After the devastating death of Daniel (Russell Tovey) in the last episode, it was hard to predict where Years and Years was going to go next. The rest of the Lyons family is hurt and upset, but one of them is angry. We’re about to learn that anger can have devastating consequences. The future hasn’t been kind to anyone and things aren’t about to get any easier.
Daniel’s death was a particularly hard thing to watch, and is definitely one of the most heartbreaking TV moments of the year. To kill one of the main characters off only four episodes in makes it even more of a shocker. None of us were expecting it, which makes it more difficult to deal with. The death was an important reminder of what’s happening in the world around us and that was the whole point of it happening. This may be a fictional future but it scarily feels a little too real to me.
Vivienne Rook is the only person who seems to be getting what she wants as she continues her rise to power. She addresses the nation and tells them how the United Kingdom is alone in the world. It’s not too different from the UK’s position in the world now. With no current trade deals to boast about, once Brexit happens we really will be a tiny island going it alone in a big huge world. It’s a frightening prospect. She continues to dish out false promises but the country continues to lap them up.
She sees only glory in the UK’s future, but doesn’t actually tell us what those glories will be. This is something our own politicians do now: tell us that once we’re out of the European Union we’ll be a strong country with only good things ahead of us. We’re still waiting to be told what those good things are. Although, like the followers of Vivienne’s Four Star Party, people buy into it.
Of course, you can’t ask questions about Vivienne or her empty policies. People who speak out against her are being publicly arrested and eventually disappearing. But where are they actually going? How does somebody just disappear in this day and age? Shady forces are clearly at work here, but before even we get chance to ask any questions we arrive with the Lyons family on Christmas Day.
Understandably the family doesn’t feel much like celebrating. The dinner table is quiet and nobody really knows what to say. How could you really celebrate so soon after losing someone you love in such tragic circumstances? Seeing the family so broken is a tough watch. They even struggle to raise a glass in Daniel’s name. But it’s when Edith (Jessica Hynes) tries to also raise a glass to Viktor (Maxim Baldry) that we see the anger in Stephen’s (Rory Kinnear) face.
Viktor has been forced into a holding facility as he waits to be deported or to find a way to stay in the UK. We’re forced to silently relive the day that Daniel died and how the family reacted to it. We see them lashing out at Viktor but we never hear what they say. It makes it so much more powerful. We don’t need to know what they say to one another, as we know how heartbroken, angry, confused, and distraught that they will be. Interspersed around these moments of silence is Stephen telling Viktor how much he blames him for what happened. He hates him, he’ll never forgive him, and that hatred is only going to lead to more heartache.
Before we can take in the confrontation we’re once again thrust forward into the future to the year 2028 and a lot has happened in such a short space of time.
The country is suffering frequent blackouts, which some say are power cuts while others claim that they’re cyber attacks. The blackouts are resulting in significant losses of online data so we’re stepping backward and printing things on paper again. We see some teenagers holding a sheet of paper and hilariously not knowing what it is. This is the way we’re heading, though. We can already read our newspapers online, and books, and other important documents. Why would there be a need for paper in a world that’s already highly digital? There’ll come a point where we don’t even need actual banknotes to pay for things anymore.
That isn’t all as it’s been raining for a record 80 days straight and people are triggering dirt bomb explosions causing radiation in our city centers. Vivienne has seen another opportunity to exploit people and has created the Bedroom Law. It basically means that if any family has at least two free bedrooms in their home that they’re required, by law, to take in a homeless person. It reminds me of something online trolls and racists shout about at the moment. So many times I’ve witnessed people say “Well if you love immigrants and refugees so much then why don’t you take one in and let them live with you”. It’s a sort of idiotic response that doesn’t really make much sense, but something that would ultimately gather support if it was used in a political campaign.
We already live in a country where people are forced to pay the Bedroom Tax. This was imposed in 2012 and the government believed that by charging people a tax on their spare bedrooms they would solve the housing crisis. Surprisingly it hasn’t. It doesn’t seem too ridiculous to think that one day the government would force people to take in the homeless to try and solve the homeless crisis.
Amongst the sadness and the hardships, there’s a small glimmer of hope as Rosie (Ruth Madeley) and her boyfriend Jonjo (George Bukhari) have gotten engaged. But we should know by now that happiness is often short-lived for this family. Rosie’s livelihood and source of income are about to take a massive knockback.
Due to high criminal activity on the Manchester estate that she lives on, the area has now been branded a red zone. Checkpoints and fences have now been installed, meaning that Rosie’s license to trade is now useless. Not only that, people will now need ID cards to get in and out of the estates they live in. This is just something else I can see happening in the future, particularly in a town like the one I’m from, Middlesbrough. Only recently I’ve seen the police place dispersal orders on certain estates meaning that they can ask groups of individuals they suspect may cause trouble to move out of the estate or area. It’s sad that we live in a country where gangs of teenagers are wasting so much police time with mindless trouble.
It’s unnecessary but seems unavoidable. Rosie is quick to point out that it’s all the fault of her teenage son and his friends because of the trouble they’ve been causing. It’s true that children, teenagers, in particular, are allowed to run amok with no real fear of the law or of the consequences of their actions. Only last year I myself lived through hell at the hands of teenagers on my estate and it’s no picnic I can tell you. If things get any worse for real then who knows, maybe checkpoints like these will be the only option? The police no longer have the time, the resources, or the funding to be able to constantly patrol like they once did. People want a big huge fence around the UK to stop foreigners coming here,. Will they be quite as accepting if the country was divided by fences instead?
