An Irish goodbye to ‘Derry Girls’


Marina Yasuna

Illustration by

Katie Langley, News Editor

Netflix’s British sitcom “Derry Girls” released its third and final season on Oct. 7, catching up with a beloved group of teenagers among the struggles and hilarity of growing up in conflict.

Set in Northern Ireland in the 1990s – during the period historically known as the Troubles – “Derry Girls” follows Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), her cousin Orla (Louisa Harland) and their friends Clare (Nicola Coughlan), Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) and Michelle’s English cousin James (Dylan Llewellyn). The show premiered in 2018 and has since become one of my favorite shows and the source of many of my family’s shared inside jokes.

Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle and James– referred to as “the girls” by every other character, though James is a boy – come from Catholic families and attend an all-girls Catholic school (yes, even James).

The third season takes place as the conflict between Protestant-English and Irish-Catholic sects begins to recede, culminating in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that put an end to the violence. It’s a bittersweet reflection on girlhood, progress and friendship.

In this season, the girls find themselves in all types of predicaments, from getting arrested, to belting out a Spice Girls number, to finding a haunted house and faking their way into a Fatboy Slim concert. Oh, and did I mention Liam Neeson and Chelsea Clinton make guest appearances in this season?

We also learn more about some familiar characters, with an entire episode flashing back to the teenage antics of the girls’ mothers when they were in high school. This is one of the best episodes of the season because the mothers – Mary, Sarah, Geraldine and Janette (and Janette’s cousin, Rob) – perfectly mirror the daughters.

In one scene, we even see the group giving themselves tattoos in the Catholic school bathroom. They still have these tattoos, and their connection to each other years later.

It’s clear where the girls get their humor from, and there’s no shortage of funny scenes in season three. A recurring theme in all three seasons is that the girls make fun of James relentlessly for being English – a hint to their nationalist inclinations.

In one scene, the girls volunteer James to fight a bigger guy over concert tickets. When he runs away instead, Erin says, “But you’re English, James, about five of you managed to colonize half the planet, we thought you might have something up your sleeve.”

One of my favorite characters, Sister Michael, a nun and the headmistress of the girls’ school, is back in full force in season three. Sister Michael is an absolute delight; she thrives off scaring children and throwing out quippy remarks at priests. In this season, we see a new depth to Sister Michael’s character when she refuses to leave the school she’s devoted her life’s work to despite the Church’s request.

“Derry Girls” season three comes with new relationships too. Clare, who came out as lesbian in season two, has a brief love interest in this season and we see the relationship between James and Erin transform into something new.

The series ends with a double-header of two tear-jerking episodes, where the characters experience a serious loss and contemplate voting on the Good Friday Agreement. In the last episode, Clare and Michelle argue over whether political militants should be released from prison, and the audience discovers that Michelle’s brother was likely involved in the Irish Resistance.

Despite everything, the girls come together as the referendum is passed, ushering in a new era for the city of Derry and Northern Ireland as a whole. Show writer Lisa McGee parallels Erin and Orla’s 18th birthdays with the changing of political tides, and I couldn’t think of a better way to end the series. Of course, I’m sad that “Derry Girls” had to end, but I’m grateful to have experienced the journey.