If the predictions of Years and Years ever come true then it’s unlikely we’ll ever get another season of the show. In actual fact, we won’t be getting many more TV shows at all as the BBC has closed its doors for the final time. It’s 2029 and the British Broadcasting Corporation has had it’s Charter withdrawn forcing them to say “Thank you, good night and good luck”.
If anybody needs luck in the future it’s the Lyons family. The years haven’t been good to them and we’ve been there with them through their misfortune and heartbreaking tragedy. In a show that’s been completely unpredictable since it began it would be a pretty impossible task to try and predict how it would end. Would the Lyons finally get a break and something to look forward to? It’s not like things could get any worse, could they? Right?
The BBC isn’t the only thing to have died, as due to a sudden outbreak of Monkey Flu over 1,2000 people have perished. Flu outbreaks are a pretty terrifying situation to be in. Back in 2009 during the Swine Flu pandemic, I was actually one of the first people to contract it and be hospitalized. My local hospital was so unprepared for it that they all they could do was drag me out of the public areas and throw me into a room on my own until they found out what to do. Being in my early 20s at the time, I was naturally petrified. But I was quickly treated and everything was fine. There were many others around the world that weren’t so lucky.
Monkey Flu/Fever already exists and has actually killed six people in India this year alone. These things exist and sadly pandemics can happen oh so easily. It’s a scary prospect.
But who is to blame for a future as bleak as this one? Do we blame the government for not doing their jobs properly, Vivienne Rook for failing as Prime Minister, the law, the schools, the internet? Pointing the finger of blame at other people and other authorities is easy to do and would result in a pretty lengthy list in the end. But Muriel (Anne Reid) knows exactly where the blame lies: it’s with all of us (viewers included).
“We can sit here all day, blaming other people. We blame the economy, we blame Europe, the opposition, the weather. And then we blame these vast, sweeping tides of history, you know, like they’re out of our control, like we’re so helpless and little and small—but it’s still our fault”
Her monologue is powerful, beautifully delivered, and most importantly it’s all true. We are to blame. She reminds us that even though we’re unhappy about things we never actually do anything worthwhile about it. She remembers back to 20 years prior when supermarkets began installing self-service checkouts. Rosie (Ruth Madeley) is quick to pipe up that she hates them. Muriel quickly responds by asking if she or anybody else did anything about it. Did they walk out of the supermarkets, or write letters of complaint, or did they shop elsewhere? Obviously, they didn’t. They simply put up with it and let it happen.
A lot of us can probably relate as we see this kind of thing every day now. Instead of complaining to these companies we just complain to each other or write an angry status about it on social media. It’s not enough to change things but we continue to do it. It isn’t just about the self-serve checkouts or the cheap clothes anymore, it’s about everything in the world. I’m guilty of it myself. I’ve sat and complained about things without actually doing anything about it. I convince myself that if I do complain nothing will happen or change anyway. That’s the mentality that the majority of us have fallen victim to and we just let things go. But how will we know that things won’t change if we don’t actually try?
Before any of the family get to take in and think about Muriel’s powerful words, Bethany (Lydia Bright) drops a bombshell on Edith (Jessica Hynes). She tells her that it was Stephen (Rory Kinnear) who got Viktor (Maxim Baldry) sent to one of the concentration camps. It appears that Muriel’s words have already rung true. Bethany was reluctant to tell anyone about her father’s betrayal at first but now she’s ready. She doesn’t want to be blamed anymore,. She wants to do something worthwhile to change Viktor’s future at least.
Viktor isn’t residing in any old concentration camp. though, he’s been thrown in where the infected are being sent. It makes you wonder whether the Monkey Flu/Fever outbreak was entirely natural or accidental. Was it spread deliberately by Vivienne Rook’s (Emma Thompson) Four Star Party or the mysterious people pulling her strings? A viral outbreak would be a sure-fire way of getting the numbers down at these camps. The timing of the outbreak is far too much of a coincidence, so I think this is totally plausible.
Viktor is doing his best to keep himself and others safe within the camp. He’s protecting children within his barracks and trying to keep them away from the virus. He has a box of phones that have been smuggled in, but they’re all useless.
Remember back in Episode 2 when Vivienne introduced us to the Blink devices? One click of its switch and it could shut off all mobile devices within a 30-meter radius. Vivienne claimed she wanted to use them because she was sick of people spending time on their phones and she wanted to have a face to face conversation with them instead. Now we know their true purpose.
