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Series / Derry Girls

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Erin Quinn: Teenagers have rights now, ya know?
Mary Quinn: ...Don't be ridiculous.
Erin Quinn: They do, Ma. It's true. Sure, Macaulay Culkin might be divorcing his parents!

Derry Girls is a Channel 4 British-Irish comedy set in Derry/Londonderry in the 1990s, created and written by Lisa McGee. It features a group of teenage schoolgirls and James as they get into mischief. They are: Erin, an aspiring writer, her cousin Orla, a naive cloudcuckoolander, and best friend Clare, a nervy wannabe-activist, their friend Michelle, a loud-mouthed party girl, and Michelle's cousin James, a soft-spoken unfortunately English boy.

The third and final series, after repeated delays to filming due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, began airing on 12 April 2022 and wrapped up with an extended-length special set in the week of the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement on 18 May.

Available on Netflix outside the UK and Ireland. May not be comprehensible outside the latter.


Derry Girls provides examples of:

  • Abuse of Return Policy: The group uses this method to get dresses for the school dance. At the dance, Mae tries to subject Jenny to a Carrie-style drenching (albeit in tomato juice instead of pig's blood), and the girls get themselves also covered in tomato juice trying to push her out of the way and Michelle of course rants about not being able to return her dress. Erin however will probably be fine, since she changed out of the one she bought beforehand.
  • Academic Alpha Bitch: Jenny Joyce is a brown noser who gets top marks and frequently rubs her wealth in the other characters' faces. She's also quite prone to snitching.
    Sister Michael: Jenny, you'll go far in life [beat] but you will not be well liked.
  • Accidental Proposal: Inverted in 3:06 when Sarah mistakes Ciaran's engagement ring for a gift.
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  • Actually Pretty Funny: In 2:04, Sister Michael gets stuck talking to Uncle Colm, whose droning, monotone style of storytelling is so incredibly boring that she begins to wonder if she's died and gone to hell. However, after Colm finishes the story she realizes it's actually a pretty funny one.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "The Reunion" is focused entirely on the parents (and what happened at their leavers' party in 1977), with only Erin and Orla briefly appearing at the beginning.
  • All Men Are Perverts:
    • According to Grampa Joe, when he learns in Episode 3 that James is sleeping over with Erin. Even though Joe thinks he's gay.
    • When Sister Michael gets the girls to drive to Donegal to clean up her recently deceased aunt's house, the girls all talk of finding lads to hook up with, except Clare, who Michelle reassures can be found a lesbian farmer. When James enquires about possibly finding a girl, the girls treat him with total disgust.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: A polar bear really did escape from Belfast Zoo, creating no small degree of concern at the time... though it was in 1972, not The '90s.
  • Apathetic Teacher: Sister Michael can't be bothered to even try to care about her job or any of her students. Also, despite being in a religious order, she is very jaded about miracles and the effectiveness of prayer. In the second series she briefly mentions that the only reason she became a nun in the first place was the free housing and meals.
  • Appeal to Flattery: In 2:04, James helps get the gang into the wedding reception by complimenting Mary's hat.
  • Artistic License: Liam Neeson's cameo character is consistently referred to as an inspector despite his clearly wearing the uniform of a chief constable.
  • Asian Airhead: Mae in Season 2 is the Tipton variety—a snobby Alpha Bitch who was kicked out of her previous school.
  • Asshole Victim: Aunt Bridie, who died whilst shaming Mary, Sarah and Joe for their parenting.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • In the Season 1 Finale, Joe pats Gerry on the back as they watch a news broadcast on the aftermath of a bombing on television.
    • While usually strict and overbearing, Mary comforts Erin after her date stands her up for the prom, and calls on James to go with Erin.
    • In the season 2 finale, James tells the girls that he's leaving Derry to go back to London with his mother. Michelle follows him and chews him out for it, saying that his mother will let him down and she only wants him back for "free labour". When James bites back and says he never belonged in Derry, Michelle disagrees.
    Michelle: You're a Derry girl now, James [...] I'm serious. It doesn't matter that you've got that stupid accent, or that your bits are different to my bits...because being a Derry girl, well, it's a fucking state of mind. And you're one of us.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • At the beginning of 1.03, Erin is in tears as she stares at a photograph of her grandfather, talking about how she can't believe he's gone forever and that she shouldn't have to sit the exam the girls are desperately studying for. Eventually it turns out she's talking about the dog her grandfather's holding in the picture, Toto.
    • In 2.02, Sister Michael announces that one of the teachers has left to continue her "missionary work, educating the heathen inhabitants of a primitive and savage place." Her assistant notes that she's just gone to Belfast. Sister Michael's response? "Precisely."
  • Beauty Is Bad:
    • James' mother is a glamorous lady who was apparently well-known among her peers for her impeccable eyebrows. Sarah makes note that they're enviable as ever, but her perfectly chic façade belies a pathetic and negligent parent.
    • Subverted with Sarah, who, though a Cloud Cuckoo Lander who rubs some people the wrong way, is caring and supportive, especially to her daughter.
  • Berserk Button: Don't mention Maureen Malarkey around Granda Joe.
  • Big Fancy House: By Derry standards, Jenny's 8 bedroom house is considered positively palatial by all the other characters. Guests keep getting lost in it and Orla is shocked to discover that some of the bedrooms have their own bathrooms.
  • Black Comedy: All of the adult characters make shameless jokes about how annoying the frequent bombings are to their town.
  • Blatant Lies: In 2:06, Dennis is trying to sell off a shipment of off-color American flags that only have thirty stars. He claims that they're the new kind, and that they're missing stars because twenty states have left the United States but they don't want to make a big deal about it.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Michelle orders a kid to GET OUT! when she's working in Dennis's shop. The kid's response is giving her the finger.
