The plot of U.K. comedy Derry Girls doesn’t sound especially fun or funny. The lives of five teens — one of whom grew up in England — growing up in the middle of the political conflict of Northern Ireland in the 1990s? Not a particularly hilarious situation. Yet, Derry Girls shows us that youthful shenanigans and horny stirrings can’t be contained, not even in a militarized zone where suspicious suitcases are eradicated, lest they be bombs.
That is why so much of Derry Girls, which just premiered its long-awaited second season on Netflix, is dedicated to its core cast’s crushes. Although Michelle (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell) can't stop talking about sex, it’s protagonist Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson) who truly years for romance. Over the last 12 episodes, Erin has been chasing Derry hottie John Paul (Calam Lynch). Erin is so into John Paul, you almost want her to catch him for good.
But, Derry Girls season 2 makes a strong case for someone else to win Erin's affection: James (Dylan Llewellyn).
You realize James may be the comedy’s greatest romantic lead with season 2’s “Episode 5.” At the beginning of the installment, Erin notices John Paul is breaking up with his current girlfriend, who has done some modeling (this does not mean she's "a model," Erin emphasizes). Erin recognizes this state of heartbreak may be her only chance to date John Paul, so she immediately invites him to her upcoming prom. In the fog of post-split confusion, John Paul says yes.
However, as a viewer, you know this date is doomed. Erin and John never even settle on a concrete time for him to pick her up.
Your worst fears come true in the final act of “Episode 5,” when a dolled-up Erin waits in her kitchen for John Paul to show up. He never does. Yet, James materializes after Erin’s ma Mary (Tara Lynne O'Neill) calls him in secret. James looks cute. Like slicked back hair, full suit, and a bowtie cute. Plus, he says adorably polite things like, “Shall we go?”
It’s clear Derry Girls wants you to fancy James — and it’s more than the superficial stuff. At the beginning of the episode, we learn the Brit has a Dr. Who convention on the night of the prom. James explains the sci-fi show is the one series he watched as a little kid with his stepdad. Considering James’ spotty family history, we’re meant to figure out that stepdad was one of James’ sole healthy male role models. That is why he is planning to miss the dance — Dr. Who holds a special place in his heart.
James skipped the Dr. Who event for Erin, telling her it’s “not important” in the face of her happiness.
Everyone in Derry Girls mocks James for being English in 1990s Northern Ireland, but he may be the most chivalrous lad in Derry. That’s why his arrival at Erin’s home gets such emotionally stirring music. Scarlet’s swoony 1995 track “Independent Love Song” plays over the scene, with the U.K. girl band belting, “I’ll show you how to take me … I‘ll show you how to love me.” Now that is a moment crafted to set a ship to sail.
An Erin-James pairing is exactly what Derry Girls needs for an already-confirmed season 3. Erin is famously nervous about her lack of sexual experience. Although James “dated” Ukrainian refugee Katya (Diona Doherty) for an episode in season 1, he’s obviously lacks “moves,” to use Erin’s word. And who wouldn’t want to watch a few panicky episodes of Erin and James trying to hide their love from Michelle? It’s wildly unlikely Michelle would be anything other than aghast to learn her best friend is kissing her allegedly dweeby British cousin.
This is the kind of romantic farce Monica and Chandler would approve of — and the one we deserve.