They’ve been produced on a much larger scale and have been installed in every Erstwhile site in the country. They block all outgoing communications meaning any prisoner will never be able to contact the outside world. That’s why these people have become known as The Disappeared. They go into these camps and are never heard from again, as all mobile phone signals have been blocked. It’s terrifying and actually believable.
Last week we learned that Stephen was capable of much more than we ever expected of him and now it seems he’s taking things even further. He’s bought a gun and has it stashed at work for reasons we’ll learn later in this episode.
I really want to feel sorry for him, but after what he did to Viktor it just feels impossible right now. I know that ultimately his grief for Daniel (Russell Tovey) turned into anger, which led him to send Viktor to his death. But he really has nothing to blame for his affair and breakdown of his marriage to Celeste (T’Nia Miller). Now his relationship with Elaine (Rachel Logan) is over too.
Celeste meets up with Stephen to tell him that she has lost her job and wants him to get her one within his company. She tells him she needs money for the girls and that she misses him. It’s infuriating to hear because we don’t want her to miss him and we don’t want her to try and get back with him. He betrayed her and he doesn’t deserve her. But then, boom! There’s another twist. It turns out she knows what he did to Viktor and has used Stephen to get a job so she can secure information about his whereabouts. Sort of.
She still sees some good in Stephen and wants to erase his name from all records associated with the Erstwhile camps. She knows how much he blames Viktor and how much of a bad place he’s in. I suppose I can see where she’s coming from as his name being on those records connects not just her, but her whole family to them.
One of the most touching moments of the entire season is seeing Celeste and Muriel’s relationship change. In the beginning, they had a strong dislike for each other and would often argue. But since Stephen’s infidelity, Muriel has allowed her to live with her and even took her side in the whole thing. We never see Celeste’s side of the family but it honestly feels like she and Muriel have a strong mother and daughter relationship now. Is this why she never removed Lyons from her name? She wants to remove Stephen’s name from the records but doesn’t want to remove his name from hers.
In scenes like something from the David Tennant era of Doctor Who things come to a massive climax as the family attempt to break out Viktor. You would think that Edith and her gang of activists would need to go in all guns blazing to get the better of the guards. But their weapons are much more powerful than that. Instead, she comes armed with information, knowledge, and faith in other people finally doing the right thing…and maybe one little rocket launcher. It all echoes back to Muriel’s speech. They’re finally doing something to change the world.
Rosie is taking a stand too. After her estate being fenced off with checkpoints due to crime in last week’s episode things have only gotten worse.
While out working the estate has been closed off for the night meaning she and dozens of others can’t go home till the following morning. She isn’t taking it and along with her son Lincoln, they prepare their assault using her burger van. As they sit behind the wheel she tells him that his Uncle Danny once crossed an ocean. It’s such an emotional moment and really shows how much of a brilliant storyteller Russell T Davies is. They’re doing this for Daniel, the brother they love and miss—they don’t want his death to have been for nothing.
As Rosie rams down the gate at the checkpoint, Edith’s group destroys the Blink device tower. Just like that all of the phones in the concentration camp are reactivated. Edith and everybody else grabs their phones and broadcasts what’s going on to the rest of the world. I was in tears at this point but my god was it a glorious scene.
Fran (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) streams footage of people behind fences and tells the world “these people are refugees and asylum seekers, kept here with no rights, no health care, and they’ve been left here to die”. The images on screen are a lot like looking at the children and the families placed in cages in Trump’s “great” America. The fact that anybody would support or try to justify those kinds of actions is wrong on so many levels. If we learn only one thing from Years and Years, it’s that we have to come together to fight for our future and stop these kinds of atrocities from happening.
As the world finally sees the horrendous things going on right under its nose you would think that the drama would calm down and that we would get a breather. Wrong. As Celeste desperately tries to erase Stephen’s name from any record associated with the Erstwhile sites she’s caught in the act by him. That gun he secretly bought earlier is about to be used.
He quickly realizes that he’s been played by not just her, but his own daughter too. He can’t seem to understand how they knew that he sent people to their deaths but didn’t say or do anything to him. But they didn’t say anything because they’d all been plotting. He unveils the gun and in a moment of horror, Celeste begs him not to hurt her.
I was quietly begging too. Stephen had become an unpredictable character and we no longer knew what he was capable of, so naturally my first thought was that maybe he was capable of shooting his wife to protect his secrets. But that wasn’t the case and instead, he turns the gun on himself.