  • Brainy Brunette: Inverted. Brunette Aunt Sarah and Orla are both ditzy and weird, while blonde Erin and her mother are relatively down-to-earth. Among the girls, the fair-haired Clare is acknowledged as the most academic.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: One of the hour-long finale special's several plotlines (involving Michelle and Erin).
  • Brick Joke: The "big clock" that comes back when Erin confuses its ticking for a bomb.
    • In series 2 episode 3, the group is forbidden from going to a Take That concert in Belfast because a polar bear has escaped from the Belfast Zoo. They make it to the concert anyway by riding in a van which at one point accidentally strikes and kills a sheep. Later on in the episode, it is mentioned that the bear has been caught because it stopped to feed on a sheep carcass left beside the highway.
  • British Brevity: All 3 series have only 6 episodes, although an hour-long special ends the third.
  • Broken Record: In 2:04:
    Michelle: Aye, Macca. Big Macca. Come on! Everybody knows Macca.
    Clare: We don't.
    Michelle: Wise up! Macca? Macca. Macca! MACCA!
    Clare: That's not helping, Michelle!
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Erin often winds up in embarrassing situations, most of which arise from her impulsive behavior and inability to keep her mouth shut or her emotions in check.
    • Clare is often the butt of a lot of physical gags in the show.
    • James, especially when Michelle is involved.
    • Gerry is a Henpecked Husband who is constantly dumped on by everyone but especially his father-in-law, even when it's something they agree on. Especially it's something they agree on. He's always ignored and pretty much never gets his way.
  • Call-Back: The final episode of Series 1 ends with the Quinns watching a news report about one of the worst atrocities in the Troubles yet, juxtaposed with the girls joining in with Orla's "Like a Prayer" dance routine at the school talent show. The penultimate episode of Series 2 deliberately inverts this; finishes with the Quinns hearing the news that the IRA have called a ceasefire and the community's immediate reaction, which is this time intercut with the girls getting covered with tomato sauce intended for Jenny at the school prom.
  • The Cameo:
  • Catchphrase: Pretty much every scene featuring Dennis seems to end with him shouting "GET OUT!".
  • Caught on Tape: Ma Mary promising an advance on Erin and Orla's birthday money in Episode 6, Season 3.
  • The Cavalry: Clare returns to Derry at the end of the hour-long finale special (against the odds, after a problem-ridden bus journey). She short-circuit's Jenny's fuse box, forcing her party to relocate to Erin's.
  • Celebrity Crush: In the episode where they go to a Take That concert, naturally. Michelle claims she has a psychic connection with Robbie Williams, while accusing James of "wanting a ride" off Gary Barlow (James insists he just respects him as a songwriter).
  • Cerebus Retcon:
    • The Troubles setting is mostly played for Black Comedy until the Season 1 finale, which closes with a sad scene of the Quinns watching a report about a violent bombing that killed twelve people. Lisa McGee said of the scene...
    “There were lots of times when your family stood around the TV and just couldn’t speak because this was people in your own place doing it to each other. I just wanted to nod to the fact that there were those times as well.”
    • James' mother leaving him behind was initially Played for Laughs, or rather, played for Black Comedy, but in the series 2 finale this is treated very seriously, with multiple characters throwing shade at his mother and pointing out that she abandoned him and only wants him back because he could be useful for her new business venture.
  • Clashing Cousins: Erin and Orla. The very first episode ends with Erin threatening to ram her diary far up Orla's — Curse Cut Short. Michelle and James as well, regularly.
  • Class Reunion: Basis of Episode 5, Season 3.
  • Class Trip: Episode 1, Season 2 takes place over the attempt to "build bridges" with the Protestants, including activities such as abseiling.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Both Orla and her mother show traits of this frequently.
  • Comedic Work, Serious Scene: The show is usually a comedy focused on the exploits of four Northern Irish teenagers during the 1990s which treats the events of The Troubles as Black Comedy, but it does have its serious moments:
    • The final episode of Series 1 ends with a scene of the Quinns watching a report about a violent bombing that killed twelve people that isn't Played for Laughs at all, a scene emphasized by it being intercut with a happier scene of all five friends dancing to "Like A Prayer" at the school talent show.
    • Series 3 has Clare's father dying of an aneurysm, right after Claire has her first kiss with another girl.
    • The series finale has the conflict between Michelle and Erin over Michelle's incarcerated brother, which culminates in Michelle having a serious monologue about her feelings about her brother's actions. The episode also ends with a montage of the characters voting on the Good Friday Agreement, intercut with real life footage of the event.
  • Cool Teacher: Season 2 Episode 2 introduces Ms. De Brun, a new teacher to the school who inspires the adoration of the Derry Girls due to her coolness. She's young, rides a motorcycle, teaches the girls to follow their passions, and even invites them over to her house for wine.
  • Credit Card Plot: In Season 2 Episode 5, Michelle borrows her mother's credit card without permission in order to buy everyone dresses for the prom. The plan is to wear them for one night, then return them, but in typical Doomed New Clothes fashion, Michelle's dress is ruined and she gets in trouble for the purchase at the end of the episode.
  • Crossdresser: James as Posh Spice in Season 3 Episode 2.
  • Culture Clash: English-Irish culture clashes are frequently Played for Laughs. For example, when the gang go to a wake in 2x04. James is horrified by the casual way the dead body's laid out for people to view and that visitors can touch her. The girls are baffled by the fact that it's the first time he's ever seen a dead body, due to British funerals being far more formal and even clinical; open caskets aren't as common, bodies are often removed to a funeral parlour rather than being prepared at the family home, and wakes are usually held after the person's already been buried.
