Review: This Is England ’90, Episode 2: ‘Summer’ (Look On The Bright Side!)

This Is England 90

“Are you moving out?

If you were looking for ‘This Is England’s’ trademark darkness, then you’d be satisfied with ‘Summer’…but only after forty-five minutes! It was very much like ‘Spring,’ with a more light-hearted approach that set the scene, rather than plunged us into the nitty-gritty. However, unlike last week’s dull hour, ‘Summer’ offered genuine humour and meaningful dialogue. Of course, there were moments of boredom where nothing of substance happened. But it felt like a worthwhile hour of television, and an improvement on the debut episode of This Is England ’90.

Unlike the first episode, the characters’ likeability shined through the screen. They seemed back to normal, without resorting to the awkward and unfunny humour that characterized the ‘Spring.’ Moments of humour were dotted liberally throughout the episode, without choking the ongoing plot. Of course, Woody still has the edge on the comedy side of things; there’s no one better at comedy in ‘This Is England’ than he. “Who likes salmonella?” he joked whilst in charge of a BBQ. The Name-Guessing Game at said BBQ also brought a lot of humour, with ‘Myra Hindley’ and D**khead’ being names to guess. However, the combination of Gadget and Harvey almost came close to Woody’s level of humour. Their early arguments about packing for the upcoming rave brought a smile to my face, as did their later argument over direction and a map.

There was also a brooding and tense atmosphere sown throughout ‘Spring.’ Shaun’s failure to get in college and his subsequent shoutfest at his mother led to a later scene where he poured his heart out to a stranger about his dad. Lol took a phone call, ostensibly from her mum, but in reality from Combo. He needs a place to stay…and what better place that Woody and Lol’s house? Woody’s humour evaporated for once as Lol asked him. Kelly’s downward spiral brought about the first real splash of the trademark darkness in a hard to watch couple of minutes towards the end of the episode. She, like Shaun and Combo, are still haunted by the ghosts of her past…

Not quite a rave...but it will do!
Not quite a rave…but it will do!

“It got a bit crazy”

Gadget’s subsequent comforting of Kelly really tugged at the heartstrings. It’s the best acting I’ve ever seen out of Andrew Ellis. He can be one of the worst offenders for A-Level-grade acting, but all could be forgiven due to his greatest five minutes of screen time. A fully adult Gadget was presented, who reacted sensitively and maturely to Kelly’s tears. The scene before them, an idyllic green landscape, presented us with an ideal of England that we haven’t yet seen in ‘This Is England.’ We’ve rarely, if ever, seen the ‘natural’ side of England. It was a nice touch, a scene of tranquillity before things go downhill in the next episode. ‘Summer’ ended with Kelly looking out into the distance, shortly after Combo was seen looking out into the distance as well. Will they be the focal points of the eventual disintegration of our (fairly) happy characters?

However, the narrative was still pretty lax and loose. As always, there were moments where it felt like an A-Level Performance Studies play. Shaun’s heart to heart with the stranger, in particular, sounded and looked like it was a rehearsal. Instead of ending up at a rave, Gadget, Harvey, Kelly and co ended up at a pagan festival. The dancing and drug-taking and drinking seemed to go on forever. Quite simply, it dragged. Although, in fairness, it lulled us into a false sense of security ready for Kelly’s descent into darkness. So I can forgive the never-ending fun during a pagan festival. What I can’t forgive are the new additions of Flip and Higgy. They are meant to be comedy relief, but neither comedy nor a relief are they.

However, all in all, ‘Summer’ put ‘Spring’ to shame. The narrative was still slow and idling, only picking up in momentum towards the end. But each scene meant something, and played into the greater themes of ‘This Is England ’90.’ Gadget had his best moment ever, and Woody was as funny as ever. There are dark times ahead (and there was certainly a dark time for Kelly in ‘Summer’), but ‘Summer’ showed us the bright side of life. It was light, funny, and touching.

VERDICT: 7/10. Humourous and brooding, light with a splash of darkness, ‘Summer’ improved over ‘Spring.’

Leave your thoughts/comments below.

(Click here for my review of This Is England ’90: ‘Spring’)

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