The first series of Top Boy aired two years ago so I imagine most people felt a little lost at the start of episode one of series two, which jumped straight into the action with the briefest summary of past events. If you didn’t watch that first series then presumably you had no fucking idea what was going on, but even for those that did things were a little confusing.
So, a brief recap of series one: low level drug dealers Dushane and Sully made a play for the big time. They got embroiled in a turf war, eventually killing the rival gang’s leader, Kamale. Meanwhile, teenagers Ra’Nell and Gem started growing cannabis, and eventually got caught-up in Dushane’s enterprise. Ra’Nell’s mum struggled with mental illness, but sorted out her problems after a few episodes. The season ended with Dushane siding with his reckless partner Sully against his drugs supplier, killing said supplier, and taking over the drugs trade. You can read full recaps of each episode on Wikipedia.
That first series owed a pretty big debt to The Wire, from which it borrowed heavily. The relationship between drug partners Dushane and Sully mirrored that of Stringer and Avon in The Wire, and a character that looked out for Ra’Nell had a lot of similarities to the American show’s Cutty. Obviously, the plot was very similar, as were many of the show’s themes. The Wire, as with most decent US dramas, pushed on after its first series and built on its characters and premise. Series one of Top Boy was, to the best of my recollection, pretty good, so hopefully this second series can mirror its American counterparts.
It’s hard to judge from episode one though, which was interesting and teased out a few details but didn’t really offer much in terms of plot. Dushane and Sully have parted ways, with the former now the leader of the area’s main drugs gang. Sully is working small time. Gem is still growing cannabis, but is struggling without Ra’Nell who is trying to stay clear of the troubles that infest the area he lives in. His mother Lisa meanwhile has her own hairdressers.
The first series of Top Boy had a fascinating storyline from the start. We followed two drug dealers aiming for the big time, and from the first episode the characters were caught in conflict and in a difficult situation they seemed ill-equipped to get out of. This series is a lot less gripping. Dushane and Sully were arrested and are suspected of Kamale’s murder, there was a suggestion that Sully might go up against Dushane at some point, and there’s some dodgy property owner trying to take over Lisa’s shop. These storylines could all potentially be interesting down the line but right now it’s all a bit light. Ra’Nell and Gem, who were central to the first series, barely featured in any appealing way.
The episode had a decent ending though, as the top level gangster, the guy in the background who works with Dushane, was gunned down while picking up drugs. Hopefully, episode two will kick into gear as a result.
As for this first one; it was okay. There were some nice shots, like the opening crane shot of the murder site, lit up in the dark, with the bright lights of the O2 Arena in the background. The episode also took some time to linger in its interesting setting, for instance a scene of some kids rapping with each other inbetween drug deals. And as I said above, there were hints of more promising storylines to come, which, hopefully, will help develop series two into a worthy successor to the first.
- The police arrested Dushane with seemingly absolutely no evidence. The scene was probably just an excuse to introduce the lawyer character, and to introduce a threat to the gangsters. It could have been handled better though.
- Strange phone call the lawyer made at one point, telling someone Dushane is ‘liquid.’ Liquid as in lots of cash money? Just a guess, but maybe she’s hooking him up with some big time criminals.
- The new kid wandering around on his own was pretty good. ‘They’re 40p in the market.’ ‘You ain’t in the fucking market.’ A likeable character I hope we see more of.
- ‘You know what happened bruv, and you know why,’ Dushane said to Sully about their split. I don’t know if we are supposed to remember the specifics of the split from the first series, or if it is something yet to be explained. They could have done more to make it easier for the viewer to get up to speed with the show. I guess this is why Channel 4 has been running trailers for 4oD and series one so often over the last month, encouraging people to refresh their memory.