It has been six years since the last episode of the branded ‘Britain’s answer to The Wire’ was on UK screens. After the shock cancellation of Top Boy, this comparison to the Holy Grail of crime shows began to feel like a cruel joke. Fans were left to ask themselves ‘What might have been?’ had Channel 4 backed the explosive first 2 series of the show with the same time and money that HBO invested into The Wire.
From when it first hit UK televisions, Top Boy was different. It was raw, and won its cult following as it hit its audience harder and with a more brutal honesty to anything else in the immediate aftermath of the London riots. The show tapped into a side of London which had not been represented and unforgivingly depicted the grim realities of growing up trapped in a system of social and physical violence.
The London borough of Hackney has changed since a lot Dushane and Sully patrolled its streets the best part of a decade ago. The rulers of the fictional Summerhouse estate find themselves changed too, after years on the run and at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. The game, however, remains the same. Fight to survive, earn your respect, and do whatever it takes to be Top Boy.
It is a cry in anguish for the years of poverty, austerity and neglect, with the great cultural-scrubbing spectre of gentrification looming above.
The latest instalments of the show continue to deliver the same stopping power of the previous series without compromising any of its identity or integrity. Perhaps this is the reason Drake chose not to make an appearance in the show (besides briefly in the soundtrack), so as not to detract from the authenticity of this inner-city lamentation. It is a cry in anguish for the years of poverty, austerity and neglect, with the great cultural-scrubbing spectre of gentrification looming above.
So the long wait has been worth it, and series 3 successfully holds a mirror overlooked underbelly of our cities, showing it warts and all. Top Boy has once more rightly staked its claim for the crown once more. And to cap off this explosive showcase of UK talent, the foundations of an exciting new series are already in place. No longer will we have to ask ourselves ‘What might have been?’ but ‘What could be?’