It’s been a “bumpy road” for east London gangland drama “Top Boy”, said Emily Baker in The i Paper. When it started in 2011 on Channel 4, it won a dedicated following and critical acclaim. For reasons that are not clear, it was cancelled after only two seasons; but the show had a powerful fan in the shape of the Canadian rapper Drake, and largely thanks to him it returned on Netflix in 2019. Now, four years on, this “enthralling” drama is coming to an end “once again”.
This series picks up where the last left off: with the murder of an upstart who had been tipped to take over the drugs empire presided over by gangster Dushane (Ashley Walters). Now, Dushane faces further problems with the arrival of a crew of fearsome Irish gangsters (led by Brian Gleeson and Barry Keoghan). “As ever, this isn’t a series for the squeamish”, but it’s told with passion, and the acting is superb.
“The Hackney of Top Boy crackles with life (not unlike the Hackney of Hackney),” said Nick Hilton in The Independent, but writer Ronan Bennett’s “vision of London’s criminal underworld” is remorselessly bleak. Young love is uprooted by violence; a drug-addicted young mother has her first good day in a while, then drowns in a bath – there’s a sense that no one can escape from the bad things that just keep happening. It is not upbeat: families, friendships and communities are “torn apart”, said Nick Clark in the Evening Standard. But this is brilliant TV, and it is bowing out “at exactly the right time – at the top”.
Where to watch: Netflix
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