One of the most anticipated releases on Netflix in recent times, Top Boy comes back into our lives with a bang after two initial series in 2011 and 2013. These series, each consisting of 4 episodes, portrayed a raw, real representation of the dark, violent drug scene in London. It was known for its authentic portrayal of events, with a dark, honest narrative and a young, dynamic cast.
When the show was cancelled, Top Boy fans mourned the loss of a brilliant programme that had so much more to offer. Importantly, one of those fans was rap superstar Drake, who, after hearing the show had been cancelled, decided to use his influence to bring it back. 6 years since the last series, Top Boy returned on 13th September 2019, this time supercharged with Drake as an executive producer and a Netflix budget.
Boy, was it worth it.
Top Boy retains all of its gritty rawness despite this higher profile. They maintain the authenticity of filming in real London drug-dealing locations, as well as taking us as far afield as Ramsgate in Kent. Oh, and Jamaica.
This new, re-energised Top Boy tells the story of Dushane Hill, who is set on becoming the ‘top boy’ – the undisputed person at the top of the pile in terms of respect and power. The narrative plays in real-time, so the events are set 6 years after the last series takes place. Dushane has been away from London, in Jamica for that time (the end of the second series unofficially explains why, we’re never told the exact reason) and comes back to see a lot has changed. Sully is approaching the end of a prison sentence, and new powerhouse Jamie is currently head of a rival group in Fields. Summerhouse, where Dushane used to rule, has dropped down the rankings in its prominence. No one remembers who Dushane is, and he makes it his mission to get back on top. This transpires to be a much more difficult task than he first thought.
Much of the original cast are brought back for the new Top Boy (which is now 10 episodes, as opposed to the 4 in the first two series respectively) and this is great to see as they’ve all aged up since the last series, and we’re brought straight back to the world and characters we’re familiar with, with some new additions. The returning characters include Dushane, Sully, Dris, Gem, Jason and Jermaine, whilst some notable new ones are Jamie, Modie and Shelley, as well as a huge amount of young actors brought in who make up the cast.
The acting is sensational, and really impressive. More so, when you realise the majority of the cast are first-time actors, particularly a large amount of the young people brought in to be a part of the series. Ashley Walters (Dushane), Kane ‘Kano’ Robinson (Sully) and Micheal Ward (Jamie) are remarkable standouts, but credit to David ‘Dave’ Omoregie (Modie) and Simbi ‘Little Simz’ Ajikawo (Shelley) who, famous for their music, give amazing acting performances in their respective roles. This great article interviews some of the young cast about their experience.
Top Boy is exciting. If you thought it was exciting before, it’s been ramped up big time for this series. Gunfights, violence, drugs, danger on every corner. No character is safe, and it’s brutal when it comes to killing off major characters – they don’t hold back. It’s seriously dark, and will shock you. Some of the scenes you can’t believe your eyes… and this is magnified when you realise these things actually happen – as much as 85% of what you see, according to Dris actor Shone Romulus, is a fictionalisation based on real life. That really increases the impact of what you’re watching.
However, despite the grittiness, gang rivalry and violence, there is another side to Top Boy; authentic, real relationships, as the series explores love, family, friendship and loss, presented in a way that makes you forget you’re watching a fictional show. Top Boy has a bit of everything, and provides a really rich viewing experience.
Authentic, dark and exciting, brilliantly acted and addictive. That sums up my perception of this amazing show. If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for? You’re missing out.