UK TV review: Dead Pixels Season 2
Sophie Davies | On 02, Feb 2021
After defeating the hive mother and slaying goodness knows how many low-level bears, Meg (Alexa Davies), Nicky (Will Merrick) and friends are back for the second outing of E4 gaming comedy Dead Pixels.
Series 2 picks things up eight months later, on the long awaited day that a Kingdom Scrolls expansion pack is released. Nicky is relieved that “the content drought is finally over” and Meg has fashioned herself some special “laptop trousers” in case she needs to go mobile. Across the Atlantic, Usman (Sargon Yelda) is supposedly making more of an effort with his wife and children, but still seizes every opportunity he can to log on. Meanwhile, Meg and Nicky’s non-gamer flatmate Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) is heading off on a week-long holiday to Greece and praying that neither of her friends will urinate in any of her good drinking glasses while she’s away.
However, disaster strikes (in the gaming world, anyway) when the expansion pack doesn’t quite live up to expectations… The gang are unimpressed by the introduction of a new half-person/half-fish race, and it isn’t long before Meg is crying that she’s wasted all of her annual leave. Nicky has resignedly become addicted to wasting his real-life money on in-game loot boxes, to the point where he’s considering cashing in his ISA for Kingdom coins. And to make matters even worse, a Kingdom Scrolls video has gone viral on TikTok, causing the game to become overrun with new, young players who don’t know how the game works.
Much like other shows that creator Jon Brown has written for (including Peep Show, Fresh Meat and Succession), Dead Pixels centres on astoundingly self-absorbed characters, with humour often coming from their lack of a moral compass. For instance, to “take back” their game from generation Fortnite, the group have no qualms about setting up “a sort of concentrated camp” so they can slaughter the young players, one of whom is Usman’s own daughter. But while Meg and Nicky have confidence among their own circle, this bravado tends to crumble when they’re faced with the outside world – and Alexa Davies and Will Merrick deliver performances that are just the right level of unhinged. When Nicky is tasked with letting a plumber into the flat to fix the boiler, he complains that it’s “like making a shrew answer the door to an owl”. And when Meg is overcome with lust and attempts to flirt with said plumber, she spontaneously promises to rustle him up a “six-egg breakfast” and trots out a crude, pipe-based pick-up line.
In Season 1, Alison functioned as a sort of polar opposite to her flatmates, leading a grown-up life of healthy dinners, dating and casually learning to play the flute. In Season 2, she becomes a more rounded character and gets increasingly involved in Meg and Nicky’s lives, as opposed to watching them, concerned, from the sidelines. In one episode, she even convinces them to help her clean the kitchen when they’re stuck waiting hours for a game update. There are also signs that Alison’s life isn’t quite as perfect and organised as it seems, with revelations about a man she met in Greece and has continued seeing afterwards.
As Alison’s life quietly goes off the rails – and she refuses to let her smile slip – Meg and Nicky surprisingly begin to take some more adult steps. Meg is no longer pursuing a sexual relationship with Russell (David Mumeni), who thankfully still makes scene-stealing appearances as a side character, and she somehow manages to get herself a proper boyfriend, even if she does set up packets of nuts and car magazines as bait to distract him while she tries to defeat a boss in the game. Love is also in the air for Nicky, who strikes up a relationship with another Kingdom Scrolls player called Daisychainsaw (Rose Matafeo). Of course it’s far from plain sailing because, being an attractive, female gamer, Daisy has inadvertently acquired a group of disciples (or as Meg calls them, “a cult of masturbators”) in the game, who coordinate attacks on Nicky when she takes a shine to him. There’s an excellent guest star turn from Al Roberts (Stath Lets Flats) as the cult’s weasely leader.
As a flatshare sitcom about 20-somethings obsessing over the pettiest of things, with consistently witty, quotable dialogue to boot, Dead Pixels really does feel like a spiritual successor to Peep Show. There’s still a lot of scope for adventure, both within the gaming world and in the characters’ personal lives, so hopefully there are plenty more levels to come.
Dead Pixels: Season 1 and 2 is available on All 4.