Top Boy: "No Loose Ends" | Talking Screen take a look at the final season!
There is a moment towards the end of the seminal fourth season of The Wire that fans of the show will remember well, in which Michael, a formerly soft-spoken teen, commits to life as a drug dealer. He does so not due to a longing for notoriety or power, but because this is the hand he and so many other Baltimore residents have been dealt. It is one of the most devastating scenes ever constructed by the show’s creator David Simon, chiefly due to the depressing predictability of its outcome and the pain and suffering it foreshadows.
Ronan Bennett’s Top Boy has long been compared with Simon’s magnum opus and, while its fifth and final series does not quite match that seldom seen gold standard, it is every bit as sobering. With lifelong friends turned business partners Dushane (Ashley Walters) and Sully (Kane Robinson) now at odds, the crooked ecosystem of the Summerhouse estate crumbles before our eyes over the course of this six-episode swansong.
There are plenty of twists and turns to be endured throughout Top Boy’s final act (some which make more sense than others), with the show’s propensity to shock its audience not dwindling one iota. The first half, in which Sully’s new-found empire and Dushane’s retirement fund is jeopardised by a group of Irish mobsters led by the always-impressive Barry Keoghan, is definitely stronger than the final three episodes, which feel rushed and at times somewhat illogical.
Nonetheless, all of the ingredients that have made Top Boy such a televisual triumph are there - its painful depiction of the grim realities of life within the drug trade, the senselessly violent consequences of gang culture, and the socio-economic damage caused by the UK’s cold and unfeeling government and the capitalist ventures which benefit so greatly from our current status quo. That is without mentioning Jasmine Jobson’s powerful performance as Jaq, Sully’s street-smart lieutenant who is forced to question her life’s purpose after a devastating tragedy befalls her family. While not the only stellar performer to be found amongst the Top Boy cast, Jobson continues to be the most impressive.
For those reason alone, this can be considered a satisfying conclusion to one of the outstanding series of recent years. Few shows, if any, manage to nail their ending, and Top Boy is no exception to that rule, but it crucially remains true to the essence that made it so special right until its bloody finale, ensuring its sign-off is every bit as impactful as everything that preceded it.