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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 created and written by Ronan Bennett about the lives of people involved in the drug dealing and street gangs of surrounding estates in Hackney, London.

The first series of the show was broadcast over four consecutive nights on Channel 4, from 31 October to 3 November 2011. A second series aired from 20 August to 10 September 2013. Although storylines for a third series were proposed, the show was ultimately dropped by Channel 4 in 2014.

However, in November 2017, it was announced that following interest from Drake, Netflix would revive the series, ordering a new season of 10 episodes. Series 3 premiered on the streamer on 13 September 2019, with the leads Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson reprising their roles. The revival season premiered on Netflix as "Season 1," whilst the previous two series were added to Netflix under the name Top Boy: Summerhouse.

It was announced on 31 December 2019 that Series 4 would air later in 2020, but it was delayed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. It was eventually released on Netflix on 18 March 2022 (being called "Season 2" on the streamer). On 31 March 2022, Netflix announced that they had renewed Top Boy for a fifth and final season, which aired on 7 September 2023.

Top Boy contains examples of the following:

  • Brick Joke: In episode 2 of Summerhouse season 2, Sully rinses a young rapper for exaggerating the street life.
    Sully: Blud you ever been on the road? Hmm? Coz trust me, Iíve been on the road and I ainít never seen no AK-47 in my life bro.
    • After raiding the Albanians for the drugs they stole Sully finds an AK-47 and takes it for himself.
  • British Brevity: Played straight in the first two seasons as it was airing on a British Channel but after the move to Netflix itís ten episodes instead of four. Series four however does play it closer to the original with 8 episodes.
  • British Series: Set in Hackney, London to be exact.
  • Casting Gag:
    • Micheal Ward (Jamie) and Kadeem Ramsay (Kit) also play close friends in the movie Blue Story, which just like Top Boy revolves around the story of gangs based in council estates.
    • The actors of supporting characters Tareek, Kieron Palmer and Chris Hill also appeared in the film.
    • Taken even further in series 4, with minor antagonist Khadeem portrayed by Khali Best of EastEnders fame, who also had a major role in Blue Story.
    • Both Ashley Walters and Howard Charles, who play Dushane and Curtis respectively, have portrayed the character of Wolf from the Alex Rider novels in one of the two live-action adaptions. Walters portrayed Wolf in the movie, whilst Charles portrayed Wolf in the Amazon Prime series.
  • Central Theme: The world is a Crapsack World but if itís that bad might as well make something of it.
  • Characterization Marches On: Justified Trope. Due to the hiatus before it was picked up by Netflix. It's quite hard to compare every character back in the first two series, to five years later in series 3 and 4.
  • 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 series 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 see YMMV.
  • Child Soldiers: The YGs are kids and teens who are conscripted by gangs like Summerhouse and the Fields to hand out drugs and get information, some are also involved in their physical altercations.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Ra'Nell is completely missing and not even mentioned in series 3 onwards, neither is Lisa.
  • 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 of London, and a lot of the characters are in no doubt that itís 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.
  • Danger Takes A Back Seat: Dushane kills Haze in this manner to avenge the death of his cousin Donovan.
  • Demoted to Extra: Gem in series 3.
  • Deuteragonist: RaíNell in series 1. Sully in series 2. Jamie in series 3. Jaq in series 4.
  • Disappeared Dad: Ra'Nell's dad is not at home, and it was mentioned that RaíNell stabbed him when he was attacking Lisa. In Series 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, lampshaded by the first episode of series 4 which is entitled "Good Morals".
  • 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 Series 3 develops this with Shelley and her daughter. Sully has Jason, his ex Taylor and his daughter Tasha. Jamie has his brothers. Dris has his daughter Erin and baby mum Mandy. Jermaine has his wife and son. Even Curtis, who gaslights Lauryn and is a Manipulative Bastard, genuinely loves her and his unborn child and has an affectionate relationship with his sister Vee.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Many gangsters put effort into their Friendly Neighborhood Gangster image, and several of the higher ups in operations conduct thens3lves more as businessmen than hoods, but drug dealing is still an intensely violent business.
    • Vincent stands out as a man who seems extremely helpful and congenial in the first season despite his line of work. When Gem loses a crop for him at the start of season two, he feigns tolerance for the mishap and gives him the opportunity to make up for it by working as his errand boy. But whenever Gem argues or slips up, Vincent loses all pretense of patience and gets very rough.
  • Fingore: In season one Dushane and Sully are tasked by their boss Raikes to cut of the index finger of a man who poked Raikes' nephew in the eye. Cue Black Comedy when they accidentally cut off the wrong finger and proceed to cut off the right one.
  • Fight Scene: Several, to the point that pretty much every important character alive by the time of series 3 gets into at least one physical fight or a similar altercation. Whatís most interesting in series 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:
    • Initially Dushane and Sully aren't explicitly shown to have these, but it's obvious that Summerhouse being such a rough neighbourhood 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 Chris took a better path in life.
    • Jermaine wants revenge for Sully kidnapping him in series 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 series 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 Summerhouseís 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 series 3 on the sidelines and his physical health is so bad that Dushane and Sully donít want to risk him being in the action. Meanwhile, he has to take care of his daughter alone because her mother is in prison. It's somewhat understandable that he switches sides when the ZTs are dominating the roads.
  • Freudian Trio: Dushane, Sully and Dris/Jaq.
  • Gangbangers: The majority of the main cast are involved in gang activity.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Dushaneís Love Interest in series 2 Rhianna Parkes.
  • Innocence Lost: Especially prominent with the younger characters, where it's shown that once exposed to the gang you lifestyle, they wonít be the same.
  • The Irish Mob: Joe the original supplier of Summerhouse in series 1 & 2 is hinted to be this having been a criminal for most of his life, having served time in prison and his top ranking in the criminal hierarchy. Lizzie, Jamieís 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 series 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 theyíve 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 Summerhouse seasons particularly in series 1, still has elements of this in series 3 though the gang element is more prevalent. Series 4 once again plays it straight.
  • Minor Living Alone: Ra'Nell briefly lives alone when his mom is institutionalized. In series 4 it's shown that Tia is living alone with her younger sister.
  • The Mole: After suspicion, it was revealed that Lee was the one that told Kamale about the money, and he ends up dead. In series 2 Michael gives evidence to the police in an interrogation under duress.. In series 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, thereís 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 Ninja for Kamale.
  • 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.
    • Big Bad of series 4, Curtis and his crew are from Liverpool.
  • 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: The second episode of series 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 Series 3 with Sully acting a bit less violently and being the more level-headed of the two, whereas Dushane is shown several times losing his cool due to how dire situations are regarding his control of the streets.
  • Sequel Escalation:
    • In series 1, Summerhouse grapples with their rivals the London Fields Mandem over some stolen money and drugs, violence is mostly reserved for scenes of high tension and only about five murders happen, only four guns are shown. In series 2 the Albanians kill Sumerhouse's drug supplier leading to Summerhouse assaulting them to get the drugs back whilst Sully is forced to deal with a dangerous gang leader whoís after him, more violence (including gun violence) occurs than in the previous series.
    • The revival by Netflix, gives the show greater budget for action, length and general appeal, even expanding the setting. Series 3 alone has more murders and gunshots than both original series' combined. Things are shown to be even more intense, as the increase in power and prominence of the drug trade has lead to even more competition for Summerhouse and beyond the London Fields Mandem's level up, other factions such as Sugar's organisation are involved. Come the second-half of the series' there's a full-blown war. Series 4 sees a considerable amount of the plot take place outside of the usual setting, with international locations such as Morocco and Spain, with even more violence than all the previous series' combined, guns are used far more, including machine guns.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: When Ra'nell decides he's going to confront Vincent on behalf of Gem, he is immediately beaten over the head with a fruit can and stomped while he's down. Vincent is an adult drug dealer who does not mess around, child or no.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Dushane is less sympathetic in series 2 and 3 than he was back in series 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 series 2 and 3 are a far cry from his more guilt ridden conscience back in series 1. Having become more apathetic to other peopleís suffering if itís a price to pay for his success.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Sully is cold and murderous in series 1 and 2. He's a lot nastier than Dushane, a good example being with his lack of remorse after the murders of Leon and Shaun in series 1, two completely innocent souls. In series 2 he kidnaps his own cousin for money. In series 3, Sully is calmer and less impulsively violent, and doesn't initiating violence like back in the past series. With the exception of burning Modieís face for threatening him in prison, beyond that he only goes to war to protect himself after nearly being murdered by Leyton and Jermaine at Jasonís funeral.
  • 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 series 3 episode: "The Squeeze" after his cousin Donovan dies.
    Dushane: Is the juice worth the squeeze?
  • World of Jerkass: Played With, a lot of characters are ruthless criminals who, (charisma and motivations aside), ruin lives and arenít very nice to begin with coming off as pricks or even worse than that most of the time. However there are numerous instances where they show morality and genuine decency.
  • The Yardies: Although they are never called this, a few of the characters involved in the drug business are identifiably Jamaican. Taken further in series 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.

''These walls, these walls,
Bringin' fire to my eyes,
I know, I know, it's killing me inside,
Things I've sacrificed for this life''