#CrazyStupidTV: Derry Girls – 2×05: ‘The Prom’

How’s about you? With the series finale less than a week away, we turn our attention to giving the craic on what happened on the penultimate episode of this series of Derry Girls, which as you’ll see, quite frankly could have been a finale episode itself. You’ll see what we mean as we go on…

It feels like we’ve not had an episode set at Our Lady Immaculate College since…well…the Child of Prague episode, which was a whole three weeks ago. And it’s been even longer since we’ve had an episode (end of first series) where Jenny Joyce and her coven of swots haven’t tormented us through the manner of song in an assembly. And not just any song this series, oh no no no. For if you thought her ‘attempt’ at ‘Love Is All Around’ was bad, there’s something worse. Namely, a self written song in the style of a barber shop quartet about how amazing Monday mornings are. Sister Michael’s reaction speaks on behalf of us all…

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Sister Michael then makes two announcements: firstly, the arrival of a new girl, Mae Cheung, who, she announces, will find she has to make adjustments from her previous life in Donegal. When Clare clocks that she’s Chinese, she immediately goes into geeky ‘please like me and join our gang’ mode. Then comes the other announcement, written by Jenny Joyce, regarding this year’s end of term formal.

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There’s the brief joy that we don’t get to hear it because Sister Michael’s too embarrassed to read it in public, and then we know why, because Jenny has decided to organise this year’s formal as a 50s themed prom, with a prize for prom queen added in. This is because everyone knows she is the ‘Theme Queen’ (why is this an actual thing?) and invites everyone to ‘feel free to let their imaginations run wild’. Michelle’s response? ‘Feel free to kiss my hole.’

A couple of days later, Clare’s trying (and failing) to rally the troops into getting Mae to be part of their gang (except Michelle, who likes the idea as long as it means they can cut James out the equation). Clare’s attempt at East-West relations by speaking word perfect Cantonese doesn’t exactly go to plan when Mae reveals herself to be fully English speaking (although Michelle begs to differ on account of the fact she went to Killybegs on holiday once and had a hard time making head or tail of what they were saying). With Mae also seemingly reluctant to follow any crowd or gang as none of them are individual, Orla then proffers that Clare is a wee lesbian to try and draw her in.

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At this point, Jenny tries to get on their territory and ensnare Mae in, but to no avail – especially given she’s agreed to go prom dress shopping at the weekend. Then the ‘Theme Queen’ makes another announcement, with Michelle’s reaction giving us two of the best lines this episode:

As the girls head to a cafe after school, they clock John Paul, a local lad that Erin briefly went out with, breaking up with his current girlfriend and alleged model (but definitely not an actress in Baywatch, as people from Derry are too pasty to be in it) Aisling. Of course, Erin’s not truly gotten over him because he’s a total ride, so she goes over to ask him out to the ‘casual thing’ (READ: the prom) because she has no shame. And of course tries to flirt again, and we know how well that went before, didn’t we? Except well, she actually gets the date.

On the way home, talk naturally turns to who they’ll be inviting to the prom now Erin’s got a total ride. Orla’s keeping the identity of her mystery man secret, Michelle’s inviting ‘this fella who works in Dunnes that’s thick as s*** but a total ride’ and Clare’s saying that she was initially going to ask James before Mae came into the equation. And for the third time running, Michelle wins the ‘one liner of the episode’ award:

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Anyway, as it turns out, the prom isn’t really James’ thing, as he has a Doctor Who convention he wants to attend that same day (despite Michelle declaring it as a creep convention). We mention this plot point now because it’ll make more sense a bit later on, as James is largely mute for the early part of this episode. Meanwhile, Ma Mary is refusing to allow Erin to invest in a new frock for the prom so she can ‘be herself’, and doesn’t care if she’s going to the prom with Pope John Paul II.

Erin’s protest at the prospect of having to wear her and Orla’s matching Easter frocks is then broken up when Granda Joe bangs the telly for picture interference and it doesn’t come back on – leading him to immediately blame (who else?) Da Gerry for the technical failure. And right before London’s Burning is about to start. Aunt Sarah’s not impressed. After all she loves the fires. And the firemen.

The following day, Michelle’s mum’s stolen credit card in hand, the gang head off prom dress shopping in Primark, with Mae in tow, so she can see ‘where the lesbians hang out’. Poor James, being used as a human coathanger, is a bit world weary of it all. Erin finds something to ‘be herself’ in which makes her walk like a duck in a strait jacket. And Orla finds something…well. Unconventional to say the least.

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They’re paying for their dresses when Mae suddenly clocks a stunning red number behind the counter. The shop assistant informs her it’s on reserve for someone – and that someone just happens to walk through the door as she says it. A scrap ensues, and obviously reeling from the rejection of her ensnaring, the ‘Theme Queen’ then displays her true colours and Mae is raging to say the least…

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She’s raging so much that she immediately starts plotting a revenge, met by choruses of approval by all except Erin, who thinks that Clare in particular is just agreeing with her to have her as a wee lesbian date and that Mae’s not really entitled to ‘hate’ Jenny Joyce having only been at the school for a few days. She’s fine about it all, honestly. Even when she walks the wrong way home in her attempt to storm off.

The night of the prom duly rolls around. A nervous Erin is waiting on John Paul to pick her up, and we learn who Orla’s mystery man is…

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It makes for this moment at the prom a bit later on that we couldn’t help but feel a bit emosh about. Call it an Irish thing, if you will.

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Clare’s revelling in the attention of being with a (still raging) Mae when her old school friend, Kris, comes over and introduces himself and gets chatting to Clare. Only then does Clare learn why Mae has moved from Donegal, as she was asked to leave her last school for being a bit well…psychotic.

Meanwhile, with Erin still waiting at home, and it being over an hour after John Paul’s promised arrival time, she’s having to face up to the fact that she’s been stood up to the strains of Scarlet’s ‘Independent Love Song’. Ma Mary does her best to comfort her in a touching moment of pathos, and she’s just about to waddle back upstairs in defeat when the doorbell goes…

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James then says Ma Mary rang and that he didn’t have a Doctor Who convention to be at after all, as Erin quickly rushes upstairs to change into something she can ‘be herself’ in…yes, the Easter dress!

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Well, we did say at the start of this series that romance might be on the cards for Erin. We’re not sure if we’re here for her and James or not yet but this was undeniably a special moment.

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Cut back to the prom, and a panicked Clare is wondering how to stop Mae exacting revenge on Jenny, when it’s announced that it’s time to reveal who won the title of ‘Prom Queen’ and it becomes abundantly clear what the Donegal delinquent has planned – to ruin Jenny’s red dress by pouring a bucket of pig’s blood, Carrie stylee over her during her moment of crowning glory. Cue a frantic dash to the stage in an inevitable finale that renders Michelle unable to return her dress the following day…

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(By the way, it was tomato juice.) Meanwhile, back at Chez Quinn, Da Gerry’s still trying to get the TV to work again, to the fury of Ma Mary and Aunt Sarah, who have already missed Coronation Street. The TV starts working again just in time for UTV Newsroom to run with the breaking news that the IRA have declared a ceasefire.

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As with episode 1×06, Lisa McGee excels herself with her writing here, showing that there was still hope in such a difficult time, and that life, as confusing, frustrating and joyful as it could be, went on. If this doesn’t win the show the BAFTA it’s been nominated for next month then the voting panel need to catch themselves on, quite frankly.

Wow, what a rollercoaster episode. Next week: the actual finale, and President Clinton’s visit…

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