  • Dance Party Ending: To the hour-long finale special.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "The Reunion" focuses on the girls' mothers with Erin and Orla only making a small appearance in the episode. The story is told with the present day school reunion and flashbacks to 1977, when the leaving dance is occurring.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Many characters, but Sister Michael's continuous snark is the most notable. It seems she can't open her mouth without making some kind of sarcastic comment.
  • Death as Comedy: An elderly nun passes away while supervising detention, and Michelle tries to take her confiscated lipstick out of her purse, Erin tries to sneak out the window, Clare takes the nun's leftovers and James is peeing into a bin right beside her.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Everyone's attitude towards a potential lesbian at school is very reminiscent of 90s attitudes towards homosexuality. The word 'dyke' is freely said by the protagonists, and Sister Michael tries to censor the school magazine from spreading the story.
  • Diegetic Switch: Both at the beginning and near the end of the first episode when it seems like Erin's giving An Aesop by Voice Over Narration, it's really just her cousin reading from her diary. The second series opens similarly, only that time it is Erin fantasising about being on Wogan.
  • Distant Finale: The extra-length final episode of the series ("The Agreement") takes place a year after the rest of Series 3, following the girls as they get involved in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement. The very last scene takes place in the present day, and sees Chelsea Clinton finally receive the letter the girls wrote to her.
  • Divided We Fall: Everyone puts their differences aside at the end of 1.06—James and the girls in support of Orla, their parents as they watch news of another atrocity.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: "The Reunion" switches backwards and forwards between the present-day adults and an incident that befell their teen selves—in a town called Derry.
  • Doomed New Clothes: The prom dresses Michelle buys on her mother's credit card, hoping to return once the prom is over? Hers gets splattered with tomato juice.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male:
    • Discussed when Katya spontaneously starts kissing James. Erin points out that it's technically sexual assault, but since James becomes her boyfriend temporarily, the girls let it go.
    • Michelle also flippantly mentions two fourth year girls who had tied down an attractive male teacher and started “dry riding” him.
  • Dresses the Same / Fee Fi Faux Pas: In 2.04, Aunt Sarah arrives at a wedding during the bridal chorus dressed in a white frock, upstaging the actual bride who walks in immediately behind her. When Mary attempts to clue her in to the fashion faux pas, Sarah assumes that everyone was affronted by Mary's hat.
  • Drunk Driver: Played for Laughs with Rita the classical music enthusiast who gives the gang a lift.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The first season episodes don't have titles, and are instead referred to as Episode 1, Episode 2, etc. The second season introduces titles for each episode.
    • Sister Michael's reaction to Sister Declan's death in the first episode is slightly odd—believing there to be foul play worthy of a full investigation (playing it for laughs that the adults don't seem to think Sister Declan died of old age). Even by the third episode, she plays the role of the Only Sane Man, not believing the weeping statue story.
  • Embarrassing Cover Up:
    • In 2.04, when the gang flood the bathroom in Eamonn's house during the wake, Erin has to pretend she had terrible diarrhoea so her mother won't find out what they were actually doing (trying to get rid of Michelle's homemade scones with drugs in them.)
    • In 3.03, the Quinn family is stuck on a train that's broken down. An old acquaintance approaches Mary, Sarah, Gerry, and Joe; but none of them recognises her. Rather than admit they don't know who she is, Joe says he has dementia, and Mary excuses herself by saying she has Irritable Bowel Syndrome and desperately needs the toilet. Then Sarah claims to be having bowel problems as well.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: James is usually "Dick-face" to Michelle.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom:
    • Despite all the major characters being Catholic, and the early 1990s being a less liberated time than the late 2010s, no-one on the show has a problem with gay people. Many of the adult characters consider James being gay as his only redeeming feature (which makes it awkward for him, as the only thing people like about him is a quality he denies possessing), and when Clare comes out as a lesbian only Erin, of all people reacts negatively, and then only briefly before getting past it. Even Sister Michael, who you'd expect to be a Heteronormative Crusader type if anyone was, only objects to printing a positive article about a lesbian student in the school paper because of the hassle she'll get from higher-up, and actually seems quite happy to read about it herself.
    • They're also pretty chill about Michelle's Anything That Moves tendencies, and James's mum trying to get an abortion when she first found out she was pregnant with him. Orla's mum seems to be a single parent with no judgement cast on her. Basically, everyone's pretty laid back about anything other than Protestants and English people; possibly Justified in that those are the main source of their problems at the moment, and everything else takes a back seat. Also, the main source of Northern Ireland's social conservatism is the more politically active segment of the Presbyterian community, typified by Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterians, rather than the Catholics who have usually supported left-wing parties such as the SDLP.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: James has this for Father Peter, and even tries to copy his clothes and hair.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While at the same time obviously Played for Laughs.
    • James' aunt sometimes can't even look at him for disgust because he's so English, but she won't stand for anyone discriminating against him because he's gay. ("I'm not gay!!!")
    • When Clare immediately rats the whole group out to Sister Michael, the Sister simply says that they've all lost a bit of respect for her.
  • Everyone Looks Sexier if French: Michelle's main motivation for wanting to go on the Paris trip:
    "France: The Land of Rides"
  • Extra-Long Episode: The final episode of the series is longer than the usual episode length of 22 minutes, clocking in at about 48 minutes.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Common. The pilot takes place over one day, as do episodes 2 and 4. Episode 5 covers half a day.
  • Failed a Spot Check: In the third episode of the second series, the girls hitch a ride to get away from travellers while trying to make it to a concert, and for what is clearly quite some time all four of them utterly fail to notice that they had ditched James in the process.
