A farewell to the “Derry Girls”



By Yaniya Gilford, Managing Editor



The girls plus James are back and better than ever! After a three-year wait since Season 2 of the show premiered on Netflix, American audiences finally got the chance to witness the final season of “Derry Girls.” 

The show revolved around main protagonist Erin Quinn, played by Irish actor Saoirse-Monica Jackson, her cousin Orla (Louisa Harland) and their three friends, Michelle (Jaime-Lee O’Donnell), James (Dylan Llewellyn) and Clare (Nicola Coughlan), as they grow up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. 

The Troubles, according to Britannica, was a sectarian conflict that spanned over 30 years. The era was defined by the military and political struggles between Catholics in Northern Ireland, known as republicans, and the Protestant unionists, known as loyalists, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain a part of the British Empire. The fight between the two sides was characterized by violence and guerrilla warfare. Over 3,500 people died over the 30-year conflict, with 52% of the victims being civilians.

Though the main focus of the show is primarily Erin and her group of friends, Erin’s family is just as important when it comes to the show’s success. The quick-witted humor and thick Irish accents, accompanied by average teenage antics in a time of crisis, created the perfect recipe for a show that is both hilarious and heart-warming.

With a 99% Rotten Tomato score and a 8.5/10 rating on IMDb, the show is an undeniable hit —  and it is no wonder why the show strikes a chord with its audience. In today’s constantly changing world, with countless conflicts, a global pandemic and the ever present threat of climate change, being a teenager can feel as if we are living in the midst of a battlefield. This is a feeling that viewers of the show see mirrored within the girls and James, as they navigate teendom in the middle of conflict. 

The show’s writers and producers perfectly display this struggle of trying to live a normal teenage life while also trying to survive in a chaotic world. Every single episode follows the gang on some wacky adventure, filled with laughter, innocent nervousness and antics. However, every season finale delivers this blow to the audience with a pivotal event or tragedy that took place during the Troubles — a punch to the gut reminding audiences that the girls are still very much living in the midst of a war. 

While it would be easy to write a ten-page review and analysis on every season of the show, that would not be necessary. For season three, the show’s finale, is a culmination of the accomplishments and successes of Derry Girls and shows the characters off on one wild but meaningful last ride.

Season three kicks off with the gang all together in Londonderry, after the threat of James moving back home to England had almost broken the group up. Now the friends are stressed out about the results of their GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exam, which will determine whether the group will remain in the same school together. The episode continues with the girls and James being up to their usual mischief leading to some criminal activity and one of Claire’s classic freakouts.

For the most part, the beginning of season three is filled with nothing but humor and side quests that the friends set out on, which always lands them in sticky situations. However, even though it may seem as if the usual escapades and adventures of the band of friends would get boring season after season, there is something else that truly sets season three apart.

In this season, the jokes are better, the friendship is stronger than ever, the nostalgia is off the charts and, unfortunately, the tragedy hits harder. 

Even though the whole season is undoubtedly worth a watch, there are a few standout episodes worth a mention. Arguably, Episode 4, 5, 6, and 7, are the best episodes of the whole season, dare I say series. 

Episode 4 follows the girls and James off to the Irish countryside as they go to clean out the house of Headmistress Sister Michael’s deceased aunt. The episode follows the path of a classic Halloween episode filled with a creepy house, laughs and potential ghost(s). And while Michelle, played by actress Jaime-Lee O’Donnell,  is the standout comic throughout the show, this episode may have been her funniest. Along with the immersion of a very unexpected romance, Episode 4 proves itself to be the funniest episode of the season — a very much needed comedic break before the heaviest part of the season.

Episode 5 diverts from the usual content of the show. Instead of following the girls and James around, viewers get a rare glimpse into the youth of their parents. More specifically, we follow Erin and Orla’s mothers, sisters Mary (Tara Lynne O’Neil) and Sarah (Kathy Kiera Clarke), back to their high school dance. While the episode provides many laughs and nostalgic 70s fashion, it ultimately provides a unique comparison between the friends and their parents. 

The episode leaves viewers reflecting on just how long the Troubles truly were and how it affected generations of families living in Northern Ireland. It shows how the youth of the group and their parents are identical and just how much conflict can define a person’s life, a country and generations.

Episode 6 acts as the climax of the season and the most tragic episode of the whole series. The episode starts out fun and follows James and the girls on one of their usual escapades in order to win tickets to see Fatboy Slim in concert. The journey for the friends to obtain these tickets resulted in many hilarious situations and James takes quite the “beating” in this episode. The episode gives viewers a sense of victory as the friends manage to make it to the concert and Claire even finds a possible new love interest. But then, the tragedy hits like a shot in the heart as the whole crew is affected by the sudden loss of one of the parents — a death that ultimately ends up dividing the group.

Episode 7, the season and series finale, jumps a year ahead from the previous episode. The friends are now in two different places with Claire living in a neighboring town, and the rest of the group still residing in Londonderry. The episode opens with Orla as we follow her back home from registering to vote. Orla and Erin are both 18 now and rushing to plan a huge party for their 18th birthday. However, the tide is changing in Londonderry and all of Northern Ireland as citizens prepare to vote on the Good Friday Agreement, basically an agreement between the British and Irish governments on the future government of Northern Ireland and settling conflicts from the Troubles. 

Along with the battle between 18th birthday parties and a fallout between Erin and Michelle, the teens, their families and all of Northern Ireland are met with the reality that they will soon have to vote on the agreement and that life will never be the same. Throughout the episode, as Erin mends her friendship with Michelle, and the girls somehow pull off the party of the year, she contemplates what vote to cast. The episode ends beautifully with James videotaping Erin’s final monologue as the show cuts back and forth between the recording and the group of friends all going to cast their vote. The crew and their parents walk out of the voting place together with Erin and Sarah’s grandfather, Joe (Ian McElhinney), walking hand in hand with Erin’s little sister as she skips.

The slow buildup of the season from the same-old-routine to an explosive and meaningful series finale offers a lot for viewers to digest. But for a show with such a cult following that’s known for its quick-witted humor, craziness and also brief moments of a sad, but true, reality, the series finale is Derry Girls’ magnum opus. Having watched the show since I was in eighth grade, following the crew throughout the three seasons and growing up with them along with many of the other viewers in the show’s fan base made me come to a realization. As a senior now, the end of the show for me kind of symbolizes the beginning of a closing chapter in my life. 

For a show that so many fellow teenagers can relate to especially since we have lived through so many conflicts in our life we can all relate to that feeling of growing up in the middle of a battlefield and just trying to make the best out of it. But just like the Derry Girls, there’s always those bright shining moments of our youth that overpower the dark reality that characterizes our world today. And as long as we keep our head up and just live life to the best of our ability then eventually we will weather the storm.

“Derry Girls” is one show that is so special and dear to my heart, as it is for many other friends all across the world. With such an amazing cast, directors, producers and writers it stands as one of Netflix’s most underrated and greatest shows. Derry Girls’ final season is a bittersweet and perfectly executed ending for the gang and definitely deserves a watch from anybody who is up for a bunch of laughs accompanied by a few tears.