Lisa McGee’s cheerful sitcom returns for a third and final season in the form of a love letter, not only to Northern Ireland in the 90s, but also to its characters. Erin, Michelle, Orla, Clare and James can boast of having enchanted us to the end.
Netflix would almost tend to make us forget that all good things come to an end. Not because the scarlet monogram platform would prolong our pleasure indefinitely, but rather because the series that initially thrilled us rarely retain this rating of pleasure over the long term. Even when it starts well, the joy is often diluted around the third season, the entry zone of limbo in which the firm has increasingly become accustomed to pushing projects that were announced with great fanfare when they were released. As if, in a VOD ecosystem that made a point of reshuffling the cards of the serial craze, we were seeing a return to power of the old television generation, helped by its experience of the format over the long term. Where HBO, for example, as a veteran of the circuit, tends to nurture its creations over time, Netflix is moving more and more towards the miniseries format, while longer creations seem designed not to exceed the fourth season. A soft death that betrays a difficulty in spinning the explosion of announcement effects towards something durable and stable. However, Derry Girls won’t have this problem. Well, not entirely. This new season is the last, indeed, but it is more a decision of Lisa McGee in relation to a story touching on its anticipated conclusion as a cowardly deflating admission.
In terms of character development, however, we could seek and find something to be a little frustrated about. It goes without saying that we are delighted to find our favorite quintet: Erin (as dreamy as she is ambitious), her cousin Orla (born under the sign of the pink elephant), Clare (nervously sensitive and a bit faint), Michelle (competitive loudmouth) and his cousin James (English). This irresistible Club of Five in uniform (that of a girls’ school where James is both the only boy and the only Englishman) will have become one of the absolute emblems of Londonderry, where a fresco bearing his effigy now occupies an entire side of building. A popularity all the more appreciable as it is amply deserved and justified by the brilliantly mischievous writing of Lisa McGee, which simply delivered one of the best examples of a comedy series in recent years. However, as in any last season, certain factors will have their effect amplified by the mere fact that the story is coming to an end. Nicola Coughlan (Clare), now monopolized on the side of Bridgerton, was notably forced to shoot a good part of her scenes on the sidelines of the rest of the cast. Although she is one of the few tangible attractions of the costume soap from the novels of Julia Quinn, we much prefer to see her in Derry, all the more so knowing that it is for the last time. We will therefore have to be satisfied with what is given to us. Add to that a few points of scenarios with suggested but little explored love affairs, as well as character developments that are less substantial than others, and it would be almost legitimate to complain a little.
And yet… We would be ill-advised to take action. In fact, this final season might even be the most dynamically written of the three. The seven episodes follow one another without a hitch, like a superb mini-sitcom marathon with chiseled, petulant and incredibly effective writing. It’s very simple, you don’t get bored for a moment, as each chapter seems to contain an anthology sketch worthy of the best of the series. The bunch of keys to this success has two major master keys. One is obviously the writing, the other is to be found in the acting and the direction of the actors. Saoirse Monica Jackson and Tara Lynne O’Neill continue to demonstrate absolutely unstoppable comedic timing, Ian McElhinney and Tommy Tiernan are never boring and Siobhan McSweeney is obviously iconic in Sister Michael, the head nun who has already become one of the most cult series characters of the last twenty years. No one looks up like her. Overall, the entire cast is arguably one of the most exceptional in a comedy series of the new millennium. Each performer has the right rhythm, the right phrasing, the right tone, the right game music to appropriate a text rich in dialogues, each more clever and hilarious than the next. Each scene of this final season is a pretext for a veritable fireworks display of clever repartee, mischievous comedy and funny twists. Inevitably, we ask for more.
Where the second season sometimes applied itself to timing its gags to give more space to the social and historical context, this last lap seems to have deliberately resolved to fire on both counts. Undeniably, it was the best possible choice. We instantly perceive the refreshing letting go of a series which, on the occasion of its departure, allows itself delicious little pleasures, such as the episode devoted to the youth of the heroines’ mothers, the detour through a haunted house plot , or the brilliant discovery of skits with twists and turns in the train episode, which will certainly be among the most unforgettable of the three seasons. The conclusion of the final chapter (whose duration is increased for the occasion to 45 minutes), leading to a historic moment, with decisive consequences for the characters as much as for the history of their country, is ultimately in the image of the series itself. Light but demanding, subtle but facetious. And above all, generous, with an energy that is felt immediately and that does a world of good.
In the end, for each element that is a little overlooked, there will always be another, very touching, to deepen a corner of the plot by revealing an unsuspected density. Certainly, Orla evolves little and Clare is less present on the screen, but Michelle and Sister Michael still have surprises in store for us. Ma Mary, Da Gerry, Grandpa Joe, Aunt Sarah and Uncle Colm are also flattered by this final season, which maximizes their presence during exchanges that are as explosive as they are hilarious. Believe me, you will never have time to get bored. You’ll hear Grandpa Joe talk about the “Musical Fish.” You will learn who is “the Beethoven of modern times, but with talent”. You will see Liam Neeson Spend a head for a most tasty cameo. You will discover Sister Michael’s car. You will witness first kisses. To first votes. You’ll laugh (for sure), you’ll cry (maybe), you’ll smile (unless you’re a psychopath) and you’ll most likely find that the end is coming too soon. And if so, I can assure you that you’ll want to start all over again when you go back to the first season. Because, if it is true that all good things do have an end, nothing prevents us from coming back to them again, again, and again.