Monday, June 24, 2019

REVIEW: 'Years and Years' - The Lyons Family Celebrates Life While Dealing with a Toxic Political World in 'Episode 1'

HBO's Years and Years - Episode 1.01 "Episode 1"

As politician Viv Rook causes a scandal on live TV, the youngest Lyons sibling, Rosie, goes into labor. At her bedside, brothers Stephen and Daniel, and grandmother, Muriel, wonder what life will be like for baby Lincoln. Fast-forward five years, Stephen and his wife worry about their socially withdrawn daughter. Daniel finds himself falling for Viktor, a Ukrainian refugee. As the family comes together for Muriel's birthday, a call from their missing-in-action sister, Edith, brings extraordinary news that could change their lives forever.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of HBO's Years and Years.

"Episode 1" was written by Russell T Davies and directed by Simon Cellan Jones

The death of the human race may be upon us. That's the position the show takes in order to fuel its dramatic storytelling. It examines how the themes of populism and racism are running rampant throughout the world while reliance on technology is breaking down the emotions of connectivity that used to mean so much to us as a society. It certainly presents an extreme view of the breakdown of society and how the path we are currently on in 2019 could end in further despair and disaster very quickly. And yet, that's not a completely unreasonable position to take either. These are genuine fears based on the keen observations of the current state of the world and politics. Stephen positions that society may have popped. It has moved past all of its greatest achievements. And now, humanity is in its final days unable to actually charge the trajectory of this path. Those are some depressing thoughts that permeate throughout this story. At the heart of it all though is one family. The Lyons are simply trying to move forward with their lives and embrace what they care about while adjusting to all of the changing politics of this twisted and complicated world. It all starts with the birth of a child. Daniel laments how he doesn't know how people can lovingly bring life into this world knowing just how dark and scary it is. He sees a changed reality in which the public around him is losing intelligence. He didn't think it could be questioned that germs are real and the Earth is round. And yet, his husband, Ralph, is asserting that those beliefs may not be as based in facts as everyone may assume them to be. The spread of disinformation can be so transformative and corrosive. It completely reshapes this core relationship. They remain committed to each other. But it's more so a bond built out of complacency and the refusal to actually change to embrace something else. That impulse is still there. And when the threat presents itself in the end, Daniel races off to actively pursue such happiness. But again, the debate rages on because people instinctively believe that their views are right and everyone else is wrong. There no longer seems to be a foundation that everyone can agree on. The terminology of the world is constantly shifting and the ideas of what is acceptable and possible are always influx. Stephen and Celeste are perfectly fine with their child coming out as trans in the sense of questioning gender identity. When it comes to consciousness and its connection to a human body, those are questions they can't comprehend and accept. It plays as science fiction to them. It exists in the same world as Rosie's date having a barely functioning sex robot. And yet, that trans-human technology is being developed and may not be so far off in the future. It could present as a way to escape the brutal realities of the world and just exist as pure data. That is a relief to Bethany while being absolutely terrifying to her parents. And yet, that fear is abundantly apparent in the final act with the launch of nuclear missiles. That presents as the incident that will send this narrative spiraling into big and explosive actions. It will forever change this family. But the show is also weaving in a potent political tale of how people can be wrapped up in the simplicities of public messaging while buying into the idea that things are never really capable of changing. Of course, that's part of the problem as well. And now, the world may be paying for it with everyone in fear that nuclear apocalypse has finally begun because of the mistakes people made in choosing who to represent them on a global stage. The commitment to nationalism creates a closed-off identity that perceives any slight as a dangerous threat. That is perilous with the toxicity creating a conflict in which ego drives everything with the lack of empathy being absolutely crushing to the proceedings as well. The show doesn't run into that trouble though because the Lyons family is incredibly sympathetic and compelling right away.