This Is England ’88: Episode 1

This Is England ’86 was staggeringly good, hilarious and dark in equal measure. So good that it made the film seem merely functional. So my hopes for 88 were very high. At this early stage, possibly too high.

Shane Meadows is probably just warming up, but the first episode of 88 was quite dull. The dialogue seemed both less improvised and less interesting. A few moments looked like they’d build to a moment of either comedy or drama, then failed to deliver. I don’t know if I can be engaged in another series of Lol’s lack of lols (sorry), following her as she traipses around moaning.

The show has an understandable need to show how her abusive father is never too far from her mind, but using the horror cliches of having him appear over her in a cabinet and in a cabinet mirror lessened the drama.

Elsewhere, the awkward comedy of Woody was given too much rope and felt forced. Woody was close to resembling a Ricky Gervais character, a disturbing thought. Gadget’s ‘balls’ scene also seemed unnatural. Smell may end up being the lone comedic force of the show (though her humour may vanish if Sean continues the path he’s on).

I’d be less concerned if 88 was four parts like 86 was, but I’m now a third of the way through the series with little sense of what to expect. An awkward meeting between Woody and Milk? A suicide attempt by Lol? Sean dumping Smell? Woody getting sick of the job and the girlfried and his dull life, chucking it all in and going back to Lol?

I need to remind myself how much Shane Meadows deserves my faith. The man behind 86 and the Dead Man’s Shoes, one of my favourite films of all time. I can’t help but think that soon he’ll get right into the heart of the show, moving cameras into the character’s faces as all sorts of unexpected and depressing events unfold. Because of the darkness of 86, I felt on edge through 88’s first episode, expecting something horrible to occur at any point. Just a matter of time, I imagine.

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