This Has Been England, Thank You For Watching

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SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details of scenes throughout the series, so if you haven’t watched it yet consider yourself warned!

October saw the end of one of Britain’s most acclaimed and most popular comedy-drama franchises. From the initial feature film released almost a decade ago to the most recent final series, Shane Meadows’ This Is England has brought laughter, tears and many disturbing images to Britain’s small and big screens.

After previous series This Is England ‘88 failed to quite reach the emotional heights of it’s predecessor ‘86, we expected something rather special to bring the stories of Shaun, Lol, Combo and the gang to a close. Boy did these final four episodes deliver!

This final series spans a year of the characters lives, with each episode focussing on one season, and as events unfold so then do the characters themselves.

The first of the four closing installments may come under criticism for being a bit slow and uneventful – that is until the final ten minutes of the episode in which we see Shaun attack Smell’s new boyfriend entirely unprovoked. However, in a show of this type, where we see long gaps of time uncharted, some time is needed to bring the audience up to speed. This is exactly what the first episode does, we jump between all the characters in order to catch up with all the important events that have taken place over the last two years.

However if you are still to watch the ending installments be sure to have tissues and a pillow at hand. The pillow is for shielding your eyes when the events get so disturbing to witness that there is no other option but to hide behind something soft and warm. And the tissues are simple for catching the many tears you will shed as we see the characters unravel in the events they have endured.

There are more scenes than can be counted from this series that send an emotional punch straight to the heart. Having said that there are two scenes which stand out as traumatic for characters and viewers alike.

The first is the heart wrenching dinner table sequence around which the third episode revolves; we see Lol and Woody attempt to explain the events of the 86’ series to Lol’s little sister Kelly, who downright refuses to believe what it is they are telling her about her father.

The second could be argued as the climax to the franchise in which we see Milky and Combo have an unexplainably emotional conversation about Combo’s past actions before Combo is carried off to face his fate, this scene very much challenges the sheer magnitude of emotion an audience can take.

Kelly’s character seems to be one the more central focuses of the ‘90 series. Her progressive deterioration seems to drive many of the plots in this series and her self destructive nature has us as an audience screaming at the TV trying to help her see sense. Chanel Cresswell’s performance drives the characters journey and her emotion in this series reaches new and explosive levels not seen from her in previous instalments.

Kelly also acts as a beacon for the drug use side of the series, what first could be interpreted a glamorizing the use of narcotics quickly turns into a government campaign ad for the negative effects. The scarring scene of her rape in the campervan by three different men is burned into audience’s minds and almost guarantees viewers steer well clear of these semi-coma inducing substances. Her eventual heroine addiction does well not avoid any positive messages being drawn from the drug use.

These ending episodes do the franchise proud. They draw on all the most powerful plots and ideas from the entire collection and skillfully shape them into what seems to be the most well-made, emotionally evoking and traumatising finale to a franchise I’ve seen in many years (sorry Skins, but poor show).

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