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Derry Girls - Season 2 - Review: "I AM A DERRY GIRL!"

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Derry Girls really has no right to be as charming as it is. The premise is simple enough: a group of teenage friends navigating life in the 1990s during The Troubles, a time of great political and religious violence in Northern Ireland. But instead of being a drama, as the setting would suppose, Derry Girls is a comedy. One of the funniest currently airing, with fast-paced one liners, gut-busting situations and characters as lovable as they are exasperating.

Netflix recently released season two of the show. Season one was an unexpected treat, gaining fans and praise through word of mouth and social media. The pilot was one of the best I had seen in years, setting the stage for the series while also delivering big laughs.

All of the main characters return for season two, including Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), whose school and family life the series focuses on the most, her cousin Orla (Louisa Harland), friends Clare (Nicola Coughlan) and Michelle (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), and Michelle's cousin James (Dylan Llewellyn). When the five friends are together their individual quirks seem to be amplified, leading them into absurd situations of their own making.

For those of you reading this review looking to see if you should watch Derry Girls: first, please do it! Second, a quick rundown of the titular Derry Girls: Erin is selfish and pretentious but in a way that will seem familiar if you look back on your own teenage years. Orla seems to be living in a world of her own, with occasional visits to reality. Clare is brilliant and wound tighter than a spring that occasionally snaps. Michelle is a rebel with a couple of causes: have fun and get with boys. And James, whose status as a Derry Girl is a running gag throughout the series, is an English lad stuck in a place where English lads are not welcomed.

The series follows the five friends as they deal with life at an all-girls Catholic school (yes even James goes there, a source of magnificent jokes at his expense) with a misanthropic nun and brown nosing classmates foiling their ill-thought out schemes. And there are plenty of schemes. So far in the series at least two homes and one business become badly damaged by the Girls, plus their involvement in the death of an elderly nun, a religious hoax, and a few international incidents.

Action will also shift to Erin's home life, which includes her mother, father, aunt, grandfather, and baby sister (who hasn't been involved much but if there isn't a future episode with the Girls babysitting and then losing that kid it would be a missed opportunity). With Erin as the main character these family members get fleshed out more, often with their own story lines.

Whether the show focuses on the school setting or home life, there is a realness to it that gives it an authenticity that other sitcoms lose in their search for quippy lines or zany situations. I wouldn't be surprised if the characters and situations were based on creator and writer Lisa McGee's life. The show is also grounded by the time and place. Scenes of armed soldiers, news reports, and even situations played for laughs like the smuggling of an IRA soldier in the trunk of a car reminds us that these characters are living in a dangerous place.

Season two improves on the first season, avoiding some of the slips that cropped up in the middle episodes of season one. The second season also expands the focus to include more of the adult characters. While sometimes welcome, for the most part the adults are best in small doses.

With only six episodes, each less than half an hour, season two is less a binge and more a lazy afternoon at home. Here are some highlights from each of the episodes:

"Across the Barricade": Catholic girls vs. Protestant boys. In a nice change of pace, it's the girls who go crazy for the opposite sex. A fun bit is when both groups are tasked with trying to come up with ways in which they are the same. Instead it becomes a long list in ways they are different, including "Protestants hate ABBA," "Protestants keep toasters in cupboards," and "Catholics love bingo."

Ms De BrĂșn and the Child of Prague: As soon as the Child of Prague statute, basically a kid Jesus in fancy clothes, shows up I just knew he was going to come to an untimely end at the hands of the Girls. And he did. Without dignity or grace. He will be missed. Also, never underestimate the allure of a nice pension.

The Concert: The Girls end up hitching their way to Belfast to watch a Take That concert after they're forbidden from going by their parents when a polar bear escapes the Belfast Zoo. James almost finds his calling as an Irish Traveller, but a slight against Gary Barlow goes too far for him. Remember, if you're the one holding the tickets the rest of the group will always come back for you.

The Curse: An episode where Erin's family takes center stage to great success. From Aunt Sarah (Kathy Kiera Clarke) showing up at a wedding dressed all in white, to Grandpa Joe (Ian McElhinney) getting high on Michelle's hash scones (the only recipe she could find), it is a great showcase for the characters. An alternate title for the episode could have been "One Wedding and a Wake."

The Prom: The last episode of season one had Clare coming out as a lesbian. This episodes at first looks to expand on that story, with a new girl seemingly set up as a love interest for Clare, but in typical Derry Girls fashion everything devolves into a "Carrie" style mess. There's also a very sweet moment with James and Erin that, no lie, had me sniffling a bit.

The President: Do the Derry Girls really believe that Chelsea Clinton will take them up on their offer of a trip to the local water park when Bill Clinton comes to Derry? Yes, yes they do. And they are miffed when she doesn't show up.

Odds and Ends:

Favorite quote: "We’re doing it for peace all right. A piece of their fine Protestant ass.” (honestly there are so many great quotes it was hard to chose one)

Favorite scene: The Girls doing a slow motion model walk after they get made over to look like their new teacher. Even James.

Favorite ending: The look on Erin's face when Grandpa Joe sets a plate of hash scones on the family dinner table.

Best example of culture shock: The Rock the Boat dance is real?!

What are your thoughts on Season 2 of Derry Girls? Share below in the comments!

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