“It’s about the nostalgia init” says Gadget at the beginning of the opening episode of This is England ‘90 and indeed, Shane Meadows throws everything stereotypically ‘90s at us. Whilst little happens in this episode it does a great job of returning us to post-Thatcher Britain, a time when there was a sense of liberation for the working classes, reflected by the humorous pairing of The La’s “There She Goes” playing over Maggie’s leaving speech in the opening titles.
As with all the This is England output before it, This is England ’90’s soundtrack is epic and quickly takes you back to the world of bucket hats and Sega Mega Drives. Often overlooked in favour of the huge anthems of the era, Ludovico Einaudi’s piano music is as emotional and evocative as always, perfectly accompanying the sour end to the gang’s night out.
Meadows swiftly covers all the important bases left open from the previous series. Milky and Woody are back to best mates, Lol and Woody are happy with their little family and normality has returned to Lol’s mum’s house. Only Woody’s slip about “the Dad and the hammer thing” reminds us that in ’88 things were very different for the group. There is a noticeably step away from the dark nature of the previous series, and whilst Meadows’s focus on comedy shows that natural order has been restored to the gang, I can’t help but think surely the joviality will crash and burn at some point during the series.
As always it is Woody (the brilliant Joe Gilgun) who provides the biggest laughs, and his rendition of The Stone Roses’s ‘Fools Gold’ was as hilarious in the episode as it was the numerous times I saw it in the pre-broadcast adverts. The scene with Woody on the phone to his parents captures his personality brilliantly; he is an extremely loving person and quick to forgive those that he holds dear (as he has done with Lol and Milky) even if they interrupt a documentary about an Amazonian tribe.
Whilst Lol, Woody and Milky all appear to have overcome their differences and are happy in their dysfunctional family set-up, it appears the drama of this series will focus on Shaun again. He is struggling to get over Smell and faces mounting pressure from his mum, but Kelly also catches my eye. Her erratic behaviour at the rave suggests her partying has the potential to get out of control, and with Gadget doting on her, her behaviour will undoubtedly suck in the rest of the gang too. Shaun’s volatility and vulnerability are highlighted by the fight after the “discotheque” and his unpredictable behaviour could pose a problem in the future as it has done in the past. Thomas Turgoose is still an incredibly compelling actor, and his performance is so raw and real you wonder just how much of Shaun is in Thomas. With the episode ending on a broken Shaun there is the promise of more drama next week, and perhaps a step away from the fun and games of this week’s episode.
This is England continues Sunday on Channel 4
Contributed by Amy Gibbs