What I thought about: Top Boy (Season 3)

The gritty drug-dealing crime drama is back, and this time it’s in Dolby Vision. With a longer US-style episode run (ten of them!) there’s more time to explore thought-provoking stories amongst the chaos.

Dushane is back. Dris is whack. And then there’s Jaq.

What’s it about?
Top Boy the franchise looks at the scramble to become the top drug dealer in the postcode — in this case the fictional Summerhouse estate (filmed in the very real Hackney, East London). You should watch the previous seasons which aired first on Channel 4 and are now available on Netflix for a good introduction to some of the main characters. However due to the show’s 6-year hiatus and mostly refreshed cast, it’s not mandatory.

Top Boy Season 3 is about Dushane’s return to Summerhouse following exile in Jamaica, no doubt due to the events of Season 2. At the same time, partner-in-crime Sully gets released from prison. While they’ve been away, Dushane’s henchman Dris has been running Summerhouse, although they’re making small time money. Their main top-level supplier has been the Turks who charge quite a high price for the food.

In neighbouring London Fields, young Jamie is looking to fill the place of his gang leader, Modie, who was recently locked up for a very long time. With a new supplier – charging a much lower price – he plans to become Hackney’s top boy by supplying wholesale to Summerhouse and neighbouring gangs.

Dushane. Sully. Jamie. Modie. All very powerful forces, all willing to do some pretty violent things to become Top Boy.

What do I like about it?
Top Boy manages to be gritty, poignant, and thrilling all in one. The more violent parts of the show are finely balanced with themes of childish innocence, racism, and poverty.

The cast are phenomenal and the show (although I am not an expert) paints a pretty real picture of the reality facing many teenagers and young people on London estates. See if you can spot the code-switching employed by Dushane. On the one hand he’s articulate and caring (when he’s with his mother, or a potential love interest) and on the other hand he’s sweary and ruthless (when barking orders to his crew).

What do I not like about it?
Okay, some people won’t like the slower pace adopted in this season. I’ll take ten episodes of Top Boy over four any day, but there’s about the same amount of action in the former as there was in the latter.

Some aspects of the plot are also a bit spotty in places, a bit far-fetched considering the more accurate parts of the show.

Worth a watch?
Check the premise. Not everyone is going to want to watch a show like this, and some of the scenes are quite harrowing. If you know what you’re getting yourself in for, though, I’m happy to report that the show’s revival definitely delivers.

By the way…

  • The show was brought back in part by Drake, and you can definitely tell it has a bigger budget. Some beautiful scenes were shot in sunny Jamaica.
  • The show has allegedly been renewed for a fourth season due to air later in 2020, and the ending definitely sets up for this.