  • Fauxreigner: It is revealed that Artem is "a wee Prod from Belfast" who is terrified of being stuck in predominantly Catholic Derry, and fakes being Ukrainian to walk away safely.
  • Feud Episode: One of the hour-long finale special's several plotlines (involving Michelle and Erin).
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: After John Paul stands Erin up for prom, the usually pragmatic Mary tells Erin to wait longer even though it's been almost two hours. A minute later James arrives and says Mary called him.
  • Flashback: Episode 5 of series 3 flicks back and forth between the titular 1997 reunion and the 1977 leavers' party.
  • Floorfilling Song and Dance: On different occasions, the girls immediately hit the floor along with several others to dance to "Rock the Boat" by The Hues Corporation and "Saturday Night" by Whigfield.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling:
    • Mary, (Erin's mother), is the responsible to Sarah's (Orla's mother's) foolish.
    • Michelle's mother is the responsible to James's mother foolish; with no-nonsense nurse Deidre raising both cousins after Cathy abandons James in Derry where he's never been before, during The Troubles, with no indication of if or when she'll be back.
    • James and Michelle inverting their mothers' dynamic (in a cousin variation), with James as the responsible to Michelle's foolish.
  • Foreign Exchange Student: Episode 4 features a group of Ukrainian exchange students, with the most focus on Sensual Slav Katya who is staying with Erin and Orla's family.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The main characters are all attracted to Father Peter, barring Clare. Clare comes out as a lesbian in episode 6.
    • Clare is the most opposed to the idea of printing the anonymous confession of a lesbian attending their school, saying she's afraid this will go on her permanent record. It's because she's the person who wrote it.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In episode 6 of series 2, the 'USA' on Orla's forehead is inverted—it must have looked okay when she applied it in the mirror.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": In Season 2, Episode 4, "The Curse", Mary and Sarah's aunt dies and the funeral spirals out of control, with the gang flooding a toilet with drugged scones, and Mary and Sarah attempting to steal a pair of earrings from the corpse.
  • Funny Background Event: Often courtesy of Orla:
    • In Season 1, Episode 2, when the gang enters the room where Michelle has got the music on, everyone is shocked—apart from Orla, who starts dancing.
    • In Season 2, Episode 3, when Sister Michael asks around on the bus who the girls' suitcase full of vodka belongs to after Michelle denies that it's theirs, Orla raises her hand, only for James to grab her and cover her mouth to shut her up.
    • In Season 2, Episode 4, when they are flushing the spiked scones away, Orla is trying a more effective method of disposal—eating one (and then suggests hiding them in the other end).
  • Generation Xerox: The flashbacks in "The Reunion" reveal that the girls are almost carbon copies of their mothers at their age, with Mary as The Leader like Erin, Sarah as the Cloudcuckoolander like Orla, Geraldine as the Nervous Wreck like Clare and Deirdre as the rebellious party girl like Michelle, plus Jeanette O'Shea is a proto-Jenny Joyce. They even have Deirdre's Canadian cousin Rob as a stand-in for James, down to sharing James's interest in photography, although Rob is actually gay in contrast to James merely being frequently Mistaken for Gay.
  • Getting the Boot: The gang get evicted from the concert in "Halloween".
  • Global Ignorance:
    James: I think I developed Stockholm syndrome.
    Michelle: Catch yourself on, you've never even been to Switzerland.
  • Guilt by Association Gag: In the first two episodes alone, all five of them get punished for Michelle's actions.
  • Halloween Episode: Season 3, episode 6.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Gay?: A downplayed example with Clare. After her coming out, she doesn't actually bring it up much, but people bring it up a lot to her. However at no point does she display any attraction to any actual women.note 
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: James.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X": A couple of times from Michelle:
    Granda Joe: [telling Gerry off for no reason] ...and you just sat there and said sweet Fanny Adams!
    Michelle: [sniggering] Your Granda said "fanny".
    • She has a similar reaction to the Quinns' neighbour telling them how to "erect" a tent.
    • Again in season 3, episode 3 when James speaks of Portrush's various "Rides", as in tourist attractions.
  • Henpecked Husband: Erin's dad Gerry. Hardly an episode goes by where he doesn't have to put up with being bossed around by his harridan of a wife or the verbal abuse of his father in law. Any attempt to stand up for himself — to either one — is promptly followed by him folding like a cheap suit.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: How Erin got to Jenny's party in the hour-long finale special.
  • High-School Dance: Episode 5 of s2 has the 1950s-themed prom organised by Jenny Joyce.
  • Hilarity Ensues: When the gang end up in detention but think Sister Declan has fallen asleep, they proceed to get into hijinks, which they then freeze in when Sister Michael walks in: James is peeing in a bucket, Erin is halfway through climbing out the window, Michelle is dramatically rifling through Sister Declan's handbag, Orla is holding Sister Declan's head up to retrieve Erin's diary from underneath, and Clare is orgasmically eating a sandwich.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Michelle says she can't understand Donegal accents. The Derry accent is known for being harsher than the Donegal one.
    • Clare and Erin are the most vocal about not being racist towards the Travellers, and then they're the first to call them psychopaths and run away.
    • When James finally cracks after being they can't go to the police about a probable criminal stowaway. The girls, who are all more hammy than him, (led by Clare who has just melted down about a lost bookmark) tell him he needs to calm down.
    • Likewise when watching the "vodka suitcase/bomb disposal" incident, James resignedly asks, "Why is this place so mental?" only to be told that's enough and he has "serious fucking anger management issues".
    • Mae Chung is slightly offended (or at least, not endeared) by Clare only wanting to be friends with her because she's Asian... until she learns Clare is a lesbian, at which point she immediately wants Clare to be her Gay Best Friend.
