An Inspector Calls

And now, the end is near and so it faces the final curtain.

After a three year COVID prolonged hiatus, ‘Derry Girls’ returned to Channel 4 for its third and final series.
But could Lisa McGee’s show live up to all the hype?
Episode one found Erin, Clare, Michelle, Orla and the self proclaimed Derry Girl, James (the “wee English lad”) working on a short film about their hometown.
With a predictably overwrought Erin voiceover to the sound of the uilleann pipes, images of the girls picnicking near Derry’s walls were cut alongside images of soldiers patrolling the city’s streets – only for the VHS tape to wear out.
As they cursed James’ top of the range camera, Orla thought one of the actors looked familiar until it was pointed out it was her.
It emerged that the short film they were making was a vain attempt by the gang to win a Best Short Film Oscar.
James noted a group of German kids landed a nomination for making a short film about the Berlin Wall.
But the gang acknowledged their script was too feeble – an observation that Erin took great umbrage at, explaining it was all about peace.
While Michelle ranted about how she was so sick listening to people talking constantly about peace post the IRA and loyalist ceasefires, Clare typically confronted the elephant in the room.
It was the eve of their GCSE results and predictably she was sick with worry.
A trip to the video store didn’t soothe the girls’ nerves as they bumped into Sister Michael on crutches who had popped in to get the “new Scorsese”.
After upsetting Derry’s most stressed shop assistant Dennis, who was now working in the local video store, they were shocked to learn from Sister Michael that their GCSE results were already in the school.
Rather ominously, she told them to enjoy the time they had left before the results were issued.
Unable to contain themselves, the girls decided to break into the school to find out their fate.
It seemed a great idea at the time until they bumped into some thieves.
Failing to twig what was actually going on, they inadvertently found themselves assisting the robbers, one of whom claimed he was called Hans, as they loaded equipment from the computer labs into their van.
After the thieves left, the penny dropped as Clare suddenly realised what they had done.
By then, it was too late.
The girls were surrounded by the police and were facing an interrogation about suspicious activity around Our Lady Immaculate College.
Would Clare’s worst fears about them becoming the new Guildford Four or Birmingham Six come true?
Was that Tik Tok sensation Serena Terry (aka Mammy Banter) in a police uniform?
And was that really Liam Neeson interrogating them?
The opening episode of this final series got off to a typically raucous start, with director Michael Lennox ensuring the gags came thick and fast.
As usual, some jokes landed better than others as the cast attacked Lisa McGee’s script with glee.
However the success rate of the gags was still pretty high.
Louisa Harland as Orla had arguably the strongest lines of the episode, including a rather bizarre moment during their arrest when she asked an RUC officer: “Can I hold your gun?”
Saoirse Monica Jackson, Nicola Coughlan, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell and Dylan Llewellyn also had their moments.
As did other series regulars like Ian McElhinney, Tommy Tiernan, Kathy Kiera Clarke, Tara Lynne O’Neill, Siobhan NcSweeney,  Kevin McAleer and Paul Mallon.
McGee gave us a subplot about Grandpa Joe’s psychopathic new cat Seamus, a stray he had picked up who was on a murder spree – killing shrews, mice, frogs and a neighbour’s pet rabbit.
When confronted about it by his son-in-law Gerry, Joe typically tried to brazen it out and suggest Seamus was being framed.
We got a rare glimpse of Donna Traynor reading the news about the then Secretary of State Mo Mowlam visiting prisoners in the Maze during the Good Friday Agreement negotiations.
This prompted Aunt Sarah to remark that Mo was “a ballsy wee thing” and her sister Mary to claim that she always knew it would take a woman to sort things out.
McGee and Lennox typically peppered their episode with smart pop culture references – excerpts from Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy,’ Gala’s ‘Freed from Desire’ and The Beautiful South’s ‘Perfect 10’ all got an airing.
There was a nice parody of the opening of ‘Good Fellas’ involving Gerry and Joe and Michelle gave us a laugh out loud moment when she observed that ‘Braveheart’ appeared to be about a Scottish drag queen taking on the entire English Army.
Inevitably Twitter went into meltdown with Liam Neeson’s appearance in the show.
As cameos go, his performance as a police inspector was spot on with the star of ‘Schindler’s List,’ ‘Taken’ and ‘The Lego Movie’ getting big laughs by playing everything very, very straight.
While his character’s encounter with Uncle Colm wasn’t quite on a par with Captain Willard facing Colonel Kurtz in ‘Apocalypse Now,’ Kevin McAleer’s anecdotes and musings were certainly as rambling and as bizarre as Marlon Brando’s.
When Neeson’s RUC Inspector noted there weren’t too many people called Hans in Derry, this prompted Colm to note there was a young fella in Pennyburn called Diego.
This led to a long winded history lesson about the Spanish Armada.
In the build up to the final season of ‘Derry Girls,’ there had been a lot of talk about some very famous faces popping up throughout the series – so famous they would blow the audience’s socks off.
The landing of Neeson for the opening episode was undoubtedly one hell of a coup, made all the more impressive by the way the cast and crew had kept his appearance secret.
Earlier in the day, Joel Taggart wondered on Good Morning Ulster if he really would lose his socks watching tonight’s opening episode.
If that didn’t happen, I suspect at least one of Joel’s socks might be dangling off a big toe.
Roll on episode two.

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