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Series / Top Boy

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Dushane: Ever since we were kids bruv, together, runnin' up and down these streets, tryin' to get to the top. What for? Is it worth losing your people? Your family?
Sully: What else is there? What else are we gonna be?

Top Boy is a British crime drama series about the lives of people involved in the drug dealing and street gangs in Hackney,London. The show premiered on Channel 4 and the first series was broadcast over four consecutive nights, from 31 October to 3 November 2011. A DVD of the first series was issued on 22 July 2013. A second series began airing on Channel 4 from 20 August 2013. A DVD release of the second series followed on 16 September 2013. Although storylines for a third series were proposed, the series was dropped by Channel 4 in 2014. In November 2017, it was announced that following interest from Drake, Netflix would revive the series, ordering a new season of ten episodes, Series 3 premiered on Netflix on the 13th September 2019, with the leads Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson reprising their roles. The revival season premiered on Netflix as "Season 1," whilst the original series was billed as Top Boy:Summerhouse. It was confirmed on 31 December 2019 that season 4 will air later in 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic this has been pushed back though production is still underway and it was announced by stars Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson on Instagram that filming is underway.


Top Boy contains examples of the following:

  • Absentee Actor: Ra'Nell is completely missing and not even mentioned in Season 3, neither is Lisa.
  • Abusive Parents: Ra’Nell’s father abused him and his mother. There’s also Jason who’s father beat him and his mother, who herself was a drug addict that couldn’t do anything for him.
  • Acid Attack: Twice in season 3, based on real life examples as well.
  • Adult Fear: Many parents fear that their children will become involved in the life of gangs and drugs, what you see on screen is Truth in Television to parents fear for their children around London and other parts of the UK.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Dris' death isn't portrayed as a cold execution that is frequent in this series, but rather a sad, poignant death as Sully unsuccessfully tries holding back his tears when he has to execute a man who wasn't just a once loyal right-hand, but a long-time friend.
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  • Ambition Is Evil: As Dushane’s standing in the hierarchy of the drug trade increases so do the lengths he’s willing to go to prevent anything from jeopardizing it, as well as this it’s apparent that he’s constantly looking for bigger and better things which jeopardises his partnerships.
  • Ax-Crazy: Modie in season 3 is absolutely batshit insane. His short screentime consists of him: mostly shouting at and threatening people, immediately shouting that he's a wanted fugitive when he's freed from prison, doing a shootout at Dushane and Sully, killing a few of their soldiers in the process, threatening to murder Lizzie for being a witness, maniacally laughing when he finds out that she's their supplier and threatening her and Jamie when they don’t tell him what he wants, loudly shouting at a random girl when she ignores him despite being a wanted fugitive, and finally driving dangerously and shouting at everyone and everything when he's in traffic, ending with him being shot to death by the police.
  • Being Evil Sucks: 'I can’t imagine anyone wanting to be a drug dealer after watching this' is Word of God. The exact reason the show was made, to open eyes to the harsh reality that gang life, drugs, violence and poverty lead to. People suffer especially when they do the wrong thing, because there are always repercussion even if you get away with what you’ve done. And no matter how bad people think they are, they will suffer and watch the people they’re closest to suffer.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Leader of the ZT’s and Summerhouse’s main competition, Jamie, the murderous & unhinged psychopath Modie & revenge driven, betrayed cousin of Sully Jermaine. All of who want to kill Sully and take Summerhouse with him.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Threats from rival gangs, criminal hierarchies and even higher-ups in their organisation cause problems for Summerhouse in their operations, multiple characters have multiple arc villains.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Jamie to Stefan & Aaron.
  • British Brevity: Played straight in the first two seasons as it was airing on a British Channel but after the move to Netflix it’s ten episodes instead of four.
  • British Series: East London to be exact.
  • Central Theme: The world is a Crapsack World but if it’s that bad might as well make something of it.
  • Characterization Marches On: Compare every character back in Season One to two years later in Season Two and if they’re still around by then, five years later in Season Three. If you live in this game you’ll see how much it changes you.