It’s a bad time for Rosie to hit any sort of hard financial struggles as Edith has announced that she’ll be moving out and can no longer pay the rent for her.
Edith is finally taking the plunge and kind of making things official by moving in with Fran (Sharon Duncan-Brewster). She may be moving in, but she certainly isn’t settling down as she has important work to be getting on with. She’s heard about the people who question Vivienne vanishing (The Disappeared as they’re now known) and wants to know whats going on. But now it isn’t just the people who ask questions that vanish; it’s the homeless and the refugees too.
She can’t do it alone, though, and enlists the help of niece Bethany (Lydia West) who’s been fitted with a new brain implant that connects her body directly to the internet. It comes courtesy of the government who now pretty much own her in return. Bethany was desperate to do whatever it took to instantly become transhuman in the beginning but now it seems that she’s taking the more patient route: one she deems to be safer than what she’s experienced on the black market. But is this really safe? She’s about to use this new technology to spy on the government and her own family. But that just means the government can ultimately use it to spy on her. Does she really know what she’s let herself in for and is she about to discover something heartbreaking?
Bethany helps Edith infiltrate an admin building, as they’ve heard about something called Erstwhile while investigating The Disappeared. Just as Edith finds the files she’s looking for we see the harsh reality of the radiation poisoning she received way back in Hong Sha when the atomic bomb went off. She collapses unable to breathe and Bethany is forced to plunge the building with a blackout to keep her safe from security.
In a touching moment between the pair, we learn that Edith blames herself for Daniel’s death. It was she who helped him get to Spain and gave him the idea of smuggling Viktor back into the country after all. But how could she have known the true horror that was going to happen? All she wanted was for her brother to be happy with the man he loved. That’s all of any of us ever really want, for the people we love to be happy. We never know what waits for us around the corner, so (as hard as it is) we should never feel guilty for the things that are beyond our control.
But what are these Erstwhile sites and why is Vivienne Rook’s name coming up over and over again in connection to them? Maybe we should start looking at Stephen, as he now has rather a large involvement with them.
Stephen has found himself at rock bottom. His marriage is over, he rarely sees his family, he has no money, his brother has died, and he’s now seemingly in an unhappy relationship with the woman he only ever wanted an affair with. Whilst Daniel’s death and the loss of his million were events that were completely out of control, he does only have himself to blame for the rest of his unhappiness. He chose to have an affair and hurt his family. There are some moments that I truly want to feel sympathetic towards him but his spiraling behavior stops me in me my tracks.
After expressing his concerns that Bethany now belongs to the government he quickly decides to sell his soul to the same government. He wants his old life back and will do anything to get back his fortune. He meets an old school friend and begins working with them doing “maintenance” for defunct government facilities. Except they aren’t defunct and they aren’t empty. They’re the Erstwhile sites.
In another big shocker, we learn that these places are actually concentration camps and Stephen’s new job is to make them much more efficient at killing people. Who was expecting that, seriously? His new role brings him face to face with Vivienne and away from the public and the cameras she’s a very different person. She’s a lot more vulnerable than her public persona would have you believe. But she’s still deeply horrifying.
She tells Stephen that if she ran away that they would kill her. At that moment we finally know that she’s working for someone. This whole situation isn’t just down to her. But who is she even working for and will we ever actually find out? There have been multiple claims that Donald Trump is merely Putin’s puppet and that it’s actually Russia running the show in America. Is that the case here? Is another country just using Vivienne to do its own bidding? It makes sense and is just another plot point that mirrors the real world.
But it’s impossible to feel any sort of sympathy towards her, especially when she delivers her chilling speech about the concentration camps. It was only this year that Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg attempted to justify the use of concentration camps throughout history by saying “they’re not a good thing but where else were people going to live?” It’s a truly horrific thing to say but do we really expect anything else from an MP as odious as Mogg?
Unsurprisingly Vivienne echoes his comments as she compares concentration camps to orange juice and asks if they are always that bad a thing. This is where Russell T Davies is so clever with his writing. This is meant to be an unsettling glimpse into the future, but MPs are already saying stuff like this and getting away with it. We’re already living in these scenarios. She may be being controlled by people unknown, but Vivienne is still a monster. Her deception and lack of caring are some of the most frightening aspects of the show.
Now that Stephen knows the truth you would hope that he would cut his losses and get out of there. But he doesn’t. Destroying the bike of a courier in Episode 3 was only a hint at what he’s capable of. He takes his newfound knowledge of the concentration camps and exacts his revenge on Viktor. He adds Viktor’s name to the list of people to be sent to their death, with immediate effect.
It’s heartbreaking and any sort of sympathy that might exist for him is well and truly gone. We know that he’s hurting and that he’s angry, but is sending an innocent man to his death really the solution? It won’t bring Daniel back and it’ll only push him further away from his family. But he seems to be under the impression that they won’t be finding out about his actions. It’s even more of a shock to the system when we discover that his daughter Bethany has hacked into the system and seen him do it.
She’s sickened and so are we. I warned you last week that Stephen’s anger would lead to disastrous events and I wasn’t kidding. The full extent of his actions and betrayal of his family is almost as shocking as Daniels death. The story isn’t over yet though. How much farther into the future can we go and how many members of the Lyons family will make it to the end?