REVIEW: ‘Derry Girls’ Should Be Your Next Netflix Binge

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Derry Girls

Derry Girls, now in its second season, is the perfect show to binge, and if you haven’t seen the show, you’ll kick yourself for waiting so long. The second season is finally on Netflix in the US after first airing in the UK earlier in the year. Consisting of six episodes at 30 minutes a piece, Derry Girls is worth every single second of that time.

Created, written, and produced by Lisa McGee. The shows cast features Ian McElhinney as Granda Joe, Tommy Tiernan as Da/Gerry, but most closely focuses on the characters of Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), Orla (Louisa Harland), Clare (Nicola Coughlan), Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), and James (Dylan Llewellyn). The series follows the lives of four teenage girls, and one boy as they attempt to survive the ills of high school, families, and relationships in a country that at the time was being torn apart by the conflict from two religious sects, the Protestants, and the Catholics in 90’s Londonderry, Northern Ireland, more commonly known as ‘Derry’ to the Northern Irish.

Derry Girls

The second season, like the first, is more focused on putting the characters into comedically uncomfortable situations and seeing how they fare episode by episode. Chronologically however, it is tied to a period in Irish history as the Northern Irish triumphantly reach a peace agreement. The effects of these events are on display, and fully felt by the families of the show.

Derry Girls finds balance with some of the best humor currently on TV, while also giving an honest first hand account of some of the troubling events happening in Northern Ireland at the time. It’s this dichotomy that gives the series value. Even during all of the troubles that exists, teenagers are still are still managing to land themselves in the most absurd situations. Like kidnapping a holy statue or sneaking out and hitchhiking their way to Belfast to see Take That while a polar bear is on the loose. The humor ranges from off-handed comments, quick witted deliveries, and sarcastic humor to name a few.

While there’s not a single character within the show that doesn’t shine, two particular characters that I loved within the show are Sister Michael, and Uncle Colm. Sister Michael, played by Siobhan McSweeney, has a sardonic view on life and yet she absolutely lights up every episode she’s featured in. McSweeney’s comedic delivery is exceptional. This is heightened by the fact that her voice has little to no joy left in it. She is tired of everyone and would love nothing more than to bask in every other persons misfortune.

Uncle Colm is nothing short of an emotional vampire, feeding on any unfortunate persons energy he’s managed to lock into a conversation. But when I see him pop up waffling on about this and that, I am reminded of those relatable awkward situations we find ourselves in where wish we could be scooped up and taken anywhere else. One of the conversations of season two puts these two characters on a couch together during a wake sharing a conversation. Uncle Colm, as he often does, waffles on, and on, with Sister Michaels narrating how awful this whole exchange is, it’s comedy gold that needs to be seen rather than described.

These are just two of the characters, but there’s the ongoing battles between Granda Joe and Gerry, poor James being the only boy, not to mention only the only English boy, in an all girls Irish school. Every single cast member brings a unique level of comedy that’s unique to their characters, and all of these pieces working in unison allows the show to feel multifaceted with some funny for everyone.

One aspect of the show that particularly stands out, is the retro vibe of the story and more distinctly the music. While McGees’ story is about teenagers, she clearly understands that her audience are the adults in the room. Derry Girls has tapped into that perfect realm of nostalgia much like Stranger Things accomplished for those with memories of growing up in the 80’s. It’s not only the use of nostalgia, but rather it’s the intelligent use of it.

The timing and placement of it that makes the way the used 90’s nostalgia special. Specifically, in Episode three we the girls sitting and watching MTV with a particularly raunchy music video of Take That on screen at Erin’s house, with Granda Joe and the rest of the family present, watching in horror as the young artists appear scantly dressed and missing various amounts of clothing. Prompting a hilarious, and embarrassing conversation, with Erin’s family, right before they’re about to leave and go and watch them in concert.

The show also embodies an awkward coming of age story as Erin, Orla, Michelle, Clare, and James try to navigate what it means to be adults. Regardless of whether you actually grew up in the British Isles, there’s plenty within this series for you to be able to connect with the characters and the situations. Episode one has the all girls Derry Catholic school go on a weekend retreat with the all boys Derry Protestant school in an attempt to build metaphorical bridges between the two divided groups.

Things naturally go horribly wrong, as tensions during the time were particularly high between the Catholics and the Protestants in Ireland, and because, well, they’re teenagers. The girls, and James, still have a lot to learn about dating, but they’re learning that while we may practice different religious beliefs, there’s a lot that ties us together as people.

The real surprising facet of the show however, is the levels of heart that this show has at its base. Northern Ireland was full of conflict during the 80’s and 90’s, with Derry being one of the more notable hotbeds for hostility. The history is complex and fraught with some terrible incidents, but if I were to summarize for the sake of translation: Northern Ireland is a protestant country, however Derry was one of a few Catholic affiliated counties within the country.

Violent disagreements broke out over how the country should affiliate itself, the Protestant Unionists were vying to stay associated with the United Kingdom, while the Catholic nationalists wanted to align themselves back with the Republic of Ireland to the south. The country was torn asunder with some atrocious acts of violence, hence the heavy military presence and the threats of unattended bags were life threatening situations. The relationships that are forged in Derry Girls, between the group, and events they overcome as friends are so heart warming.

The final episode really hit me hard in the emotions, and I’m still reeling about it as I sit here and write this review, and while I won’t spoil it, once you watch it, you’ll be calling yourself a Derry Girl too.

Derry Girls
  • 10/10
    Rating - 10/10
10/10

TL;DR

The final episode really hit me hard in the emotions, and I’m still reeling about it as I sit here and write this review, and while I won’t spoil it, once you watch it, you’ll be calling yourself a Derry Girl too.