    • The girls spend several minutes discussing all the Donegal farmers they plan to ride at Sr. Michael's aunt's house, including a lesbian farmer for Clare, but disgustedly accuse James of objectifying women when he suggests they might also help him find a girl.
    • Erin and James are caught kissing, and get castigated by nymphomaniac-in-chief Michelle (she even brands them incestuous).
  • I Choose to Stay: James in the season 2 finale.
    • Sister Michael in the series finale, refusing to be transferred from Our Lady Immaculate.
  • I Have No Son!: In the series finale, Erin and Michelle get into a heated argument about Michelle's brother Niall, who was imprisoned for involvement in an IRA attack that caused a man's death. Their mother won't even talk about Niall any longer, explaining which he's never been mentioned by anyone until now.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction:
    • In 1.04:
    David Donnelly: My band, we don't really do covers, do you know what I mean? In this game, you need a wee bit of integrity.
    Jenny Joyce: Now, whatever you do, don't forget the Grease megamix.

    • In 2.04:
    Mary: Best behaviour.
    Clare: Completely!
    Michelle: You'll have no trouble from us, Mary. (the instant she's out of earshot) OK, girls, who wants to do drugs?
  • Incendiary Exponent: Michelle calls an impromptu break from cleaning Fionnula's shop in 1.02 with a tray of flaming Sambucas, which she promptly drops. Only James' quick action with an extinguisher prevents a HouseFire.
  • Informed Attribute: The basis of a Running Gag between Michelle and James. For example, she calls James "gay" in the 1.06, and when he replies that he isn't, immediately accuses him of being "such a fucking homophobe." In Season 2, James merely says something in his usual soft-spoken tone, and Michelle yells at him for his "anger issues."
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • The setting is officially called Londonderry but all the characters refer to it as "Derry". During The Troubles, whether one called it "Londonderry" or "Derry" was used as a Shibboleth to determine one's allegiance.
    • The business James’ mother is starting is on “self-adhesive labels”, thank you very much. NOT stickers.
  • It Amused Me: Why did Sister Michael imply the gang failed their exams; kicking off the plot of the first episode of the third season? It was a slow day.
  • Jaw Drop: Various characters, usually thanks to Michelle. Example—Fionnula, on seeing the shambles of her room after the incident with the flaming shots.
  • Just Take the Poster: In 1.02, the girls are all looking for jobs and find some posted on the bulletin board of the local chip shop. Michelle steals not just the notices but the entire board, to keep anyone else from applying to the jobs. The predictable happens when the owner finds out, bans them from the store, and forces them to work for free cleaning the place as punishment.
  • Kiai: Mad Stab's signature pre-fight roar in 3.06.
  • Kissing Warm-Up: According to Orla, having read Erin's diary, Erin has practiced kissing her pillow.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: A couple of Michelle's quips fit this trope. From 2.05:
    Michelle: Then there's this other fella, he's not as thick, but he's also not as hot, although I have heard he is really good with his hands. And when I say he's good with his hands, I'm not talking about putting up shelves, girls. I'm talking about-
    James: Everybody knows what you're talking about, Michelle!
    Michelle: -fingering.
    James: Honestly!
  • Landline Eavesdropping: How Michelle and Orla join in with the telephone conversation in the hour-long finale special.
  • Layman's Terms: Joe's chart interpreting the Good Friday Agreement's referendum for the benefit of his relatives.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Gender-flipped; ditzy, dark-haired Cloud Cuckoo Lander Orla is exactly like her mother, Sarah.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Series 1, episode 3. After a sleepover that should have been spent revising, Michelle opens the curtains—revealing daylight.
    Clare: Sweet suffering Jesus, it's the morning already! What are we gonna do?
  • Maybe Ever After: The series ends without resolving Erin and James's romantic feelings towards one another, although it's pretty clear in the finale they're still into each other even a full year after Michelle convinces them not to start dating. This is probably quite deliberate, as Lisa McGee reportedly initially considered never having them acknowledge their attraction to each other at all during the course of the series, but was always of the opinion that something might have happened between them later.
  • Mistaken for Racist: The girls (and James) end up running from a group of Irish Travellers when they start chasing after them. It turns out that the Travellers were trying to return one of their wallets.
  • "Mister Sandman" Sequence: Clips from several of that era's songs in every episode.
  • Mood Whiplash: A shocking example at the end of season 3, episode 6. Moments after Clare has her first kiss with another girl, Gerry arrives to inform her that her father has suffered an aneurysm and he passes away that night.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Inverted with Uncle Colm. He constantly tells outlandish stories of him being tied up by robbers or a bride getting lifted up into the air by a gust of wind, but his flat monotone and complete inability not to mention every extraneous detail that comes to mind make him horribly, unbearably dull.
  • Musical Episode: "The Affair", with turns from the gang (as the Spice Girls), Jenny and Aisling (as Shakespears Sister) and Tina O'Connell (as Meat Loaf).
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Mad Stab (in "Halloween"). James does so - twice.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: In episode 4, the bookworm Clare says something to the effect of "We're all going to have sex someday", to which Erin and Michelle respond in unison, "You won't." The same episodes revolves around the geeky, awkward James trying to lose his virginity to Katya. Of the main cast, Michelle is the only one with any experience.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Michelle is criticised by her mother for accusing the recently dead nun of stealing Michelle's lipstick. Sister Michael then admits that said nun was known for "light fingers".
  • The New Irish: James is an English boy (though the son of an Irish woman), there's an episode involving Eastern European exchange students and another with two second-generation Asians from Donegal.
  • Newscaster Cameo: In series 2, real life BBC news presenter Donna Traynor plays herself reading various news broadcasts.
