If the brilliance of This Is England and This Is England ’86 wasn’t enough to seal Shane Meadows’ place in cinema and television drama history then This Is England ’88 should finish the job off. Going on the impact of the first episode alone, the three part mini series was on track to be just as fun, harrowing and immersive as everything else he’s ever done.
The whole cast from the film and previous TV series returns with the same polished acting skills that made the previous stories work so well. There’s even the malevolent presence of Mick (Johnny Harris) who died at the end This Is England ’86, who continues to haunt Lol as she struggles with post natal depression and the reality of her harrowing history.
Stylistically perfect, the only real negative to say about the second series is that it would have been a lot better if they’d aired weekly, instead of all in the same week, as they passed by all too quickly for many. The storyline is gripping, the cast is ace and the dialogue, acting and imagery is spot on, making a great return for Shane Meadows and team.
Even the ever growing acting might of Stephen Graham (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)) returned as Combo, who’s influence from behind bars is still felt by the old gang. Thomas Turgoose is as great as ever in the role of Shaun as he gets to grips with relationship problems with Smell (Rosamund Hanson) and the introduction of a new love interest thanks to his part in a Christmas play. However, as with ’86, Vicky McClure is the stand-out performance as Lol, although, the slow breakdown of Woody (Joe Gilgun) is almost a rival to the impact of her acting prowess.
This Is England ’88 seems to do the impossible, being a great sequel to a great sequel. If only the Police Academy guys could have pulled this off in the transition from 5 to 6. For anyone that missed the original airing, it’s sadly no longer available on 4OD, but it was subsequently released on DVD and Blu-ray on the 12th March 2012.
The good news is that Shane Meadows will be adding to the story of the Sheffield gang with one last series, This Is England ’90, which will be airing on Channel 4 in September 2015. The same cast will be back to round things off, but it will definitely be sad to see it all come to an end once and for all.
This Is England ’88 review: 4/5