  • The Chessmaster: Dushane is a lot more intelligent than he may at first seem, managing to outsmart his enemies when the odds are against him. Perfectly shown in season 3 when he leaves an anonymous tip about Jamie's brother Aaron having weapons in their apartment which do in fact belong to Jamie, leading to Aaron being arrested. If Aaron were to get sentenced and convicted, his whole life would fall apart, forcing Jamie to turn himself in to save his brother. Jamie is convicted and put in jail, significantly weakening the ZT. This gives Dushane and Sully space to grow back their own criminal empire. Dushane sees potential in Jamie and wants to do business with him, so he books a meeting with Jamie in prison and shows him a video that would prove Jamie's innocence. If Jamie agrees to do business with Dushane, then Dushane will send the video to Jamie's lawyer and get him acquitted.
  • Children Are Innocent: Zig-Zagged YMMV.
  • Child Soldiers: The Youngers are kids and teens who are conscripted by gangs like Summerhouse and the Fields to hand out drugs and get information.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Every character seems to get at least one per season. Almost every piece of dialogue has an F-bomb in it.
  • Crapsack World: A lot of the setting is in the lowest income areas of the city and a lot of the characters are in no doubt that it’s a terrible place to live.
  • Crime Time Soap: An in depth visage of the personal lives of many people in a council estate community home to drug gangs.
  • Demoted to Extra: Gem in Season 3.
  • Deuteragonist: Ra’Nell in Season 1. Sully in Season 2. Jamie in Season 3.
  • Disappeared Dad: Ra'Nell's dad is not at home, and it was mentioned that Ra’Nell stabbed him when he was attacking Lisa. In Season 3 Sully is this to his daughter. A lot of the characters such as Dushane and Ats have disappeared fathers which is Truth in Television to how and why a lot of kids grow up in areas like Summerhouse.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Most of the protagonists have morals despite being criminals.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Almost every major character has one, which builds into their sympathy. Dushane has his Mum and brother Chris, and in Season 3 develops this with Shelley and her daughter. Sully has Jason, his former wife Taylor and his daughter Tasha. Jamie has his brothers. Dris has his daughter Erin. Jermaine has his son.
  • Fingore: In season one Dushane and Sully are tasked by their boss Raikes to cut of the index finger of a man who poked Raike’s nephew in the eye. Cue dark humour where they accidentally cut off the wrong finger and proceed to cut off the right one.
  • Fight Scene: Pretty much every important character in the series alive by the time of season 3 gets into at least one physical fight or a similar altercation. What’s most interesting in season 3 is how most of the larger fights are framed to make it difficult to see who is who and which side is winning.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • Sully and Dushane aren't explicitly shown to have one, but it's obvious that Summerhouse being such a rough neighborhood has shaped them to the people they are today. Not to mention that Dushane's father was absent when growing up and Sully even states that all his mother cared about was junk. With that said, it's kind of subverted as Dushane's older brother took a better path in life.
    • Jermaine wants revenge for Sully kidnapping him in season 2. His rough treatment in the kidnapping really changed Jermaine from a relatively kind and shy man to an assertive criminal, which becomes very obvious in season 3.
    • Jamie isn't just raised in the same type of hood as the protagonists, but both his parents died two years ago and since then he's been trying to support his two younger brothers. Jamie's motive for being a criminal is more to support his family than greed.
    • Dris' role as Summerhouse’s top enforcer has diminished entirely after suffering a stroke and not getting as high up in the criminal hierarchy as he wants to. He spends most of Season 3 on the sidelines and his physical health is so bad that Dushane and Sully don’t want to risk him being in the action. Meanwhile, he has to take care of his daughter. It's understandable that he switches sides when ZT is conquering the Roads.
  • Gangbangers: The majority of the main cast are involved in gang activity and act as such.
  • Innocence Lost: Once you’ve been exposed to the Roads you won’t be the same, the real question is how innocent are you from the start?
  • The Irish Mob: Joe the original supplier of Summerhouse in Seasons 1 & 2 is hinted to be this having been a criminal for most of his life, having served time in prison and ranking high in the criminal hierarchy. Lizzie, Jamie’s supplier who supplies him with a bit more than just drugs is also one which adds into her backstory.
  • Just a Gangster: Dushane and Sully in particular have this mentality which is especially evident in Season 3 with both of them being in their mid-thirties and both of them having no success elsewhere in life. Ultimately it comes down to them returning to what they’ve done most of their lives.
