Top Boy Series 2: “Provocative, captivating and tear-jerking television”
The moment Drake set his eyes on Top Boy Summerhouse, the show’s rebirth was guaranteed. Alongside acclaimed writer Ronan Bennett and a superb cast, Drake breathed new life into a show which was near extinction. Fast forward five years, and the new series of Top Boy has fans all over the world eager to watch the next chapter in Dushane and Sully’s story.
At the end of the last series, we were left with a victorious Dushane overseeing an expanded criminal empire, a disgruntled Sully unable to sympathise with Dushane’s ruthless methods, Dris shot dead on account of his betrayal, and Jamie wrongly put in prison.
Bennett has made a significant improvement on this singularly male focus. More attention and screen time have now been given to Top Boy’s female characters – Jaq, Lauryn and Shelley – who have previously only been seen as extensions of their male counterparts. Jaq’s role in the gang is heightened as Dushane’s key enforcer, Lauryn is trapped in a claustrophobic and abusive relationship with Liverpool gangster Curtis, and Shelley has her own demons from the past, providing her insight into Dushane’s lifestyle.
As we begin Series 2, Jamie is out of prison, acquitted after new evidence (provided by Dushane) comes to light. He is brought into Dushane’s gang and tasked with solving a drug supply problem in Spain and Morocco.
Sully is living a reclusive lifestyle on a canal boat, whilst Dushane has upgraded to a penthouse overlooking central London. Elsewhere, the two cops who went undercover as drug addicts in the last series arrest Dushane’s close friend and threaten him with a lengthy prison sentence unless he rats them out.
As a result of all these changes, we see a shift in dynamics. There is no strict protagonist vs antagonist, but a chaotic mixture of opposing forces who are bound together by kingpin Dushane. There is also a welcome reintroduction of aspects of Top Boy Summerhouse. Shelley’s beauty salon is reminiscent of RaNell’s mum’s hair salon, the authorities are back making money through damaging the Summerhouse community and we hear a few more reggae tunes in the soundtrack. As always Top Boy delivers with authentic and up-to-date music, which can now be found in an official Spotify playlist.
But why hasn’t this new season featured any Black Lives Matter related material that has been so prominent since George Floyd’s 2020 murder? I suppose it’s because these issues aren’t new for Top Boy, which has been dealing with racism from the start.
Top Boy’s unique importance lies in it providing us access to a Britain we are aware of but know nothing about. This collective ignorance has fuelled decades of government policy that targets and marginalises ethnic minorities, and which has recently manifested itself in the Windrush Scandal. It is heart-breaking to watch Amma who, after the tragic death of her son, faces deportation after nineteen years of living in the country. Shelley rightly protests: ‘Why is it all black people here?’ A dejected Amma tells her to stop, that they are powerless…
The life of a gangster is inherently unstable, paradoxical almost. Dushane makes so much money, but he can’t use it legally. He ends up investing in a scheme that derails the lives of Summerhouse residents including his own mother. The penultimate episode shows Dushane’s life crumbling all around him. Why does it take this crisis for him to act justly with the Summerhouse redevelopment project? Sully also is withdrawn and depressed. He can’t stomach having killed Dris in the previous series. If he can so clearly see the damage his lifestyle causes, why does he continue to perpetrate it?
Top Boy may not have the answer to these questions, but it provides us with stimulating content that can help us work it out for ourselves. It is provocative, captivating and tear-jerking television – do not miss it.