It is 1996 and there’s talk of peace in Northern Ireland; Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), Clare (Nicola Coughlan), Orla (Louisa Harland), Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) and James (Dylan Llewellyn) are awaiting their GCSE grades. There is anticipation and hope in the air until Sister Michael (Siobhan McSweeney) hints at the five friends about their below-average performance eventually leading to Clare having one of her regular outbursts and… (drumroll) we’re back in the lanes of Derry navigating the troubles of adolescence.
Lisa McGee takes us on an adventure held together with strands of laughter, friendship, political tensions and stunning cameos for one last time. From the very first episode, this season prepares you for the inevitable farewell. However, McGee doesn’t centre nostalgia in scripting their goodbye and does justice to the legacy of the show.
A special mention must be given to the costume and styling departments for making the cast — most of whom are in their thirties — look like teens in the ‘90s.
Once the girls (including the ‘Wee English Fella’) are given a hint about their performance in the GCSE exam, they are quick to break into the school to find out the result for themselves, and in the process end up unknowingly assisting two strangers rob their own school’s computers. After a painfully funny interrogation sequence (featuring Liam Neeson as the investigating officer), the girls are rescued by Uncle Colm (Kevin McAleer) whose capacity to ramble confounds even the police.
Over the next six episodes, James has a near-death experience, the group takes the train to Portrush and forget Clare at the railway station, they take to pots and pans when they see what they think is a ghost, Orla and Erin throw their 18th birthday party with the theme ‘Literary Greats & Monkeys’, Clare hijacks Jenny Joyce’s (Leah O’Rourke) party for her friends, and the lot discuss the Good Friday referendum. The girls, who until now have only had crushes, make strides in their romantic lives.
What more could one ask of a bunch of teens from Derry?
This season also fleshes out the characters of Ma Mary (Tara Lynne O’Neill) and Aunt Sarah (Kathy Kiera Clarke) by dedicating an entire episode to them. Grandpa Joe (Ian McElhinney) who made appearances only to taunt Da Gerry (Tommy Tiernan), steadies himself as the wise elder in the family as he weighs in on the political climate of Northern Ireland and teaches the kids to hold out hope.
One incident that sets this season apart is the death of a character’s father. The isolated world of Derry that the teens have known so far starts to develop cracks, and the grim realities of life make their way into the town. Though the show has not dealt with something as serious as this before, the incident fits perfectly into the trajectory it is headed in.
Derry Girls, since the first season, has been thorough and witty with its political critique and the trend continues in its latest season. McGee closes the final chapter with all the characters voting ‘Yes’ in the referendum. While the final cameo is a call back to an incident in the second season, fans of the show might struggle to understand its relevance which ends up tainting a near-perfect goodbye.
Derry Girls is currently streaming on Netflix