  • Kick the Dog: Sully thinking that Gem was The Mole decided to kill his dog Marnie after Gem successfully ran away from him.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Quite literally when Dushane rushes Lee at a bar after he finds out he branded his brother.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama: Doubled as this in the earlier seasons particularly in season 1, still has elements of this in season 3 tho the gang element is more prevalent.
  • Minor Living Alone: Ra'Nell briefly lives alone when his mom is institutionalized.
  • The Mole: After suspicion, it was revealed that Lee was the one that told Kamale about the money, and he ends up dead. In Season 2 Michael gives evidence to the police in an interrogation under duress.. In Season 3 Dris give the address of the new yard to Jermaine resulting in him, Modie and Jamie ambushing Dushane and Sully in a shootout.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: As a brutal and gritty series on gang violence, there’s quite a few of these, but their potent in Season 3 with a large number of bats, knives and kicking.
  • Number Two: Dris more than any other character, but there are other examples like Kit for Jamie and to an extent Sully to Dushane before Season Two before Characterisation Marches On.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent: What most of the characters would strive to believe they abide by but ultimately they are far from this.
  • Oop North: Ats and Stefan head up to Manchester to perform a county lines delivery. Which is actually a fake ploy by Jaq and Dushane to get Ats in their debt.
  • Parental Substitute: Leon is this to Ra'Nell when Lisa is sent to a psychiatric hospital after she breaks down in the market. Sully tries acting like this to Jason after he takes the young boy under his wing.
  • Prison: Episode 2 of season 3 sees Sully serving time in one.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Dushane and Sully whenever they work together while Sully is prone to acting impulsively and violently, Dushane is usually more level-headed and calculating, Zig-Zagged through Season 3 with Sully acting a bit less violently and being more level-headed whereas Dushane is losing his cool due to how dire situations are regarding his control of the streets, though most of the time this is their dynamic.
  • Sequel Escalation: In season 1 Summerhouse is grappling with the rival Fields Mandem over some stolen money and drugs, whilst facing increasing levels of pressure from the criminal hierarchy. In season 2 the Albanians kill their drug supplier leading to Summerhouse assaulting them to get the drugs back whilst Sully is forced to deal with a dangerous gang leader who’s after him. In season 3 things get even more intense, as the increase in power and prominence of the drug trade has lead to even more competition for Summerhouse and a new rival organisation which has no plans of backing down, leading to a full-blown war.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Sully, despite being as much the main protagonist as Dushane, is cold and murderous in season 1 and 2. He's a lot nastier than Dushane, a good example being when he murders Leon and Marnie in season 1, two completely innocent souls and in season 2 when he kidnaps his own cousin for money. In season 3, Sully is calmer and only becomes violent once after Jason is murdered, instead of initiating the violence like back in the past seasons with the exception of burning Modie’s face for threatening him in prison he only goes to war to protect himself after nearly being murdered by Leyton and Jermaine at Jason’s funeral.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Dushane is less sympathetic in seasons 2 and 3 than he was back in season 1 which marks his evolution as a hardened criminal and gang leader as he finds killing and making violent moves easier and easier, he loses his temper quicker when things go wrong. His actions through seasons 2 and 3 are a far cry from his more guilt ridden conscience back in Season 1 with him being more apathetic to other people’s suffering if it’s a price to pay for his success.
  • Villain Protagonist: Dushane, Sully and Jamie are hardened criminals fully capable of murder. In fact, they kill more people onscreen than any other characters in the entire series. With that said, they aren't devoid of sympathetic traits such as family which is why the audience still roots for them.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Discussed by Dushane to Sully in season 3 episode 7:The Squeeze after his cousin Donovan dies.
  • World of Jerkass: Played With, a lot of characters are ruthless criminals who, (charisma and motivations aside), ruin lives and aren’t very nice to begin with coming off as pricks or even worse than that most of the time.
  • The Yardies: Although they are never called this, a few of the characters involved in the drug business are identifiably Jamaican. Taken further in Season 3 where the first episode reveals Dushane is in the service of the local kingpin in Jamaica with a few other explicitly Jamaican gangsters as part of his operation.

''Am I a good man?
Am I a fool?
Am I weak?!
Or am I just playing it cool?''