#CrazyStupidTV: Derry Girls – 2×01: ‘Across The Barricade’

The wait was finally over this week. Channel 4’s biggest new sitcom of last year and our TV Show of the Year in our 2018 End of Year Prizes, Derry Girls returned for its long awaited second series. And to celebrate, we decided (based on a Twitter poll we conducted all of two weeks ago) that we’d be reviewing all of it as it happens week by week on this here corner of the web. So let’s begin with the series opener – which you may need a big bowl for…

To the strains of Enya’s ‘Carribean Blue’, a voiceover of Erin wistfully recalls about a weekend that changed everything and broke down walls. That is, until Orla walks in on her cousin in the bath delivering a highly convincing imaginary interview to Terry Wogan, and duly dobs her into Ma Mary.

You see, this week’s episode is so titled because our intrepid anti-heroines (and James, the wee English fella) are spending the weekend at an outdoor pursuit type thing in the countryside as an initiative to unite Catholic and Protestant school kids from Derry, called Friends Across The Barricade. Ma Mary’s giving a stern lecture to all present about Michelle’s mum not wanting her ‘good big bowl’ from the Kays mail order catalogue, and doing her face of death that no one is to return pregnant by a ‘Protestant lad’. Erin’s boasting a little too loudly about it being culturally and socially significant, and Michelle is predictably just thinking about bagging some hot Protestant ‘rides’.

A failed visit to get the Protestants a token peace offering gift from the corner shop en route ends as one might expect it to (remember when Clare did her sponsored hunger strike for the wee Ethiopians in Series 1? Exactly), so there’s nothing left to do but face the smug music of Jenny Joyce, being just as much of the annoying smug prefect stereotype, Enid Blyton school girl plait and perfectly wrapped giant peace offering gift, and dance with their paltry olive branches of a HB pencil and Ulster Bank keyring to bring peace and harmony.

An ever disparaging Sister Michael rallies them onto the mini bus, which eventually arrives at the old hostel they’re staying in – on which they’re immediately greeted by the Protestant kids, and their equivalent of Sister Michael – who forms an unlikely notional bond with the actual Sister Michael. In that respect, it’s a success:

This episode also marks the return of Father Peter and his hair mousse from the ‘smirking statue of Virgin Mary’ debacle of Series 1. This time, he leads the opening weekend whilst Jenny Joyce and her Protestant equivalent man two blackboards, as he opens up the floor to finding what similarities and differences there are between them. Again, Sister Michael’s reaction to this is priceless…

Needless to say, as the picture below demonstrates, the blackboard for ‘Differences’ is quickly fit to bursting with suggestions. ‘Protestants hate ABBA’ is ventured by Orla. ‘Catholics get a buzz from statues’ suggests Dee, one of the Protestant lads (more on him later), to which Sister Michael proffers that she does love a good statue.

Ahead of the ‘team building’ exercises the following day, the two schools are asked to ‘buddy up’ with a person from an opposite side. Michelle ‘bagsys Harry’, Erin is with Dee, Clare is with partially deaf Philip, whilst James and Orla have joint buddy-ship with Jon as there ‘aren’t enough Protestants to go round’ (He’s a bit scared of them both, James more so because of his constant assertion of being ‘a lad’).

An after hours attempt to have a contraband midnight party in their buddies’ dorm is busted on several counts – firstly when Erin tries and fails to attempt to hit on Dee, secondly when Michelle does likewise with Harry before discovering he wears a purity bracelet, and thirdly Clare realising to her horror that Philip is actually not that tolerant of their religious background at all. Oh and Jenny dobs them all in to Sister Michael on account of hearing Gabrielle’s ‘Dreams’ blasting after hours down the corridor. Sister Michael’s reaction is once again everything:

The following morning, a bleary eyed troupe of girls – including an unusually quiet and visibly panicked Clare, join Father Peter up to a cliff face for the team building exercise: abseiling. Clare goes first and is screaming blue murder as Philip hoists her down unexpectedly, at which point she spills on what he said in the dorm the night before.

An indignant Philip states that he said he hated athletes, as he thought that’s what Clare was talking about, being deaf and all that. Michelle helpfully points out that athletes and Catholics do sound similar. Pretty soon, tensions bubble over into a massive cliffside barney that abruptly ends the first (and probably last) Friends Across The Barricade weekend.

By episode’s end, our disgraced (when are they never?) Derry girls and their now ex-buddies are collected from the hostel and lectured at by their parents (including Philip’s father, who said none of this would have happened if he’d worn the £200 hearing aid he bought him). At this point, Erin walks across to the ‘Similarities’ blackboard from Father Peter’s aborted attempt at intercultural unity the day before and writes ‘PARENTS’ in capital letters, sharing a knowing smile with Dee. Far be it from us to jump ahead of ourselves, but could this be a future love interest brewing for Erin? We secretly kind of hope so. Oh, it’s class to have them back.

Oh, and props also to Granda Joe for this unusual display of solidarity for Clare, who is still very much a wee lesbian:

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