The fourth episode of Derry Girls is fantastic. Primarily, this show is so good because all of the main characters have a deep connection to each other. This connection causes them to do stupid things. In the case of this episode, “The Haunting,” the girls are tasked with helping clean out sister George Michael’s aunt’s house. The audience should know the number one thing about these girls is that you never trust them with an assignment without going with them. Of course, once the girls arrive at the location, they believe it’s haunted. Hijinx ensue.
This episode concept is not necessarily fresh. These same types of events happen in shows like The Inbetweeners or any Disney Channel original series involving small children around Halloween. The way the episode stays fresh is that it puts one of the main characters in continuous jeopardy. Specifically, the one character that gets most of the brunt of the fear and accidents is James. As catastrophic as that is, James also uses this as an opportunity to profess romantic feelings for one of the girls.
Unbeknownst to me, this was something many of the show’s fans were waiting for, and the moment does everything right. It gives the audience what they want and then promptly takes it away just as quickly. Ultimately this is a show about people being able to grow and get on to the next phase of their lives, and the creator does not lose sight of that. The best part of this show is how it constantly, even in this horror-themed episode, embraces the idea that this show is about how these girls and one guy change over time.
The romantic subplot mentioned earlier in the episode is pretty much the highlight because the audience always knew that James liked one of the girls, but we’re never very clear on which one he truly has his heart set on. That discovery is so profoundly unique and heartbreaking that I almost wish the two individuals had truly had the chance to explore a romantic relationship. At the very least, it would be interesting to watch the dynamics of the friends change because of the new romantic relationship. I think the writer plays this well because she seeks to remind the audience that the course of true love never did run smooth and succeeds in showing the audience that.
The real reward of the haunted house idea is that everyone in the group gets a chance to shine. The actors who portray James, Orla, Michelle, and Claire all get moments with their unique personalities push through the crazy story they’re involved in. This is what makes Derry girls so significant in the television landscape. When you look at shows like ICarly or Girls5eva, both shows have a unique and interesting premise but nothing profound to say about how someone who identifies as female navigates everyday life. Both shows are more about the laughs than the emotional beats of any story. Lisa McGee, as writer and creator of Derry Girls, always knows how to put heart at the center of every story being told, and that’s where I think you UD comedies mess up. Regardless this was a delightful 22 minutes of television.