Finally got round to watching Shane Meadows follow up to This Is England and how very good it was too. Not only was I surprised by how funny the first 2 episodes were, but by how light they were on the whole. The comedy far outweighed the weightier material and a lot of it was truly inspired. I actually think my favourite moment in the whole series was a comedy moment from very early when a gang of biker youths have to turn round in the road to bully Shaun; just a perfectly pitched comedy moment.
Meadows did not direct the first 2 episodes and when he does the drama becomes more prevalent, although the turn in tone is played perfectly across the episode climaxing in a tough final 10 minutes. Up to here this is a truly magnificent series and everything is set for a brilliantly finale, but it doesn't quite make it. The final episode is very good, just not great.
The main problem, for me, was one of predictability and convenience and it can be pinpointed on one character; the return of Combo. Suddenly you have a character appear who's completely changed from the one we know and love/loathe with no real explanation and can only ever serve the purpose of giving everything a neat end. He's a deus ex machina, essentially. By not appearing until the very end there is never any time to learn anything about him and he didn't really ring true because of this.
There's also an element of the other stories being pushed aside to make way for the big emotional hit and I missed them. Maybe if there had been 5 episodes with the final episode being extended into 2, the act of violence ending the 4th episode, it could have finished as brilliantly as it started. It probably would have been a more hard going ending, but it could've been phenomenal.
Still a very very good series that does the brilliant film justice. I'm looking forward to 4 years time when we may get, with a bit of luck, This Is England '90 when we get a music montage of Gazza crying while Gadget chokes on his own vomit after a smack overdose!