THIS IS ENGLAND ’86 “Episode Three” Review

This Is England '86 (Channel 4)

THIS IS ENGLAND ’86 is almost over. One more episode and the skinheads will be gone. Three episodes in and we’ve barely gotten to know them. I mean, there’s Shaun and Gadget and Lol, whose anguish over her father’s return has her cheating on Woody with his best friend Milky. Vicky McClure is as good as ever but Lol has gone flat. A passive protagonist rarely works, and spending a full quarter (if not more) of an entire series does not exactly make for enjoyable watching.

I’m not sure why Woody’s menial job should interest the audience. It doesn’t, so I suppose the more appropriate question would be why does Shane Meadows feel it is necessary to spend so much time on it. Hitchcock famously said film was real life without the boring bits. This episode seemed, in parts, to turn that statement on its head-for the worse.

It is not so hard to sympathise with Lol but it is really hard to like Milky. He cheats with his best friend’s fiancé, he cannot see that Lol is desperately in need of a shoulder to cry on, he even knows the source of the problem and does not confide in Woody, though it is driving both Lol and Woody to despair. Instead, he essentially uses her as his bed buddy until he finally (exasperatingly) realizes that she’s using sex as a numbing drug. And even then he does nothing to console her.

Gadget’s breakup with Trudy ended a once comedic turned irritating relationship none too soon. Shaun returned to his mother and started a welcome relationship with Michelle (I think that’s what that was). There were moments of light hearted comedy, though the tone is unsettling. One moment there is a contrived battle between the dweeb bikers and the skinheads, the next there is actual violence as a rape scene ends the episode.

As technically masterful as Meadows is: directing is excellent, dialogue well written, compelling performances coaxed, he is missing the plot. I am not talking procedural; I’m simply stating the obvious: aside from brooding or talking, what do the characters do? The writing isn’t quite so masterful that the plot is secondary, the mix of comedy and drama is just too odd for either one to actually matter and it is thanks to the directing and acting that the show rises above the heap of blandness.

I thought Combo would arrive sooner than he had, and in a much more climactic way. His arrival ended up being extremely anticlimactic and shruggable as it was intercut with a brutal rape scene.

With only one more episode left, I’m not sure what to think of This Is England ’86. The ingredients were almost all there, they just did not come together. Really, it’s more like this is Meadow’s test drive into the television landscape than a viable television series.

The third episode was, all in all, a disappointment, especially after the potential the premiere promised.

What did you think of this episode? Leave your comments below!

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