Roush Review: The Boldly Realized 'Years and Years' Will Leave You Riveted
Perhaps every generation has its own end-times moment, looking at the news and thinking things couldn't possibly get stranger or scarier. In the six-part Years and Years, a boldly realized parable of near-future shock and anxiety, a notably diverse but otherwise typical British family endures personal challenges amid global crises that many would consider the end of the world. And yet the world, and life, just keep on going.
This imaginative empathy is the particular storytelling genius of series creator Russell T Davies, whose range extends from the brilliant relaunch of Doctor Who to last year's wry A Very English Scandal. With mordant wit and masterfully harrowing plotting, he puts the Lyons family through the emotional wringer, rendering the political all too personal.
As the extended Lyons clan gathers at Gran's (Anne Reid of Last Tango in Halifax) for special events and holidays well into the 2020s, we witness mostly through news reports the rise of an outrageously outspoken anti-establishment politician, Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson, having a blast).
Some siblings see her as a monster, others as a necessarily disruptive tonic for a broken system. But none are immune from the consequences of the world's growing instability as banks collapse in the wake of a remote (to us) nuclear strike, allies turn on each other and, in the most direct modern parallel, the refugee crisis escalates.
This is of special concern to Daniel Lyons (Russell Tovey), whose Ukrainian boyfriend, Viktor (Maxim Baldry), is in danger of deportation. The couple's search for a sanctuary to call home becomes increasingly perilous in Years' most devastating subplot.
On the domestic front, brother Stephen (Rory Kinnear) struggles to survive in a gig economy, while globe-trotting activist sister Edith (Jessica Hynes) revels in the shredding of old-school democracy. But even the most enlightened among them don't know what to make of Stephen's daughter, Bethany (Lydia West), who identifies as trans. Not transgender, but trans-human, hoping to become less flesh than digital and download her brain to the cloud.
You won't always know whether to laugh or cry at this tragicomic blend of sci-fi and speculative social commentary. But as the Years and Years fly by, you will be riveted.
Years and Years, Series Premiere Monday, June 24, 9/8c, HBO