I feel like I use the word ‘powerful’ way too much when talking about this show but it’s genuinely hard not to as so many of the scenes are so…well powerful. In a matter of seconds, Stephen quickly redeems himself and it’s hard not to feel anything but pity for him. He intended to release an email to the public with information about the camps and then commit suicide. It’s heartbreaking. We instantly see how much he regrets his actions and how he can no longer live with the guilt of what he’s done.
Celeste manages to talk him down and instead he shoots his arsehole of a boss Woody and proceeds to release the information to the public. This was easily one of the most pleasing moments of the finale. I honestly didn’t want it to end with me hating one of the main characters so to see Stephen get redemption was heartwarming. The whole purpose of Stephen’s journey was probably to challenge us and our beliefs surrounding forgiveness. Would we have forgiven him if we hadn’t seen how broken he was and desperate to fix his mistakes? I know I wouldn’t have.
With Viktor rescued and the truth finally being exposed we can now surely breathe a sigh of relief right? Not at all. As Edith ponders whats going to happen next she collapses and that all too familiar music begins to play. We’re about to be thrust even further into the future to 2034.
Along the way, Vivienne Rook has become the first-ever Prime Minister to be arrested in office, facing charges of murder and conspiracy to murder. In one of the few brighter moments in the future, it’s revealed that Notre Dame has officially been reopened after the devastating fire that occurred there only this year. It’s these little touches of real news that really do make this show so unique and thought provoking. But with every piece of good news comes something bad: the Leaning Tower of Pisa has finally fallen down. Rosie and Jonjo get married and have a son together, which they name Danny.
But then something happens. We’re forced to stop traveling further into the future and a voice tells us to go back. We discover that the entire season has been the retellings of Edith’s memories. She’s dying and is in the process of uploading all of her memories into water molecules with Bethany’s help. The people uploading her memories try to imply that the Lyons have some sort of level of fame for their contribution to bringing down Vivienne and her camps. But Edith is quick to dismiss it. While they may have played a significant role in those events it was definitely a collective effort: an example of people uniting to finally fight for the things they believe in, fighting for each other, and fighting for what’s right.
Doctor Moss (Ellie Haddingly) explains to Edith that they don’t know whether this process is even going to work as it’s still in the experimental stages. While her memories can definitely be stored as information for the future, there are no guarantees that her consciousness will ever survive. But Edith is adamant she’ll live on as she has unfinished business. There’s talk that the woman in prison isn’t actually Vivienne Rook—she’s been stolen out and is out there in the world somewhere. We never did discover who was pulling her strings and ultimately controlling the country. But Edith will… one day.
But what is Vivienne’s true fate? Does she spend the rest of her days in jail, is she forever hiding somewhere in the world, or is she going to spend an eternity being haunted by a digital Edith? We’ll never know. Like everything else about this future, it’s up to us to decide her fate.
The family gather one last time around the old Signor device and wait to see if the experiment has worked. The scene serves as a reminder that none of us know what the future holds, but we can face it together. As Signor lights up and says good afternoon Muriel asks “Edith, is that you?” and the show ends. Once again it’s up to us to decide not just Edith’s outcome, but our own too.
I can assure you that the ending is only ever going to be what we personally imagine it to be as it’s already been announced that this is only ever going to be a one-off show. I’m happy with that. There isn’t any more story to tell and the one that’s been told to us couldn’t be more important if it tried. If we fight for the future that we want, a future that’s better for everyone, then surely that means that Edith’s consciousness will survive? But if we leave things as they are and do nothing, then it will have all been for nothing and she’ll be gone forever. Surely that’s the message this ending is giving us?
“You’re wrong. Everything you’ve stored, all those downloads, bits of me that you’ve copied onto water. You’ve got no idea what we really are. I’m not a piece of code. I’m not information, all these memories. They’re not just facts. They’re so much more than that. They’re…my family…my lover. They’re my mum, my brother who died years ago. They’re love. That’s what I’m becoming: love. I am love”
Edith’s final words sum up everything this show can teach us about ourselves and our relationships with other people. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” and he’s so right. There’s so much hatred and anger in the world that it sometimes feels like it’s winning. But it isn’t. The human race has the potential to love, be loved, and to come together for a more accepting and brighter future.
Vivienne Rook’s downfall doesn’t automatically mean we’ll all live in perfect harmony with all our problems over and done with. Times will still be hard, and people will still suffer, but we can learn from it. But what we learn from it and whether we choose to use that knowledge to fight for a better future is up to all of us. You just have to ask yourself: what kind of future do I want?