Warning: contains major spoilers for Big Boys season 2.


Big Boys is a kind of homecoming for creator Jack Rooke. The show — based on his Edinburgh Fringe special Happy Hour — is a journey into Jack's most formative years, where he first explored life as an adult gay man at Brent Uni.

Yet, amid the butt plugs and glory holes, Jack's early sexcapades came at a painful time. His father, Laurie, had died not long before, and a new friendship with Danny, his straight best friend, would also teach Jack a great deal about mental health struggles, even though the friendship itself is a kind, deeply loving one.

This connection is the backbone of the show in so many ways, and the fourth episode of season 2 drives this home when Jack tries to plan the perfect birthday party for his mate.

Things inevitably go wrong, though, sitcom-style, except Big Boys isn't just a typical sitcom that prioritises laughs above all else.

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Although Jack chose not to play himself in his story, he's always present as the narrator, looking back at what happened all those years ago. That instantly makes the show feel more personal, not just because it's his memories, but also because of the way Jack's narration directly addresses both Danny and us as "you", as if we're a friend there in the moment, being confided in.

Jack's voice is heard at the periphery of every episode, nostalgically recalling events with the benefit of time and hindsight, but Surprise, Surprise! is a little different.

Fittingly enough, the episode takes a surprise turn around two-thirds of the way in, when Danny discovers that his father only came back to take Nan's house away from him.

Well, that wasn't particularly surprising. The man is clearly a scumbag, but it's what happens next that shocks most (and hits even harder as a result).

Jack (Dylan Llewellyn) & Danny (Jon Pointing) dancing together in a club
Jack (Dylan Llewellyn) and Danny (Jon Pointing) in Big Boys.

"You'd often leave parties without saying goodbye," says Jack as Danny finds a bench to sit on alone in the cold night air. "We'd pretend it was because you pulled some fit girl, but we'd all know it's because something in your head's gone on."

That's when Danny looks up, exasperated, and says, "Can we just not?" as if he's heard Jack's narration first-hand. And that's because he has.

This break in reality jolts, because the show is incredibly realistic for the most part, aside perhaps from that Tesco Meal Deal sex scene from season 1.

The jolt is deliberate, though. It reminds us that the Danny we see before us isn't actually the real Danny that Jack once knew. It's his memory of a friend long gone, a construct created in his mind to help Jack reckon with past traumas in his life.

So begins a conversation between Fictional Danny and Real Jack, where the narrator apologises for intruding. Danny needs his space, and omniscient commentary about his life isn't helping.

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"I just want… Sometimes it's best if I'm just on my own, OK?" says Danny. "I just, I don't want to burden anyone."

The scene cuts to the real Jack Rooke sitting beside Danny on the bench, who says, "You really couldn't burden us, mate. I get it."

"God, I'm just so sick of… every time I think it's going to be different, and…"

Danny's words are cut off when Yemi suddenly appears to check in on him and see if he's OK. They talk of family, and chosen family in particular, reminding Danny that he's never alone as long as his friends are there by his side.

Jack (Dyllan Llewellyn), Corinne (Izuka Hoyle), Danny (Jon Pointing) and Yemi (Olisa Odele) sitting together on a brown leather sofa
Jack (Dylan Llewellyn), Corinne (Izuka Hoyle), Danny (Jon Pointing) and Yemi (Olisa Odele) in Big Boys.

But still, it's the brief cameo from Jack that resonates most.

When Yemi appeared, the real Jack vanished, because present-day Jack can't be there for Danny in the way that this version of Yemi could in this moment.

The real Jack appeared in season 1 as well, just momentarily, and his return here in the fourth episode signifies Jack's need to now grapple with the past beyond just writing this show.

Here, he directly addresses Danny with an apology, something that he could never do now, outside the realm of fiction.

Jack's extra involvement, which is already remarkably tangible for a sitcom of this nature, becomes even more poignant at the end of the sixth, final episode of season 2.

The Night When actually spans a night and a day. The night when Shannon gives birth to Laurencienna Miller (don't quote our spelling on that) and the day when the family said goodbye to Laurie in the hospice opposite.

As the family prepares for the baby's arrival, we see everyone say goodbye to Laurie one-on-one. And when the birth actually kicks off, the scene shifts back and forth between Nanny Bingo's joy and the moment when she bid farewell to her adult son.

Annette Badland won't get the award recognition she deserves for this, but anyone who's suffered loss will see their pain reflected back in her eyes with such uncanny knowing that it deserves a shout-out here.

Rooke isn't the first to make that full-circle connection between life and death, but it's rare to see this from such a raw, heartfelt perspective that encompasses not just his own grief, but also everything the rest of his family endured as well.

It's a big responsibility to bear, and words alone aren't quite enough, so Jack returns again for a much longer cameo, this time at the very end.

"And it was in this room that, for the first time since my dad died, everything just felt right," narrates Jack. "Like everyone belonged with each other… In this very moment, it felt like the joy of loving someone new felt bigger than the pain of missing someone gone."

The real Jack then appears outside the room, watching his family come together through the blinds, just out of reach. Because this moment is in the past for him now. He's looking back, and with that closure found Jack walks out of the hospital, where he finds Laurie waiting for him outside.

The song Seasons (Waiting On You) by Future Islands plays with the refrain "because I've been waiting for you", as Jack steps into his father's cab.

"Let's go home," says Laurie.

"Let's go home," replies Jack, who we now get to see face-on for the first time since this series started.

Dylan Llewellyn as Jack in Big Boys sitting in a white shirt with casette players on it
Dylan Llewellyn as Jack in Big Boys. Channel 4

Earlier on in the episode, Jack's father promised to drive everyone back home again after their first visit to the hospice, "unable to quantify that he might not".

Laurie can finally do exactly that now - and for the real Jack, no less. Here in this fictional realm of memory, where neither life nor death can fully reach, Jack is able to reckon with the past and find closure by getting to do all the things he never could the first time around, like say sorry to Danny or drive home with his dad.

It's almost like Jack was testing the waters earlier on with Danny, tentatively reaching back into the past to try and undo what went wrong, or at least imagine something better for the people he loves.

In doing so, Jack goes on to find closure, both for himself and also the fictional Jack, who exists in his memories.

Reckoning with the past is no easy feat, especially when it's done in such a physical, public way, but there's also comfort to be found in coming home like this. And now, thanks to Big Boys, Jack was able to go home with the father he lost, helping Laurie keep a promise he never was able to in real life.

Big Boys season 2 is available to watch now on Channel 4. Check out more of our Comedy coverage or visit our TV Guide or Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.


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