One of the few beauties of the ultra-awkward teenage experience is its universality. allows us to see our melodramatic, pimple-faced selves reflected on screen. That’s why "Derry Girls," Netflix’s U.K. comedy import, has been so successful with audiences a long ways away from Northern Ireland. Set in the 1990s, the show depicts five teenagers—Erin, Clare, Michelle, Orla, and James—navigating the normal trials and tribulations of adolescence as The Troubles (a conflict over Northern Ireland’s control by the United Kingdom or reunification with the Republic of Ireland) rage in their hometown of Derry, Northern Ireland. After a three-year wait, the third and final season finally premiered on Netflix in the U.S. on October 7. The seven new episodes delivered the laughs and heartwarming moments that have made the show so widely beloved since its first episode.
Out of the entire season, episode 4 represents a definite high point of the season. The fan-favorite sardonic school headmistress Sister Michael sends the main characters to clean out her recently deceased hoarder aunt’s house, which they soon come to believe is haunted. This episode showcases one of the show’s greatest strengths—letting its teenage characters be teenagers. As blogger Helena Suzuki said on her blog, VVIBING, “'Derry Girls' just gets it, the lack of power in being a teenager but also thinking you are unstoppable and immortal…as in giving yourself too much importance when honestly you are just 17.”
Many shows like "Euphoria," "Skins," and "Gossip Girl" repeatedly place their characters in situations revolving around unrealistic amounts of partying, drugs, and sex. In "Derry Girls," the plotlines and punchlines center around everyday, universal teenage experiences. The characters embarrass themselves in front of their crushes, stress about their GCSE results (much like American high school students stressing about APs and SATs), and struggle against their strict parents and other girls at school. The show’s relatability is a key factor to its widespread popularity. Although most viewers cannot relate to coming of age during The Troubles, they certainly can relate to being a teenager and thinking that the world is simultaneously your oyster and your greatest enemy.
One thing almost all teenagers fail to realize is that once upon a time, their parents felt the exact same way that they do now. Episode 5 alternates between the main characters’ mothers’ “leavers’ disco” ( a senior prom) in 1977 and their 20th secondary school (inAmerica high school) reunion. As the mothers try to get even with a snooty ex-friend, they gradually uncover the tale of their own teenage rebellion. The episode ends with a dedication: “For all the Mammies.” It is a reminder of precisely how universal the teenage experiences depicted in "Derry Girls" are. From 1977 to 1997, from mothers to daughters, who hasn’t ever wanted to just do something, to be young, wild, and free for a night?
The show’s pitch-perfect ending is also one of the new season’s strongest moments. The closing scene alternates between authentic news footage and the show’s characters voting “Yes” on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which is held as a marker for the end of the violence of The Troubles. In her monologue that plays over the scene, Erin says, “We have to grow up, because things…Well, they might just change for the better. So we have to be brave. And if our dreams get broken along the way, we have to make new ones from the pieces.”
Although the show is set in the past, these themes still ring true today. Many of the show’s viewers are of Gen Z, who have grown up in an era of political turbulence, social upheaval, and a global pandemic. Like the titular “Derry Girls,” today’s teenagers and young adults are hungry for change and have immense hope for the future. The series’ conclusion reminds us to never give up hope; no matter how bleak a situation may seem, a brighter future is always on the horizon.
Grace is a freshman in the College studying Government.