  • The '90s: Even if you knew nothing about The Troubles, you could tell by the music, the cars, the cultural references and the utterly spot-on fashions. Hooped jumpers and yin-yang chokers abound.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: In 1.04, Erin suspects Katya of being a prostitute:
    Erin: First, she comes on to James here... Secondly, she owns condoms... And thirdly, all night, wee Ukrainian fellows have been coming up and giving her money they "owe her". How the hell do you explain that?
    Katya: I organise — how you say it? — whip round. We like to buy Jenny present to thank her for nice party.
  • Not Now, We're Too Busy Crying over You: In 3.04, the girls have to drag an unconscious James to an empty house after he's hit by their van, only to discover that the phone doesn't work and they can't call an ambulance. Believing that he's doomed, they start mourning him and completely ignore the now awake James asking for water, up until Michelle furiously tells him to "Shut the fuck up!"
  • Not on the List: Condition of entry to Jenny's party in the hour-long finale special. James is not included, but only because Michelle put him down as "Fanny Features".
  • Nun Too Holy: Downplayed and Played for Laughs. Sister Michael notes that Sister Declan was a noted thief. Sister Michael's snarky behaviour is constantly used as evidence for this, such as her unwillingness to break up the fight in 2.01. Also a somewhat heroic version in that she doesn't seem to obey many of the restrictions placed on her by the Catholic Church, such as her willingness to accept Clare's sexuality.
  • Nuns Are Funny: Lots of jokes are made of Sister Michael's dissonant behaviour, like her judo. She also jokes that she only became a nun because of the "free accommodation".
  • Nuns 'n' Rosaries: All the main characters are Catholic and there are plenty of jokes based on various aspects of Catholicism.
  • Obfuscating Disability: James attends 3.06's gig on crutches and with one eye blackened to tie in with Michelle's cover story of his being mugged.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws:
    • Joe never stops slagging off his son-in-law Gerry. Gerry endures it with the patience of a saint.
    • In 2.04, it's implied Joe received similar treatment from his own in-laws.
    Bridie: Still a prick, I see, Joe. Christ knows what our Marie ever saw in you, God rest her soul.
  • One-Gender School: Common for Northern Ireland at the time, but James is made to attend the girls' school for fear of what would happen to him if he were thrown in with the boys.
  • One of the Girls: James hangs out with the titular girls. At first it's because he's forced to attend the all girls' school, as he's English and there are concerns he'll be beaten up if he goes to the boys' school. However, he does seem to enjoy spending time with the group, even taking Erin to the prom. The girls do seem to consider him one of them. Michelle even calls him a "Derry Girl" when she tries to get him to stay in Northern Ireland, instead of going back to England with his Mum.
  • Only Sane Man: Gerry fills this role for the adults, but no one pays him any heed. James is in the same situation with the teenagers. May or may not be related to the fact that neither of them are originally from Northern Ireland; James is English, and Gerry is from the Republic.
  • OOC Is Serious Business:
    • The bombing at the end of season 1 is so serious and heart-breaking that Joe actually gives Gerry, his hated son-in-law, a reassuring and comforting hand on the shoulder.
    • On a lighter note, in 2.04 when the girls are attempting to get rid of the hash scones without arousing the suspicion of the adults, Erin notes that Joe has obviously had one... because he's been behaving nicely to Gerry.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Usually perky Michelle regretting falling out with Erin, and rueful over her imprisoned brother and his victim, in the finale.
  • Parent with New Paramour: At one point Grandpa Joe starts getting friendly with a very nice lady he meets at church. Ma Mary and Aunt Sarah are completely outraged and believe their father is disrespecting their mother's memory — never mind the fact that (as Gerry points out, and is quickly shouted down by both his wife and his father-in-law) their mother's been dead for ten years.
  • Parental Fashion Veto: In the first episode, Erin attempts to wear a jean jacket instead of her school uniform blazer to school. Her mum argues with her about this and threatens her with a wooden spoon, leading to a Gilligan Cut where Erin is headed to school in her usual uniform.
  • Parental Hypocrisy: In "The Reunion", the girls' mothers kept their tattoos a secret to enforce discipline on their daughters by setting a good example.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick:
    Mary: I don't want anybody landing back here pregnant. Teenage boys can be very convincing, Erin. I remember your father at that age—
    Erin: End that sentence, now.
    Gerry: Yes, please do.
  • Parting Words Regret: Averted. Despite Aunt Bridie dying immediately after Mary tells her to "drop dead", the latter shows no such remorse for her death.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Joe repeatedly thumps the TV set when it starts glitching in 2.05.
  • Period Piece: It's set in The '90s and is about the Troubles, but not a period piece in the sense of Costume Drama. However, some critics of the show claim it's taken inaccuracies with real history for the sake of a better story. It was made in 2016, but the small details and background elements (such as vintage cars etc.), and clothing indicate it's very clearly The '90s.
  • Pet the Dog: Sister Michael forbids the girls from printing a story about one of the students being gay, citing the backlash the school would receive. When they go ahead and do it anyway she actually seems proud of them and doesn't reprimand them.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: When Clare comes out in the last episode of season 1:
    Erin: Well, I'm sorry, Clare, but I'm just not interested in you, not like that.
  • Politically Correct History: Lisa McGee stated in an interview that Clare's coming out was written with "rose-tinted glasses", because coming out and being accepted in a '90s Catholic all-girl school would have been unlikely, but McGee wanted to depict it how she wished it could have happened.
  • Power Walk: The five teenagers walk down the school hallway like this after applying winged eyeliner to look like their new idol, Ms. de Brún. (James is not excluded from the eyeliner.)
