Years and Years: Season 1, Episode 5 – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

Rosie asking what will come next?
95.52% (24)

We reach the year 2028 and between a housing crisis, floods, and more, so comes the question of how will Vivienne Rook handle it all?


Network
BBC One, HBO
Director(s) Lisa Mulcahy
Writer(s) Russell T Davies
Air Date 6/11/2019
Introduced This Episode
Woody Kiernan O’Brien

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Welcome to 2028

With Vivienne Rook as Prime Minister, we witness the end of bananas, multiple terrorist or cyber attacks which cause blackouts, months of rain and a housing crisis. One which leads to housing act coercing people to take in strangers affected by flooding or radiation.

As It All Goes To Hell: Muriel, Celeste, Bethany, Stephen, Rosie

However, it doesn’t end there. For those like Rosie, they find their areas quarantined off due to crime and being forced to show ID to come and go, if even allowed to do so. Though what really hits Rosie is that she loses her business license, so she is without an income. Luckily though, her family, specifically Edith, are willing to provide assistance.

As for Celeste and Stephen’s family? Well, Bethany takes another step towards going digital by getting yet another set of implants. The newest allow her to take pictures with a blink of an eye, send them with a whisk of a finger, and when you add in what she does at work, and the wafer predicting her thoughts, she becomes a bit of a hacker as well. Something her parents’ don’t fully know, but it comes in handy later on.

Then, in terms of the matriarch Muriel, with her losing her sight comes her deciding to take the £10K she has left to get a stem cell surgery to return her eyesight. Which, during the recovery, leads to Celeste being taken advantage of. However, later on, as all her grandchildren find reason and ways to not come about when she is back to 100%, guess who decides to stick around to celebrate? Celeste. For which Muriel is thankful not in words, but subtle action.

The Erstwhiles, Revenge, Following Precedents: Stephen, Vivienne, Bethany, Viktor, Edith, Woody

Woody (Kiernan O'Brien) offering Stephen a job.
Woody (Kiernan O’Brien)

With such a massive housing crisis, and housing the homeless in people’s homes an unpopular policy, there had to be alternatives. After all, lest we forget, the refugee crisis hasn’t ended, and the UK wasn’t the only place dealing with the effects of climate change. So, per Edith and Bethany’s research, since Bethany is called into helping her dear aunt, they learn about the Erstwhiles.

Now, what are the Erstwhiles? Well, based on how Vivienne explains them, they are former hospitals, army bases, and government-owned facilities. All of which are used to house people, off the books. What isn’t answered though is who specifically is sent to the Erstwhiles and who isn’t? This is something that Edith can’t find, even with Bethany helping her break into a building.

However, Stephen becomes well acquainted with the term, purpose, and long term plan since he ends up working for an old high school friend named Woody. A man who is a boys club kind of guy, who couldn’t care less about living conditions and only sees the money from Vivienne wanting to privatize the whole project. Perhaps so that she, and the government as a whole, can separate themselves as these places eventually become deadly concentration camps.

But, before you think Vivienne is planning some form of genocide, she means concentration camps as they were in South Africa. Meaning, she would have, like the Boers during the Second Anglo-Boer War, those in Erstwhile location survive by sheer natural selection. An idea Stephen may or may not like, but considering the power he has regained from working with Woody, he uses that to place Viktor into one of these camps, and as he does that, Bethany watches. For with her new implants, and her job, she can tap into seemingly any system, camera, track clicks, and sees all her father does. Leading you to wonder if she may mention this to Edith or sit with this knowledge.

Commentary

What Can Be Done For A Season, Or Series, Finale?

That old anxiety came right back this episode, and while that makes this a good penultimate for the season, there is the need to question how can this end cleanly? Meaning, can this end with a bang or not? Previews make it sound like a revolution or civil war could happen, but so comes the question of whether that would make things better or worse? Never mind the need to ask if we’ll get to see the fallout of it all or even see the people we’ve followed this long succeed?

For as of now, this is a limited series. Which, I know, the term “Limited Series” is dependent on the show’s success more than anything, but operating under the mindset of the next episode is the last, can they do the show justice? Especially one that sticks to the vibe that things will more likely get worse than get better.

Highlights

What Eating Vivienne Rook?

