Every week subscribers at the $5 and above level on my Patreon get a new recommendation. Sometimes it’s a movie, sometimes a book, sometimes a song, sometimes a self-help technique. Each week I not only recommend something, I write about it with some depth. This week I’m recommending the show Years and Years, now playing on HBO. This is a peek at the piece; to read the entire thing, which is much longer, become a $5 or above subscriber at Patreon!
Have you ever, in these past three years of the Trump administration, said to yourself “I wouldn’t believe this if it were in a movie/book/TV show!”? Russell T Davies has taken that up as a challenge with his limited series Years and Years, the scifi TV show so absolutely relevant and believable that it has given me a number of anxiety-related stomach aches in just three episodes.
The premise: we follow a British family over the course of 15 years, starting in 2019, as the world continues on its current path. Each episode fast-forwards through a year, replicating the breakneck sense of our current society hurtling out of control. And holy shit, does Davies think we’re going to dark places.
The first episode, which jumps ahead five years and begins during the second Trump term, ends with Donald Trump nuking a Chinese base as the result of an escalating trade war. Spoiler, I guess, but I feel like you gotta know where this show goes to really understand why it’s so gripping. As the banks fail and the world economic system teeters on the edge of collapse in another episode you get the sense that this is both alarmism and also extremely fucking plausible.
But Years and Years isn’t just a guessing game about our unstable society; the show is grounded in the lives of the Lyon family, and it’s the mixture of Black Mirror (one of the Lyons’ daughters is trans… transhuman!) and soap opera (one of the Lyons brothers leaves his husband for the handsome refugee he meets at work!) that makes the show so gripping. Very often our dystopian science fiction focuses on the big stuff, but living in a dystopian society has shown Davies that it’s the small stuff that really resonates. The big seismic shifts in Years and Years happen in the background, on television, on the internet, and the Lyons family feels the shockwaves. The first shockwave will be in the form of them reacting to the situation, but where it gets better is when the secondary and tertiary shockwaves hit – people lose jobs, relationships begin to crumble, attitudes begin to change. The nature of the show allows us to see the ways that seemingly distant events directly impact the lives of this family.
I think this is something we have all come to understand lately – we’re living in a web of cause and effect and a tap on one strand across the globe reverberates on our own strand – but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this concept played out so well. I was tempted to use the word subtly, but there isn’t jack shit subtle about Years and Years, which is what makes it feel the most truthful – yesterday I watched video of Sebastien Gorka screaming at reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House, threatening to fight them, and was reminded that we live in the least subtle period of the past century.
I know what you’re thinking – “I already know the word is fucked and is rapidly spinning out of control. Why would I want to watch a TV show about this?” Great question! Some of you shouldn’t. But there’s something incredibly hopeful at the core of Years and Years that keeps me coming back week to week. The show is already finished its run in the UK, and is on episode three of six on HBO and; I don’t know how it ends, but each individual episode contains a real nugget of kindness and love between members of the Lyons family, and that’s what makes it all worthwhile for me. Watching other people struggle with an increasingly worse version of what we’re dealing with but still remaining human and staying there for each other feels good.