BBC Three TV review: The Young Offenders Season 2
Ivan Radford | On 03, Nov 2019Reading time: 4 mins
Hot on the heels of Derry Girls’ sophomore run come the BBC Three boys, as the online channel’s superb sitcom The Young Offenders returns for a second season. And the duo are funnier, and sweeter, than ever.
Based on the movie of the same name, the series follows the misadventures of Conor McPherson (Alex Murphy) and Jock (Chris Walley), two local hoodlums who run riot in Cork, with an eye for getting into trouble and two heads full of, well, nothing. The nice-but-dim-but-nice pair won our hearts with their hysterical first season, which showed no sign of running out of silly scrapes for them to get into. Based on Season 2’s opening three episodes made available for review, the show’s foul-mouthed ingenuity isn’t going anywhere any time soon – and neither are their haircuts, which make Timothee Chalamet in Netflix’s The King look like a style icon.
We catch up with them as they’re doing what they do best: tearing through the town on bicycles, being pursued by the garda. Because, in Jock’s logic, the officers never lock their bikes because nobody would be stupid enough to steal them. “Nobody but us,” says Conor.
Murphy and Walley’s performances are pitch-perfect, with both so at home in their characters that such deadpan dull-wittery comes as second nature. From their facial expression to the way they run, they’re able to make their misguided understanding of the world both funny and endearing, as they repeatedly land themselves in hot water, yet always have the best intentions – either because they’re thinking of someone else, or because they’re trying to support or follow the advice of the other.
With their dynamic firmly established, Season 2 gives writer and creator Peter Foott more time to round out their characters and test their friendship. Episode 2 sees a childhood friend of Jock – Gavin – arrive at school, prompting feelings of jealousy in Conor, while Episode 3 continues to flesh out the bittersweet memory of Conor’s dad.
Jock, though, gets the biggest chance to grow and mature – well, slightly – as he finds himself confronted with the very serious reality of girlfriend Siobhan (Jennifer Barry) being pregnant. This, of course, is a nightmare for her dad, Principal Walsh (PJ Gallagher), and that, in itself, makes for laugh-out-loud viewing: Gallagher’s wonderfully childish presence only gets better and better, as his man in a position of authority increasingly loses any semblance of dignity or respect. A challenge by him for Jock to look after an egg for 30 days is predictably brilliant, while a confrontation between the two involving an analogy about a dog and its tale is inspiredly awkward.
While Jock is getting anxious, Conor is trying to prove his own masculinity with Linda (Demi Isaac Oviawe). And so he starts following Jock’s guide to foreplay, which literally breaks it down into four stages, each one more useless than the last. “A watch pot never boils, Linda!” yells Conor, simultaneously angry and vulnerable, during one heated exchange. Jennifer Barry and Demi Isaac Oviawe both remain excellent foils to our lead double act, managing to do more than merely roll their eyes with amusing disdain, while also bringing enough sincerity to their unlikely relationships that you actually do want them to stick together.
In between them all are a gaggle of cackle-inducing scene-stealers, from Sergeant Healy (Dominic McHale), who’s still trying to cement his own credentials as a father figure but is hardly a positive role model, to Billy Murphy (Shane Casey), the wonderfully intimidating town bully who can be stopped in his tracks by a biscuit.
The real star of the show, though, emerges as Conor’s mother, Mairead, who is played with attitude and affection by the sublime Hilary Rose. She’s as sweary as the two boys she keeps an eye on, but supportive and considerate too, knowing just when to drop an honest admission or sage piece of advice – even it is to admit that she doesn’t know what she’s doing either. The result manages to be crass and cute, innocent and awkward, crafting farcical set-ups with a sentimental precision: Episode 3 climaxes in a showdown involving the school’s speaker system that’s nail-biting, heart-warming and side-splitting all at once.
All that and never too busy to ride a bicycle down an up escalator, The Young Offenders’ sublime second season is expertly performed, deftly written and very, very funny. Give us a Season 3 now, please.
The Young Offenders Season 2 is on BBC iPlayer until November 2020. Season 1 is available until June 2020.