I will always, in spirit, be a Derry girlunsplash@K. Mitch Hodge with permission for Varsity

This review contains heavy spoilers for the final episode of Derry Girls.

Like any person with taste, I love Derry Girls. It’s funny, it’s heart-warming, it has a brilliant soundtrack and an incredible cast of characters. I was devastated to learn that it was coming to an end after just three seasons, and yet, however much I enjoyed the finale, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed.

One gripe I had with this season was the badly developed romances. Claire misses a Fatboy Slim concert to kiss a girl she’s shared two conversations and zero moments of chemistry with. The only two gay characters are unconvincingly forced together, for an attempted moment of pride that feels more like an affront to the LGBTQ+ community.

However, this wasn’t the only poorly developed romance. After the Season 2 finale hinted at a budding love between James and Erin, I was convinced that Season 3 would carefully build up the tension between them, but I was sorely mistaken. Rather, audiences were given a confession and a kiss, seemingly out of nowhere. Following the reactions of their friends, it was almost immediately established that these feelings couldn’t be acted on. I kept waiting for the sparks to fly all finale long and in return (other than a few pining stares) got no further development. I understand why they didn’t want to push it further when this is a show about teenage friendship, not romance. But then why introduce the romance at all?

“The only two gay characters are unconvincingly forced together...”

Another obstacle to this series’ path to success was Nicola Coughlan as Claire. Due to her commitments to Bridgerton, she had to film much of the season separately. In Episode 3, for example, Claire just so happened to miss the train. By separating her from the rest of the pack, Derry Girls’ key dynamic, its heart and soul, was disrupted. Even the show couldn’t help addressing this absence, as the group struggled to find anything to talk about without Claire’s rambling to fill the space. However, the finale was affected even more severely by these scheduling difficulties.

Following Claire’s kiss in the penultimate episode, the Derry girls were riding a high of exhilaration only to be met with tragic news: Claire’s dad had died. I couldn’t help feeling confused as to why the writers killed off this character in particular — we barely see anything of Claire’s dad throughout the show and have no real relationship with him. Although the show tries to create a connection about ten minutes before he dies, it doesn’t do much to make viewers emotionally involved. His death felt like a desperate attempt at meaningless tear-jerking. The second strange thing was the way he died, from an aneurysm. If he had been killed by an attack related to The Troubles it would have made sense in the context of the show. The emotional core of Derry Girls lies in the wonderful contrast between the hilarious lives of these girls and the horrific social context they’re living in. I can’t help but suspect that his death was introduced to ensure Coughlan got her moment before her character was moved twenty minutes down the road so they could shoot the majority of the finale without her.

“The emotional core of Derry Girls lies in the wonderful contrast between their hilarious lives and the horrific social context”

And that leads us to the finale itself: one year later. I liked the decision to set it during the Good Friday Agreement — it felt like a fitting end to the series, a series so shaped by The Troubles that the show couldn’t realistically continue beyond their conclusion. The finale also successfully addressed the fact that although the vote received an overwhelming majority, it wasn’t a simple choice for all. However, some of the concerns the characters had about agreeing to the treaty left me feeling confused.

In this season’s pattern of not foreshadowing events, it decided to randomly reveal that Michelle has a brother who’s been imprisoned for murder and that Erin was opposed to him being let free by the agreement. The show seemed to imply that Michelle’s brother had always been a point of tension between the two girls. Of course, Derry Girls doesn’t always give us insight into its characters’ thoughts and motivations. And you could argue that it makes sense for Michelle of all people to keep this secret — despite all her big talk, there is a hidden vulnerability that she rarely reveals. However, it was almost impossible to care about this emotional tension when audiences had no foreknowledge of the friction between the two friends.


READ MORE

Mountain View

Conversations with Friends: Frances’ reading list

And yet despite all this season’s failures, I still found myself shedding a tear in its final moments as The Cranberries’ Dreams played in the background, filling me with a strange hope and nostalgia and a sudden urge to cry. I do know that however much this season had its weak spots, I will always, in spirit, be a Derry girl.