Since the beginning, Vivienne Rook has been like The Wizard of Oz. We’ve seen her only as a grandeur figure and not much else. So when Stephen had the chance to see behind the curtain, before learning the truth about the Erstwhiles, that led to a raised eyebrow. Why? Well, we were presented with a more serious figure. One who seemed solemn, but scared.

I mean, the woman talked about the possibility of people killing her. Who exactly? That is not revealed. Yet, it seems her opening up to Stephen was to let a gasket loose so that she could keep it moving more so than a cry for help.

Vivienne noting that she could be killed if she tried to escape.

Celeste & Muriel’s Relationship

While their relationship, in the grand scheme of things, is minor, you have to appreciate the role they play in each other’s life. Muriel has given Celeste and her children some form of stability. Also, by kicking out Stephen, she proved that her desire to have Celeste around more went beyond family but liking Celeste in a way. Maybe, considering their attitudes, seeing a bit of herself in Celeste.

Making it so, despite how much Celeste is irritated by Muriel, you have to love those moments when Muriel shows she does appreciate it. Even if just a small gesture since, as she told Viktor, she isn’t that sentimental of a woman.

A Return To Fear

Even though I felt adjusted to what was going on and the show’s predictions of the future a few episodes ago, this one somehow had me shook. Maybe it is because we finally saw behind the curtain and got a sense Vivienne really didn’t know what she was doing? Perhaps it’s the desperation from knowing the government has reached a point where it knows it can’t make things better, so it is trying to instead prevent the worst? A task that, as many knows, usually means protecting the rich, screwing over the poor, and figuring out who of the middle are even worth saving – often at random or thanks to the lucky few with the right connections.

All of that frightens me. For while, unlike in America, the UK’s minority groups make up less than 13% of the population, there is a wonder if they are the ones in the Erstwhiles. Much less, if someone like Stephen can so easily pick a name and move someone, taking note Vivienne rose due to nationalism, imagine what that means for anyone who doesn’t have a British sounding name? What all the collapses of the UK could mean for them – refugee or not.

Stephen’s Desperation

There is something about Stephen which stands apart from the rest, and I think it is because he has a full on fall and is on the path to redemption. When it comes to everyone else, they’ve had their setbacks in losing their job, Celeste in losing a husband, and things like that, but most didn’t experience the absolute full weight of what goes on in the show. Stephen, on the other hand, did. He lost his brother, his job, his own family turned on him, and it is only in this episode he is making some headway into finding a way to win them back. Granted, it’ll be through money, but the lack of it was the source of his downfall.

Well, that and power. Which is why you have to admire his desperation – to a point. He worked so many jobs, all of which were trash, just to attempt to maintain the life he wanted for his daughters. So him becoming a yes man for Woody, while unfortunate, you get. Heck, Stephen’s whole character, outside of the cheating, is the most easy to connect to. For is he not the average person? Someone who thought they were secure due to the right investments, making an effort, and yet things still going to hell?

And maybe that’s why you come to learn to understand him. Not like him, since he is a cheater and a bit of a bore, but definitely understand him. Even in terms of moving Viktor to one of the concentration camps. For, yes, Daniel made his decision, but it isn’t like Viktor tried to stop him. From the beginning, he put a spell on Daniel and lead him to his death. Perhaps leading to another reason Stephen did what he did, he is taking out on Viktor his frustrations with Elaine, as well as his dad’s wife. For there is something about their family that has it where a third party, rather easily, can come in and destroy everything. Leaving him, Daniel, and their father, having to commit to this new person so they can try to save face.

Even if they aren’t happy about it.

On The Fence

Bethany’s Future

Bethany questioning her dad's decision to transfer Viktor.

I continuously feel like Bethany is on the cusp of being a more interesting character than she is treated. Granted, of all the younger members, she is the only one who has a solid storyline. But while they inch her more to becoming digital, even get her involved with Edith’s work, they don’t fully take advantage of her. They don’t touch upon her work, how she feels about the changes (did they even show her vote?), or her personal life? All we see her do is work, be in the background during family things, and get upgrades. Heck, we haven’t even gotten an update on her friend! Assuming the two are even friends anymore, or if Bethany has friends at all.

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