In the face of danger and sadness, it can sometimes seem difficult to laugh. However, if you have a great group of friends by your side, then any problem can seem manageable. In the late 20th century, Ireland was dominated by The Troubles. This was an etho-nationalist conflict that led to violence over the status of Northern Ireland. It lasted from the 1960s to the 1990s, which means it was on the minds of Irish people for decades. This creates the setting for “Derry Girls.” While this does provide the background, that is not what this show is all about. The focus is on a group of high school girls and all of their wacky hijinks. This is a show filled with humor and a lot of fun moments, but also moments that are sweet and touching. The third season was released on Netflix on Oct. 7, bringing an end to this heartwarming series. So if you want to watch this series, now is the time.
The setting is Derry, Northern Ireland in the mid-1990s. The series centers around passionate Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson) and her energetic group of friends. There is Erin’s eccentric cousin Orla (Louisa Harland), the hyper worrier Claire (Nicola Coughlan), the rebellious Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) and Michelle’s cousin James (Dylan Llewellyn), the only one from England in the group and the only boy as well. The group all attend Our Lady Immaculate, a private Catholic private school that is all girls, except for James, who was granted an exception for being English and would not have been safe at the boy’s school. Even though these schools are meant to teach girls how to be model Catholic citizens in society, the Derry Girls are anything but. They are always finding themselves in a bunch of wild adventures. For example, in season three you will find the girls encountering ghosts and creating public schemes for concert tickets. Viewers also get a look into the lives of the girls’ families, like Erin’s mother (Tara Lynne O’Neill), father (Tommy Tiernan), aunt (Kathy Kiera Clarke) and grandfather (Ian McElhinney). We also get to see some plots from the girls’ headmistress, the tough and sarcastic Sister Michael (Siobhán McSweeney). Every so often, the viewers are reminded of The Troubles going on and how that is affecting people’s lives. However, at the end of the day, this is a show about friendship, love and hope.
Even though I have never been to Ireland, did not go to a Catholic school and was not alive during the ’90s, I still felt that I could relate to these girls. The wonderful writing is what helps make these characters special and it is what made me want to tune in for the final season. They are all portrayed as fun people to hang out with and are absolutely hilarious. It felt like every minute there was a witty joke. At some times, all of that humor can get overwhelming, but for most of this season, there was a perfect balance. I’ve also picked up some fun Irish slang from this show. By the end of this article, you will probably see me refer to something as being really cracker. Since this is a sitcom, there was not a serialized story. Even though there are some ongoing running jokes and plotlines, most episodes have their own separate storylines. The problem with this is I feel that some episodes end where a problem is not fully resolved, and then that problem is never addressed again. I wish some of the episodes had more closure. However, the sitcom format does lend itself to great rewatching ability, as you don’t have to rewatch in order, you can just pick some highlights. An episode that really stood out in the third season was an episode that focused on what the parents were like in high school. I thought it was really unique and a highlight of the season. The last episode was also brilliant and definitely rewatchable. There are some emotional moments involving grief and The Troubles, especially in season three, but the writing is able to mix it with humor for a well-balanced show.
I knew this in the first season, but it is still true now. The lead actors of this show are terrific. They have all really captured the energy of frantic and playful high schoolers. Of course, since this is television, the high school students are played by people in their twenties and thirties. However, unlike other teen shows where they make those teens look like chiseled models, I felt that the actors were able to effortlessly pull off the high school look. I will say that some of the characters have become Flanderized by season three, meaning some of their personality traits from the first two seasons have been dialed up so that they become exaggerated versions of themselves to the point of being a little unrealistic. While this is obvious at some points, the characters are still able to feel realistic at other points. All of the actors have excellent comedic timing and even though my American ears can not always understand their thick Irish accents without subtitles, their delivery is terrific. Then when the time calls for it, they can portray sadness and show that they are dealing with huge problems in their country. I have to credit all of the Derry Girls, as they each bring something special to their part. Jackson is able to command the group wonderfully as Erin, Harland is able to take Orla’s odd behaviors and make her likable, Coughlan makes Claire the perfect amount of shrill for some high-quality humor, O’Donnell make Michelle absolutely iconic in her confidence and Llewyn makes you want to just give James a good hug because he is a sweet Englishman and Llewyn does a great job at playing the butt of the jokes. I also have to shout out McSweeney’s performance as Sister Michael, as she nails some sassy comebacks and will make you want to be best friends with a nun. I hope all of these actors can become more well known to a mainstream audience as all of their performances were very high caliber.
I wouldn’t say there is anything particularly complex or unique about this show. There is the fact that it is placing a high school comedy during a scary time in modern history. Beside that, there are no fancy special effects, huge plot twists or exciting gimmicks. That does not mean that the show does not bring anything interesting to the table. This is a story of friendship. Even though this show takes place 30 years ago, the theme of friendship is timeless. It will cause viewers to think about their own tight friend group and feel incredibly grateful that they have their friends by their side. Sitcoms have kind of faded from mainstream entertainment, as everyone likes to have a continued storyline in a binge-watching format. However, that just makes this show easy to watch and easy to love. If you want to learn more about modern history or you want to be brought back to the crazy times of high school, watch all three seasons of “Derry Girls” today.