**WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE FINAL EPISODE OF YEARS AND YEARS**
Redemption, action and a whole lot of tears: the finale of BBC1’s staggeringly ambitious series Years and Years had plenty of both. Yet, despite making confident predictions about the rise of bio-tech and a populist Prime Minister, the drama finished with a surprisingly uncertain ending, leaving viewers with some major questions.
And unfortunately, we’ll never get answers on-screen: there won’t be another series of Years and Years, as the show will end after just one run as planned.
But we spoke to writer Russell T Davies to get his insight into the dystopic and, at times, hopeful finale.
- When is Years and Years on TV?
- Meet the cast of Years and Years
- The Years and Years cast explain why the series is like Black Mirror but “less dystopian”
Firstly, there’s the question of Vivienne Rook, the British tyrant played by Emma Thompson who was finally exposed as running several death camps across the country.
Although we see her led away by police outside Downing Street, her fate is far from sure: the show suggests that Rook either lives out her days in prison, escapes and is on the run, or she’s haunted by the digital spirit of Edith (Jessica Hynes) and forced to run through an endless corridor until the end of time.
So, which is the definitive ending? Davies says there isn’t one.
“It’s for the viewer to make up their own mind – it’s as simple as that,” he said. “You can believe what Edith says or you can think [Rook] was just taken away outside Downing Street, put in a car and left staring out in a very Thatcher-esque way. It’s all about choices.
“It would be a shame if Viv Rook was just arrested and sentenced to prison. I think she’s caused so much harm, so much death. Actually, as a viewer, I think you want more of an ending to that. You want more of a punishing ending to her. You want her to meet her doom in that corridor. Well, Emma Thompson did, anyway – she loved that bit!”
However, the finale also warned that Britain wasn’t safe forever, with another populist leader – the politician with a spinning bow tie shown on Question Time during the episode’s close – on the rise.
“I didn’t want to make it look like the downfall of Viv Rook led us into the sunny planes of Nirvana where all our problems will be over,” Davies explained. “People will still suffer. The country will go from highs to lows, from left to right.”
He added: “People always compare Viv Rook to Nigel Farage or to Boris Johnson or Trump. Actually, the real point of Vivienne Rook is that she’s like us. She sounds like everyone on Twitter all the time – she has that aggression, that sense of humour, that literal takedown of any person, issue or thing.
“That’s us. We wonder where Donald Trump came from and then we go online and talk like that. And we wonder where all the anger comes from.
“Those people are not separate from us – they’re part of our personality.”
Of course, Rook’s fate isn’t the only ambiguous one. Viewers never find out what happens to Edith, specifically whether her trans-human operation was a success. Although we see scientists upload Edith’s memories to the cloud (via a few futuristic water tanks) as the character dies, we never find out if her consciousness lives on.
Instead, we see the Lyons family gathered around a device (the old Alexa-type machine Señor from past episodes), the screen cutting to black after grandmother Muriel asks the digital version of Edith “is that you?”.
Did Edith survive? “I will never answer that question,” says Davies. “That’s the end. That’s the last episode […] you’ll be kept in suspense forever.”
While we may never get a definitive answer, perhaps this question misses the point slightly. Davies was keen to highlight Edith’s final words, a speech questioning what is human identity and whether each person is just part of one larger entity: love.
Although Davies said he wrote this dialogue in 30 seconds (“not allowing for the ten years of thought that built up to that, though!”), he claimed keeping it in the script took a lot of guts.
“I can absolutely guarantee you there’ll be people rapidly taking the piss out of that. It takes a lot of nerve and a deep breath to say ‘I believe in this speech and I’m going to transmit this on BBC1. That I believe the human race has this potential – the fact that we can love and be loved,” he explained.
“Wherever we use the word love, there’s a certain amount of embarrassed, usually male, viewership watching, thinking ‘you can’t do that, put a gun in their hand!’. There will be people taking the piss and I don’t care. Go and watch something else!
“They’re the kind of people that I’ll never be friends with, never bother with. I think it’s wonderful and I’m immensely proud of it.”
And not only is Davies full of pride that he kept in this speech about human identity and love in a BBC1 drama, but he says he couldn’t be happier tackling these themes with the show’s very last line. After all, “is that you?” isn’t just a question Muriel asks Edith, but something that Davies is putting to all viewers.
“That’s what the whole series is asking – ‘how much of everyone else are you?’” he explains excitedly.
“It’s the best three words you could possibly end on. It’s the perfect ending.”