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Years and Years - Episode 4 - Review

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As if things couldn't get anymore devastating than they already are, Episode four of Years and Years comes around that focuses on two main plot-lines in 2027 when Britain is on the verge of a general election, narrowing its focus for a more concise hour that turns out to be the most heartbreaking (and best?) episode of the series yet. Much of this episode was focused on Daniel's quest to get Viktor to the UK where he can spend the rest of his life with Daniel, and it's a journey fraught with danger at every turn. Viktor could get sent back to the Ukraine if he's caught, where he'll be persecuted. They could die - and Daniel has taken the last bit of his money with him, so he's stranded overseas too, deciding not to abandon Viktor on his quest home. The other B-plot was focused very much on Celeste finding out about Stephen's affair, driving home the emotional moments in an episode penned by Russell T. Davies at his most cruellest, and at his best.

There's a comment that the family make when they're around a table eating food that they're afraid to look at the news anymore as there's always something dreadful going on, always something worse. America have overturned Roe v. Wade and same-sex marriage is illegal in the country. Protests have earned Edith a lifelong ban from America - she can never return. And Rosie is championing the dangerous policies of Vivienne Rook, who's on course for the ultimate prize and the ultimate seat of power. She's going to get it. You know it's coming. At this rate, a more surprising thing on Years and Years would be if Rook doesn't get Number 10. The arrival of the Deep Fakes seem to work in her advantage, exploiting fake but believable reactions of politicians to drive up public support. To make matters worse, even Edith too has changed in her attitudes - from what she's seen, democracy hasn't worked and needs to be shut down, dismissed as a failed experiment.

The reunification between Daniel and Viktor was one of the bright sparks of the show so far so it was ultimately going to have some kind of tragedy attached to it. Viktor's return to Manchester at the end of the episode where he was unable to speak to the Lyons family, too shell-shocked to comment, was utterly heartbreaking - especially after all he and Daniel had gone through together. Their hopes of returning to the UK became bleaker and bleaker by the moment with them first being abandonded in a carpark before finding a boat that carries not just them, but an amount of people too large for its intended capacity, made all the worse by the fact that Daniel at first hopes that it's just taking them to a larger boat. There is no larger boat, and there is no happy ending.

Betrayal runs at the heart of Years and Years and nowhere is this more apparent than in the multiple affairs that have torn the Lyons family apart, and Celeste takes revenge on Stephen offering a public humiliation of him in front of the entire family - kicking him out of the house by the end of the episode. Celeste and Stephen took a hard fall after the loss of their million pounds and it's seen their relationship break apart completely. It seems somewhat hypocritical of the Lyons family to take this disapproving stance towards Stephen given that Viktor and Daniel's relationship started in an affair, though, but life isn't any greener for Stephen on the other side as Elaine has issues of her own.

Daniel is dead, having drowned in an attempt to get his lover to safety in a land that might not welcome him. Russell Tovey is one of the bigger names on the show - so provided some fake out that comes in Episode Five, this really is it, he really is gone, and it's one of the biggest shocks that the show has pulled on us so far. It was so effective as a twist as we'd already seen much of this character's arc as his transformation from an housing officer at the series' outset to someone who put his life on the line for Viktor was one of the more compelling ones of the series, and Tovey poured his heart and soul into the performance. By picking Daniel - the more important character at this stage of the series - over Viktor as the character who died it makes things even more personal for the Lyons, who have up to this point been at the centre of the series.

The four-episodes before a death isn't a new thing in British TV shows, Russell T. Davies mentioned in a Radio Times interview that Jed Mercurio seems to have a passion for episode four deaths - as Line of Duty and Bodyguard have been any indication - and it looks like this is a tactic that Davies has taken influence from - propelling the tension and heartbreak into the stratosphere with two episodes left to go, where everything is unpredictable and nobody is safe. Edith's death looks like a ticking time bomb waiting to happen, but her fate would be less shocking than Daniel's at this point. I doubt anything would be as shocking as Daniel's again in this series.

Viktor may have a bigger role to play in this series going forward - potentially used as a pawn by Rook to spin the public's hatred against immigrants in her favour - or equally against her depending on the penmanship of RTD. Rook has shown that she's not afraid to say anything - and it's made her into an unpredictable antagonist. One that's just as terrifying to watch as the more personal drama that's happening to the Lyons family. This show - along with The Virtues, is incredibly hard to watch - yet at the same time, it's proving to be utterly addictive television.

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