The girls of Our Lady Immaculate are back, as Derry Girls closes out its run with a final season for the ages. From the beginning, this coming of age story has struck a near-perfect balance between leaning into the comedy and teenage angst, while set against the backdrop of history. In the final season, each character is given a chance in the spotlight, and a satisfying conclusion to their arcs that all began in the most chaotic way possible. Final seasons are always a challenge to get right. Derry Girls meets the challenge head-on.
Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson) has always been a relatable protagonist to this writer. Her struggle to be taken seriously, and been seen as smart may put some people off. Underneath her bravado, however, it’s clear she has a massive heart, and wants to do the best she can in the situation in which she finds herself. It’s emotionally satisfying to see her begin her journey to adulthood, and be launched into the wide world which is hers to discover.
Orla (Louisa Harland) continues to be the delightfully chaotic energy that holds this group together. Her boundless optimism and hope serves as a grounding force as anarchy reigns around her. This season, it’s more evident than ever that she also serves as the soul of the group. Her fierce determination to keep the peace among her closest group of friends is what makes her the glue. Her distress may hit the closest to home.
Claire (Nicola Coughlan) is put through the ringer this season. Although her tragedy is emblematic of that of her nation, it’s a deeply personal and devastating one. It’s unfortunate that Claire’s chance at love is never given a chance to blossom. Hopefully, this can be attributed to the difficulties of working with a mere seven episodes. It would be a disservice to this show to think that they intentionally introduced an LGBTQ+ centered love story. Claire deserves nothing less than a love story for the ages.
James (Dylan Llewellyn) remains the loveable sidekick that fans have come to love from the beginning of this series. Unfortunately, this season feels like a step back for this character. Particularly after the end of the second season, where he was given an incredibly emotional storyline, it is a shame that he isn’t given that depth again. In terms of the choice to develop James as a love interest for Erin, it’s an interesting one. I for one always welcome a friends-to-lovers relationship to cheer for. It’s too bad that they weren’t given more time together.
Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) may have the distinction of going through the most growth this season. Underneath her fire insults and crass language is someone who is hurting deeply. The reveal about her brother is nothing less than a punch in the gut. The pain honestly never dissipates for the remainder of the season. Michelle is given a chance to shine in this final season, and it’s been a long time coming. She’s always been the brutally honest character who says exactly what she’s thinking. Here, she lets viewers behind the mask of protection that she’s constructed. It makes her so easy to love.
Derry Girls remains a quintessential 1990s period piece. However, it never takes itself too seriously, and never loses itself in history. Up to the final episode, the show is able to balance the cringe and chaos of the decade, with the gravity that this was a crucial time for Northern Ireland. The series continues to succeed in capturing the optimism that the 1990s was known for, as well as highlighting the gravity of the stakes Northern Ireland faced in choosing its own destiny.
After seeing the final season, it’s also clear that we all need a Derry Girls prequel with the parents. A 1970s period piece, set in the height of The Troubles, would no doubt be a challenge. However, in the flashback episode this season, it’s obvious that the mothers of the Derry Girls would be able to lead a compelling story. This crew, if it’s possible, embodies even more existential chaos than their children. While it was great to see the parents’ generation in the spotlight for one episode, a prequel series would be incredible if done right.
Derry Girls succeeds in being a compelling coming-of-age comedy against the backdrop of a pivotal moment in history. The tragedy and hopefulness of this era are explored in equal measure. Comedy often allows viewers to explore social issues on a deeper level. This series succeeds in bringing human faces and human stories to a time period that is so misunderstood. Perhaps the only flaw in this series is that it ended far too soon.
Derry Girls is available to stream on Netflix.