We’ve all heard the saying “third time’s the charm,” but it’s safe to say that the television industry takes the cliché to a whole new level. Whether it’s the much-needed addition of Ben and Chris as series regulars in “Parks and Recreation” or the failure to uphold principal romantic storylines in “Sex Education,” it’s no secret that a third season can make or break a series.
After sweeping not only the U.K. but the world with its situational comedy and heartwarming messages, “Derry Girls” has given its final season a lot to live up to. However, the show’s third installment holds itself to high comedic standards, confirming the hype created by its previous seasons.
Set against the backdrop of the ethno-nationalist “Troubles” of the late 20th century, “Derry Girls” tells the story of five teenagers living in Londonderry, Northern Ireland: know-it-all Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson, “Finding You”), space cadet Orla (Louisa Harland, “Lost in London”), straight-shooter Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, “Screw”), stickler Clare (Nicola Coughlan, “Bridgerton”) and “wee English fella” James (Dylan Llewellyn, “Hollyoaks”). Although set during a period of immense tragedy and mourning, “Derry Girls” uses its unfortunate setting to highlight what is both a blessing and a curse to the modern teenager: our innate stupidity and blissful ignorance.
While “Derry Girls” has become much more popular since the release of its second season, even gaining some prominence in the U.S., the show’s third installment adds slightly darker elements to its original tone, yielding a layer of depth unseen in the show’s first two seasons. Still, season three maintains its humor in part by integrating one of the show’s most iconic elements: its running gags. Between classmate Jenny’s cringeworthy vocal performances, Uncle Colm’s boredom-inducing monologues or James’s “unfortunate” disposition of being English, one of the show’s most prominent achievements is its ability to “commit to the bit” in a way that pays homage to previous seasons without overusing the same content.
While the Derry Girls themselves are key to the comedic value of the show (usually due to Clare’s panic-riddled one-liners or Michelle’s frustration with her “English prick” cousin, James), the show’s side characters heavily contribute to both the plot and comedy of the show. The creator’s choice to have the story follow not only the girls, but also their families and schoolmates, adds another layer of depth to the series, allowing the audience to see the same plotline from multiple perspectives. In fact, it’s impossible to discuss “Derry Girls” without mentioning the stellar performance of Siobhán McSweeney (“Alice Through the Looking Glass”) as Sister Michael, headmistress of the girls’ Catholic school. The nun’s perfectly timed cynical comments and unbothered attitude completely oppose any expectation the audience has for the character.
Although the show’s tone is comedic overall, the third season includes some darker elements, especially toward the end of the season. This begins with the untimely passing of Clare’s father in the season’s finale. The show’s creator, Lisa McGee, recently revealed that the reason for this sudden tragedy is to signify a newfound sense of maturity within the group: The girls no longer have the luxury of innocence. The first season finale ends with the girls dancing to upbeat music while the scene cuts back and forth to their parents finding out about a mass bombing nearby. The show’s second season comes to a close with a similar split perspective: the girls at their school formal while their parents watch the news reveal that peace has finally come to Northern Ireland. However, season three ends differently, with the teens and adults coming together to vote “yes” on the Good Friday Agreement, helping to end over 30 years of violent conflict for good. While the show’s previous seasons focus on teenagers’ abilities to stay childlike and ignorant even during the worst of times, the third season takes a different approach, ending with a focus on the Derry Girls’ shift out of adolescence and into adulthood.
The final season of “Derry Girls” brings a beloved series to a close in a way that pays tribute to its past and sets its characters up for a bright future. Between the season’s stellar comedic performances, commitment to its previous bits and decision to give its protagonists bigger and better things to look forward to, it’s safe to say that “Derry Girls” season three didn’t fall short of expectations and closed the show in a near-perfect manner. At its heart, the series is a hilarious story of youth and friendship that will have no trouble touching your heart. So if you have yet to see “Derry Girls” season three, do yourself a favor, “wise up” and stream it on Netflix today.
Daily Arts Contributor Olivia Tarling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.