This is England '90: hailed as 'hilarious and brilliant' as ever
Third series takes a surprisingly upbeat turn, but the seeds of darkness have been planted
Shane Meadows' latest Channel 4 mini-series, This is England '90, has been hailed as "brilliant", "hilarious" and as "profound as ever".
The four-part mini-series is the third spin-off from the director's 2006 Bafta-winning semi-autobiographical film, This Is England, about a young skinhead called Shaun growing up in early 1980s Britain. This is England '90, scripted with Skins writer Jack Thorne, is set in 1990, and follows the stories of Shaun, Lol, Woody and the gang, who are now involved in the rave scene.
The reception for this latest and last instalment has been overwhelmingly positive. Audiences have hailed the series as "brilliant" and "funny", says the Daily Mirror, while critics have backed them up with glowing reviews and some surprise at the show's seemingly cheerful turn.
After all the harsh realities of earlier instalments (rape, murder and prison among them), "things seemed to be looking up for Shaun and the gang in 1990", says Amy Burns in The Independent. Last seen sobbing in a hospital chapel, Woody and Lol are now playing happy families, while cheeky drug dealer Harvey is brilliant and Gadget has lost none of his charm.
Sam Wollaston in The Guardian calls the first episode of the series "uncharacteristically upbeat" and "hilarious". It's also so authentic and convincing, says Wollaston, that it doesn't even feel much like watching drama. "More like catching up with a bunch of old mates you haven't seen for a while."
Kasia Delgado in the Radio Times agrees. "Thankfully, this first episode is just as good as fans hoped it would be". Seeing the gang on screen again after two years feels nostalgic in itself and then there's the actual '90s nostalgia, with acid house raves, ecstasy and bleach-blonde bowl cuts.
Delgado was also among those surprised to see that much of the darkness from the previous series seemed to be absent. But how long will it last? While it's a brilliantly funny episode, "there's definitely a hint of the darkness and despair to come".
Yes, says Morgan Jeffery on Digital Spy, on the surface it seems to be the saga's "sunniest outing to date", but look beyond the laughs and you'll spot a few dark seeds that the writers have planted, certain to bloom in the coming weeks.
This is a note-perfect comic/tragic blend, says Jeffery, and it shows that while the times are changing, "age hasn't dulled This Is England, which remains as potent and profound as ever".
Will all the praise mean there could there be more This is England to come? While Meadows told the Daily Telegraph that '90 will be the final chapter, the newspaper says he has left the door open to return to his beloved group of characters.
"Everyone involved seems to be aware of not going on too long and ruining a masterpiece," said Meadows, adding, "the full stop has been written in pencil".