels like things can’t get any worse for the Lyons family at the moment but you’d be surprised what events Daniel’s death is going to trigger. Stephen (Rory Kinnear) has had his affair exposed this week, which has brought about a new understanding between Celeste (T’Nia Miller) and Muriel (Anne Reid). Last week we saw a glimmer of Stephen’s true anger when he destroyed a courier’s bicycle, and that anger is just waiting to emerge again. Daniel’s death will be the motivation for a lot of surprises in the final two episodes, I assure you.
While the Lyons family’s lives change for the worst, one woman is continuing to go from strength to strength. Vivienne Rook has finally succeeded and is now the Prime Minister, and it isn’t going to end well.