Jul 07, 2021
By Lily Moayeri
Photography by Courtesy of Channel 4
Two years is too long to wait to be reunited with the funny, sensitive characters of This Way Up. The British series, whose first season premiered in 2019, revolves around Aine (pronounced Onya) played by Irish comedian Aisling Bea, who is also This Way Up’s creator and writer. The half-hour show shares some similarities with the overrated Fleabag and the underrated Back to Life in that the main character is a flawed but imminently likeable woman who is attempting to return to some semblance of normalcy, as it were.
This Way Up is wholly its own thing. There is a natural feel and inherent relatability to the characters Bea has developed. She plays Aine effortlessly, tossing out razor-sharp quips non-stop. You have to keep your wits about you to catch her jokes as they are threaded through every line and every movement.
It’s a pleasure to see Aine returning to her life wholeheartedly, starting a new business and a new relationship with her tutee’s father, Richard (Game of Thrones’ Tobias Menzies). This sounds predictable but it is anything but. There are plenty of bumps, and while Aine uses humor both as a defense mechanism and armor, she doesn’t hide from herself. And really, she’s just straight up funny, which makes her vulnerable moments all that much more intense.
The other central characters’ storylines are more defined and have more airtime this season. With her sister Shona (Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan) focusing less on Aine having another breakdown, she navigates her dynamics with her business partner Charlotte (Game of Thrones’ Indira Varma) with whom she had an affair. Charlotte, in turn, provides some biting commentary and understandably angry exchanges, which no one but Shona can be on the receiving end of as she has kept their affair very quiet. Shona’s boyfriend Vish (Younger’s Aasif Mandvi) is wonderfully clueless about it all and more worried about the pristine decorations of his suburban home being disturbed by her moving in.
As Aine’s relationship with Richard is progressing and he goes from stoic to clingy, there are energy shifts in her exchanges with her roommate Bradley (Chewing Gum’s Kadiff Kirwan), and with her boss James (Ekow Quartey), either of which we would absolutely ship. The season finale hints at the pandemic and having Aine and Bradley trapped in their flat together is both terrifying and exciting.
There is something both current and timeless about This Way Up. It touches on many modern-day elements and while it pokes fun at them, it doesn’t do so in a pointed way where the viewer would think, “Of course you have to make fun of that.” Even the inclusion factor of This Way Up is natural and believable, and its management of mental health issues is respectful and personal. Six episodes feel like a lifetime with these wonderful people. At the same time, it’s not nearly enough. (www.hulu.com/series/this-way-up)
Author rating: 8/10
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