  • Practically Different Generations: Erin is 16, and her little sister Anna is a baby.
  • Present-Day Past: Despite the 1990s setting, several more modern cars appear in the background, such as a 2012 Chevrolet Cruze sedan, the Ford Focus, and BMW 5-Series stationwagons. Also spotted a Travellers trailer fitted with 1997 onward Saxo VTR wheels at least a couple of years before the Saxo was released.
  • Previously on…: The hour-long finale special opens with clips of the whole series' high and lows.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: The second episode of series 2 introduces a statue of the Christ Child that Sister Michael loves. It breaks by the end of the episode, in a struggle between two characters over where to put it.
  • Prom Wrecker: Mae wants to do this to Jenny Joyce after hearing she'd rigged the vote for Prom Queen. She does this by dumping tomato sauce on Jenny when she becomes Prom Queen (in the style of Carrie). The protagonists try to stop this, but only manage to get covered in tomato sauce for their trouble. To make matters worse, Michelle had paid for her dress with her mother's credit card and needed to return it in perfect condition so her mum wouldn't notice the charge.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
    James: I! Am! A Derry Girl!
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": From Erin when Michelle's tray of flaming sambuca shots gets too hot to handle in episode 2 of season 1.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Nicola Coughlan had a scheduling clash with Bridgerton when filming the third series, and as a result Clare's role was reduced for some of the episodes (such as being left behind at a train station in 3.03 and spending the rest of the episode waiting futilely for the next train, while the others in the gang get up to their usual shenanigans; or the series finale, where she and her mother have moved to another town after her father dies and she only shows up in phone conversations and at the climax of the episode, saving Erin and Orla's party).
  • Red Herring: In episode 2 of Season 2, Jenny Joyce sees the gang coming home from Miss de Brún's house with Clare clearly drunk. The next day they find that Miss de Brún is no longer at the school, and assume Jenny snitched to get her fired. Turns out she just got a better offer at another school.
  • Red Sock Ruins the Laundry: The "wee docket", a red piece of paper, gets accidentally washed with the whites, resulting in all the girls having to go to school in pink blouses instead of the white required by the uniform. This is taken as a statement on gay rights.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: In the Netflix version, near the end of Episode 6, Season 1, Madonna's "Like a Prayer" is replaced with Take That!'s "Pray".
  • Reverse Psychology: In Sister Michael's more kindhearted moments, this is her default method. Examples include forbidding the school paper to publish Clare's anonymous confession of being a closeted lesbian...only to smile proudly to herself when she sees they defied her, and do absolutely nothing about it. This is also how she handled Bill Clinton's visit in the season 2 finale—rather than encourage her students to attend the speech, she outright forbid it and declared that school would function business as usual the next day. This ensured the entire student body skipped school to attend as an act of protest. Sister Michael is seen smiling, not even wearing her full habit as she makes casual rounds of the school to confirm this.
  • Rewatch Bonus: If you rewatch all of season 1 after it's revealed that Clare is a lesbian, all of the hints are much more obvious.
  • Roguish Romani: Zigzagged in episode 3 of Season 1. The girls come up to some Irish Travelers in a caravan on the side of the road. Erin gives everyone a big lecture about how they shouldn't be prejudiced against the Travelers or call them "gypsies", but when one of the men comes up and starts following them Erin gets scared and the whole group starts running away because they think the man is trying to mug them. However, he was actually trying to return a wallet one of them dropped. Later on, the girls accidentally leave James with the Travelers and they become fast friends.
  • Running Gag:
    • Uncle Colm and his longwinded, boring stories. Come Season Three, Erin actually weaponizes it to get the police off their backs.
    • Jenny Joyce's truly terrible school assembly performances.
  • Ruritania: Not directly shown, but Erin clearly imagines Katya's home in Ukraine to look like this. Subverted by Katya's reaction, though.
  • Sanity Ball: On the rare occasion that James cracks, it goes to Clare or Erin.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Grandpa Joe lives and breathes this trope. It's his ambition to shamelessly split his son-in-law and daughter up.
  • Secret Test of Character: When Bill Clinton comes to Derry, Sister Michael refuses to cancel school for the occasion and orders all the students to come to class as usual. Every single student except Jenny cuts class, and when Sister Michael discovers Jenny showed up, she's first baffled and then annoyed, telling her she needs to "learn to push back".
  • Sensing You Are Outmatched: Why James refuses to fight Mad Stab in "Halloween".
  • Sensual Slavs: Ukrainian Katya, and Russian Artem who seems much less sexy to Michelle when it emerges that he actually isn't Russian at all—he's a Protestant from Belfast who accidentally got on a wrong bus.
  • Separated by a Common Language: The girls cannot understand one girl who comes from Donegal despite the accents being fairly similar.
  • Serious Business:
    • Do not trash talk Gary Barlow around James. It is what convinces James to continue the journey to Belfast despite getting along so well with the Travellers beforehand (Jonjo dismisses Barlow's songwriting capabilities).
      James: I'm sorry Jonjo, but you've just crossed the line there.
    • From the same episode, Rita the beer-drinking opera enthusiast. She doesn't think much of Luciano Pavarotti and much prefers Andrea Bocelli.
    • Do not get in the way of the main characters (or many of the minor characters, for that matter) if they're at a party and about to take their positions for a Rock the Boat-routine.
  • Sexy Priest: Father Peter. All the girls (including James, though excluding Clare) adore him. Sister Michael is less impressed.
  • Ship Tease: Erin and James have a few moments including Erin not wanting him to have sex with Katya in Season 1 and James taking Erin prom after she's stood up in Season 2. Lisa McGee has said both of them have yet to realise their feelings but it might be explored in later seasons. Season 3 gives them a kiss after James admits his feelings.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sins of Our Fathers:
    Michelle (to James): If your lot had stopped invading us for five f***ing minutes, there'd be a lot less to wade through! English prick.
