One of my favorite creative genres, and one of the least utilized, is grounded speculative fiction (which I’m now calling GSF). It’s where you imagine how our world might logically unfold in the next 5, 10, 50 years, based on conceivable technological breakthroughs and historical patterns. At first glance, it may seem like sci-fi, but usually sci-fi involves suspension of disbelief for the sake of art. Even when sci-fi stories seem realistic, there’s often a sense of, ‘I suppose this couldn’t really happen, but I’ll allow it for the sake of the story.’
Years and Years is a shining example of the GSF genre done well. It’s a shockingly plausible story of a family living through the turbulent 20’s – the 2020’s. There’s political upheaval typified by Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson), a nationalist, populist, proudly ignorant, foul-mouthed firebrand whose political career unfolds throughout the series. There’s a financial crisis, unemployment, climate change, tech addiction… If you think life now is stressful, the impending world of the 20’s may not be better.
But that’s the point of the show: this is how the world works. Things get worse, then better, then worse, then better, and it goes on, and in a hundred years nobody remembers it, so there’s really not much point in panicking. It’s oddly comforting for being so nihilistic. Because at the heart of it all are real people, choosing either to fight back, to give up, or to make the best of things. In this case, it’s the Lyons family: a diverse ensemble of characters who, cheesy as it sounds, discover what’s truly important amidst the chaos around them. The show may reel you in with its dire Black Mirror predictions about our near future, but the characters at its core give you hope that, in the grand scheme of things, it’ll all be okay.