The second episode of season two sees the girls (and James) falling for the captivating Ms de Brún – and the parents getting their own subplot.
You Know You Grew Up In The Nineties, as the online quiz titles go, when you can’t hear the phrase “oh Captain, my Captain” without crumbling into a sobbing emotional ruin. Dead Poets Society, where Robin Williams plays a charismatic teacher bringing life and joy and poetry to a group of repressed New England school boys, may have been released in 1989, but it was a Nineties sleepover classic. Episode two of Derry Girls, ‘Ms de Brún and The Child of Prague’, cheerfully rips it off.
There’s a new teacher in town, with eyeliner that is both smudgy and winged, who dresses in motorcycle leathers or like Selina Scott on The Clothes Show, and has that thoroughly modern Ms as a title. She denounces the pupils’ poems as trite, rips them up and has them start again. There are scenes on the games field, shouting out fears; a scene in front of photos of former students, talking about the transience of life; a scene where she starts with her feet on the desk and then stalks the classroom. Ms de Brún is every inspirational teacher trope you’ve ever seen. (Well, nearly. The only teacher cliché we don’t get is her talking about the street poetry of hip hop. Probably because our Derry gang are listening to the pop rave of Urban Cookie Collective. And no one can claim that repeating you have both the key and the secret stacks up next to Shakespeare.)
The girls and James fall for her. They copy her eyeliner and decide to go round to her house one evening, where she welcomes them in, gives them red wine and talks to them about Life. Claire, having previously been called a “craic-killer” by Michelle, wants to prove a point and goes overboard on the wine. Nicola Coughlan, who plays Claire, gives us some fine, funny and very realistic drunk acting.
The adults have their own subplot this week, involving a cinema trip to see The Usual Suspects. They get turfed out of the cinema before finding out exactly who Kaiser Soze is – which pretty much defeats the point of watching The Usual Suspects. Mary’s evening is further ruined when she arrives home to find the teenagers have been at The Christmas Cupboard – the place where all the treats are gradually stored until December rolls around. Derry Girls excels at pointing out the kind of domestic obsession (see also last week’s Thing About The Big Bowl and the plotline from season one where Mary loses her reason in her determination to make up a full load for the washing machine). There’s a lot of comic exaggeration, but for those of us who had a certain kind of childhood, the jokes are even sharper because you know they come from a place of truth.
Also, while we’re on the adults: there’s a rare moment of unfiltered emotion from Sister Michael too. “She touched us!” cries Erin of Ms de Brún. When it becomes clear Erin is speaking on a positive, emotional level, the relief crossing the nun’s face is wonderful. “Oh, thank God,” she says.
But inevitably, Ms de Brún is a letdown. And life, as it always does in sitcoms, returns to the weirdly normal.
Derry Girls series two continues next Tuesday at 9.15pm on Channel 4
Main image: Channel 4