So what happened?
In short, not a lot. As we delve back into their world we find Lol (Vicky McClure) has gotten herself a job at the local school as a dinner lady, utilising the position to siphon off chips to her friends and family, except for Gadget (Andrew Ellis) who’s unwittingly accepting a disappointing haul of new potatoes and coffee whip. The horror! Back at home, her partner Woody (Joseph Gilgun) is thriving as a stay at home Dad with a penchant for watching anthropology documentaries while his ‘Mrs’ goes out and discovers The Stone Roses. That is until his old boss, Mr Squires (William Travis), literally bursts out of a cupboard during his visit to his parent’s and upsets the apple cart by offering his old employee a partnership in the business he’s hoping to set up. Whether he’ll take it and it’ll be a lifeline for him, Lol and the kids who are struggling to make ends meet, or a wedge to drive between them remains to be seen.
Things aren’t exactly going to plan for Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) either. In spite of his Mum trying to coax him to go back to college, he’s refusing to, blaming the fact he doesn’t fit in. The real reason is he’s fallen into a general malaise after having been caught cheating by his long-term girlfriend, Smell (Rosamund Hanson). His attempt to reconnect with her by turning up at her college ends with him in tears, and when she rebuffs his invitation to go to the rave, instead sending her new goth boyfriend, Harrison, to tell him to keep away from her, it ends in a big dust up between one set of friends and the other. By the end of the episode, Shaun is alone, sobbing and worryingly adrift from everything and everyone.
This opener to the new series didn’t exactly hit the ground running, but it did strongly re-stablish the characters in the brave, new decade they find themselves in. It was actually the humour that kept the hour ticking over nicely, with a strong turn from Michael Socha’s drug-dealer, Harvey, who unwittingly facilitated one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen on television in a long time, the ‘sniff bang’, meticulously realised by dynamic duo, Flip (Perry Fitzpatrick) and Higgy (Joe Dempsie) who still look like they wouldn’t be out of place on a re-jigged ‘Fast Show’. Overall it was an entertaining opening gambit for the final series of the show, but it did find myself clamouring for some the meatier drama that Meadows is usually so good at bringing us. Onwards and upwards!