The series Years and Years is a dreary forecast of the future of a ‘Brexited’ Great Britain, a Trumped America and the world of the virtual era
British television has a long history of dramas that deal head-on and unapologetically with the country’s political scenarios. In a period of clear regression in terms of the use of storytelling to analyze and interpret the world we live in, Britain has always preserved its ability to produce a range of genres with extremely disturbed allegories of itself. The name Russell T. Davies appeared as an essential feature of who’s who in this field with the arrival of A Very English Scandal, a splendid mini-series about the true story of a politician who tried to assassinate his lover to save himself from a media scandal, and now, with Years and Years he’s made it clear that he’s here to stay with this unique and truly brilliant sum of styles that, once again, offers a devastating look at the disaster affecting the political scenario. The six-part series, each episode of 60 minutes, has just premiered on HBO.
Here we have the case where a series is so unclassifiable that it’s difficult to summarize using conventional labels. It’s a political dystopia, a family comedy, an apocalyptic thriller, a sentimental drama and a social critique all in one. And the best thing is that Davies manages to blend all these registers in beautiful harmony that draws the viewer into a much more feasible world than it may appear. Years and Years is, arguably, the story of a dysfunctional family over the years, but over time they are not marked only by intimate personal issues, but above all by political events. The series begins in the present day and is moving forwards into the future, imagining what a post-Brexit Britain, Trump’s America and the world of the virtual age will be like. A flashforward with a calling to deliver us one serious open-handed slap.
Therefore, Years and Years ends up resembling a close relative of Black Mirror except in a group tone in which each character comes to represent a generation and social sphere, without Davies or his crew ever losing sight of their potential for irony. He manages this by furnishing each scenario with a life of its own, given that the political counterpoint acquires the category of a character to the point that every dialogue seemingly has infinite readings. The series makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand up with its (credible) forecasts about our collective destiny (watch out for the use of social media filters for real life, or the benefits of the domestic robot) but at the same time, it’s a hilarious metaphor of the absurdities surrounding us. This blend of nastiness, proximity and extravagance makes it deeply hypnotic, because while we’re watching, we can’t avoid thinking that it just might turn out to be true. It might make us laugh, side-splittingly at times, but it’s also worrying. And, featuring Emma Thompson’s acrimonious portrayal of a rabble-rousing loud-mouth politician (complete with an absolutely priceless gag at Angela Merkel’s expense) is the perfect synthesis of what this peculiar but absolutely necessary series sets out to deliver.