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • Due to The Troubles being a fact of life, most of the characters are simply annoyed with bombings and mostly complain about how such incidents will interfere in their daily routines.
    Deirdre: Sorry I'm late, sister, couldn't get over the bridge — this bloody bomb — I begged the Brits to let me take my chances but the awkward bastards made me go the wrong way.
    Joe: Health and safety gone mad!
    • This is lampshaded in S01E05 where the protagonists get caught in an Orange Order note  parade. Despite being in a near-death situation, Mary panics that she's forgotten her purse with Irish puntsnote  and Clare freaks out that she's lost her place in her book.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: In the hour-long finale special, when James and Clare try to heal the rift between Michelle and Erin, but only make it worse.
  • Status Quo Is God: The show always finds ways to keep the status quo — which is that the main characters are a bunch of normal girls (and a boy) leading hilariously boring, incredibly frustrating lives (despite all the fighting and prejudices that are affecting the nation). A huge example is in series 3, episode 2. They perform as the Spice Girls and are actually doing very well. It would've aired on TV too... but then Erin spots her Mum with Gabriel, a guy she believes to be having an affair with her, so she walks out in the middle of a performance that could've changed their lives in some way.
  • Stern Nun: Sister Michael, as she is also a teacher at the school.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: In "The Reunion", Michelle's mother is accompanied by her Canadian cousin Rob - who turns out to be openly gay.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: After their bust-up, Erin hasn't been thinking about Michelle and vice versa.
  • Take That, Scrappy!: In-universe. After Jenny busts the girls for having a party with the Protestant boys, Sister Michael tells her she will go far "but you will not be well-liked."
  • Taking the Fight Outside: Mad Stab challenging James in "Halloween".
  • Thicker Than Water: James feels obliged to side with his cousin Michelle when she and Erin fall out in "The Agreement".
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Cousin Eamonn, "temporarily" staying with the Quinns in the hour-long finale special.
  • Title Drop: When Michelle tells James she wants him to stay, she says he's one of them now, he's a "Derry Girl".
  • Translation by Volume: How Michelle initially communicates with Katya.
    Michelle: YOU. HELP ME. YOU PUT IN GOOD WORD WITH YOUR COSSACK FRIEND. So we can [makes suggestive hand gestures]
  • Twerp Sweating: Joe continues to try and run Gerry off, even though Gerry's been married to his daughter for 17 years.
    Joe: I'll find some dirt on you yet, boy. I've a few people working on it!
  • Two-Timer Date: Michelle brings two boys to the prom, hoping they'll just stay put in separate corners and she can go between them. They do find out about each other, but end up working it out and leaving to go to the pub together, much to Michelle's annoyance.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Most of the characters are awful people, to one degree or another, save for Gerry, Orla, Clare, and James.
    • Erin, thinking that Father Peter was talking about her when he said he'd been a crisis of faith and felt an attraction to a girl he'd met until the supposed miracle the girls had witnessed, gleefully tells him that the miracle was a fraud. On another occasion, she swoops in on some guy she has a crush on literally seconds after his girlfriend dumps him, totally focused on her chance and evincing no empathy whatsoever.
    • Michelle frequently gets her friends in trouble with her reckless behavior and shows absolutely no remorse. She's also quite abusive to James, who's done nothing to deserve it.
    • Come to that, the whole group is abusive, dismissive at best, of James despite him being a perfectly nice guy.
  • [Verb] This!: In 1.02:
    Michelle (on being assigned the simplest task): And you should just about be able to handle this! (gives Erin the finger)
  • Wedding Bells... for Someone Else: 2.04 begins with Aunt Sarah walking down the aisle in a white dress, implying that she's finally getting married. A pan out reveals that she's actually a guest at someone else's wedding, and committed the faux-pas of wearing white.
  • Wham Line:
    • In the series 1 finale, it goes from the group getting up and dancing at the talent show without a care in the world to Erin's parents, aunt, and grandad solemnly watching a news report of the aftermath of a bombing.
    News Reporter: what has already been described as one of the worst atrocities in the Northern Irish conflict. At least 12 people are thought to be dead and many more wounded. Emergency services are urging anyone with medical training to come to the scene immediately. The device was detonated at 3pm this afternoon. The RUC say no warning was given.
    • Season 2, episode 5 gives us a similar but contrasting experience when Gerry finally gets the TV working again, and they're greeted by the news of The IRA ceasefire.
    • The season 2 finale features a scene when random stranger tries to give them a ride, and Erin and Clare think they're being kidnapped until:
    James: "Hello, Mum."
  • Whole Plot Reference: The teens' plot in series 2, episode 2 is a parody of Dead Poets Society.
  • Women Are Wiser: Inverted, with James and Gerry being the most level-headed of the characters; while the women range from simply high-strung and over-dramatic (Erin and Mary) to being on utterly different planets (Orla and Sarah).
  • Would Hurt a Child: In the season 2 finale:
    Clare: See that bitch over there?
    Erin: That wee girl?
    Clare: She tried to muscle in, things got ugly. She'll think twice next time.
    Erin: You didn't fight that wean, did you, Clare?
    Clare: I did fight that wean, Erin, and I'll fight that wean again if I have to.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: While Clare isn't quite as much of a Butt-Monkey as James, her getting her First Kiss in the penultimate episode swiftly followed by her dad's death by aneurysm is still pretty brutal.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Subtle, but seeing Jenny's opposition to the lesbian issue of the school publication immediately causes Sister Michael to rethink her stance.