TOP BOY S3 - TV Review
In Three Words: Return, Revived, Revitalised
(DISCLAIMER: I know this is technically and officially a whole new show, separate from the original, which is now called "Top Boy: Summerhouse". But I'm going to refer it in this review and future seasons as a continuation because 1) It makes life easier and 2) Who are they fooling? It's Season 3 and you can't tell me otherwise. Anyways. Onto the review!)
SIX whole years of waiting, hoping that this show would return.
For those that weren't part of the original audience when this show was on Channel 4 between 2011-13, understand that this show was a shining light amongst a very saturated market. In the early half of this decade there was a littony of gritty, urban dramas. From "This Is England" to "Kidulthood" and many other smaller names in between.
"Top Boy" was different though. For one thing, it was on TV and not film. On top of that, it was a prime-time series on a TV channel that is renowned for cutting edge programming. And "Top Boy" was just that, cutting edge.
But then it got unceremoniously binned after it's 2nd Season and the cult following that "Top Boy" had was left to hope that a high quality show that showed the dark side of London would return someday.
Six years. And our hope & patient waiting has been rewarded.
First thing first. All applause & credit to Ronan Bennett. The sole writer (& creator) of this show didn't lose a step in the hiatus. The time that passed between seasons was displayed very well from the outset. Dushane (Ashley Walters) in Jamaica, not "Top Boy" anymore. Sully (Kane "Kano" Robinson) in prison and the world of London gang & drug life changing in their absence.
In their place, the new blood. Jamie, (Michael Ward) stepping up as leader of his gang Modie (David "Dave" Omoregie) is in prison (with Sully) for 18 years.
Returning characters of note include Dushane's right hand Dris, (Shone Romulus) Jason (Ricky Smarts) & Jermaine. (Ashley Thomas) Other new people in the show are Shelley, (Simbi "Little Simz" Ajikawo) Jaq (Jasmine Jobson) & Jamie's brothers Aaron (Hope Ipoku Jr.) & Stefan. (I can't find the actor's name for the life of me, if somebody can let me know that'd be great)
So the story is pretty straightforward. Dushane has to go back to London and sell drugs again if he wants to save his cousin. Funny enough, at the same time, Sully is getting out of prison and has his own plans. It takes a few episodes to establish everything, including the story of Jamie who basically becomes the Top Boy and does a hell of a job stepping up.
I'm going to say this now since I mentioned him, Michael Ward deserves a BAFTA Nomination for his performance. He's the MVP of this show in my opinion. His story-line is the best and because of that, his performance needed to be great to really take this show up a notch. On that front, he succeeded in my eyes. He didn't just step up in the drug game, he stepped up as a legal guardian of his two brothers. It really makes you feel sympathy on one hand, because he truly is a good brother and role model at home. But you also have to come to terms with (or condemn) most of the stuff he does. (he commits the most violence out of everyone, which is crazy if you think about the other characters with clearer violent tendencies.)
I really liked the pace of the show. Considering there are 10 episodes compared to four in the previous iterations, there needed to be more and Bennett delivered, there was always something that needed to be addressed, always questions that needed answering.
Sully and his arc was a great highlight for me. Leaving prison with nothing more than a train ticket & Jason to give tough love to and then losing Jason because of some senseless racism, Sully was always the one that just wanted to get stuff done. I've always loved his 'roll up your sleeves' way of doing things, always on the front line and constantly battling his urge to snap on someone. Happy to report that he does snap a few times.
Dris was an unfortunate one. I loved him in the previous seasons but time did not treat him well. Even though he won't be involved in future seasons, his decisions in the 2nd half of this season will constantly ripple.
Which brings me to THAT TWIST! The two drug addicts actually being Feds, what a bloody masterstroke. You may have noticed that I expect another season. With that twist?! You're damn sure I expect more.
But a couple of negatives I need to hail up. One thing I enjoyed but was also sad about was Modie. Dave's performance as a complete psychopathic nutcase was very entertaining and one of the highlights for me. It was a shame his character was nothing more than a plot device for Jamie & Sully's arcs.
And y'all know that Little Simz is one of my favourite artists right now and her acting was also very well done. But again, a bit of a shame that she was pretty much a Princess in the castle for Dushane. I hope Shelley is more than a relationship tool in future seasons.
And whilst I have this momentum. Dushane... I just can't get a pulse on him. When he was with Sully, he was great. But spending half of his time trying to get to know Shelley and then by the end of the show giving me big Bobby Axelrod vibes, (You get it if you watch "Billions".) something didn't sit right with me by the end. I guess my problem is that the needle was leaning towards getting out of the game and then in the last few episodes went all the way back to drug kingpin. Which I'm completely fine with, I just found the soul searching throughout a little empty once the series ended. At least with Sully, he knows that this is life and will either end up back in jail, on the run or dead. Dushane seems to have a mid-life crisis of sorts throughout and then is flexing on Jamie, basically dick swinging. The transition from the two are not smooth in my view.
But other than those small character niggles I had, this show still has that gripping nature it originally had. I was always waiting for things to kick off, always waiting for someone to make a move. The new characters gave new life to the point where this show wouldn't have been good without them. The camera work was high quality, especially THAT DOLLY ZOOM when Sully & Dushane officially were back together. That's my favourite camera trick of All-Time.
Ever since this show began in 2011, people have connected it to the GOAT TV Show "The Wire"... As someone who is a fan of both. I am here to categorically say... This show is NOT "The Wire". But, it does have elements of "The Wire". There are some character similarities, when Jaq was introduced, I definitely got Snoop vibes with her. Same with Modie who reminded me of Avon Barksdale just with more psychopath mixed in and Jamie who reminded me of Marlo when it was time to get violent. But past some character similarities & overlapping themes, "TOP BOY" is nowhere near as deep as "The Wire", it's not "The Wire" and doesn't try to be.
But with that said, I love this show and I'm so happy it's back. One thing I suggest you do if you watch this show again. Get Shazam, put it on Auto and watch via your laptop or TV, the music on here is great. Safe to say, this show will always be a personal favourite of mine.