Top Boy: Netflix crime drama bows out with a bang, say TV critics

The final series of Top Boy, Netflix's hit London street crime drama, has gone down well with TV critics.

The friction between powerful drug dealers Sully (played by Kane Robinson) and Dushane (Ashley Walters) "defines the final season of the gripping gang drama", the Guardian said.

Radio Times described the swansong as "frenetic" and "pacy and powerful", but one that "leaves you wanting more".

"Top Boy and its captivating characters will be sorely missed," it added.

The final series, which will arrive on Netflix on Thursday, finds the fictional Summerhouse Hackney estate facing up to the consequences of long-running corruption while also facing new violent threats.

The Drake-backed drama's conclusion sees a rival Irish gang, the McGees, led by Jonny (Barry Keoghan) and Tadgh (Brian Gleeson), bring fresh tensions.

In a four-star review, Radio Times' Morgan Jeffery said it was "a powerful send-off for an important series with a stellar ensemble cast" - which includes the Bafta-nominated Jasmine Jobson returning as Jaq - who are "at the very top of their game".

He continued: "This was certainly the right time to wrap things up - there's only so many times we can see Dushane and Sully at loggerheads before circumstances once again force them back into an uneasy partnership, the characters themselves even remarking on the familiarity of that premise here."

Barry Keoghan
The Banshees of Inisherin star Barry Keoghan joins the cast for the final series

The Evening Standard's Nick Clark, in another four-star review, wrote: "If the show suffers without the charisma of Micheal Ward's Jamie, a trump card is the addition of guest stars Barry Keoghan, Oscar nominated for The Banshees of Inisherin, and Brian Gleeson as Irish gangsters muscling in on Sully's drug operation.

"What has always elevated Top Boy is that it was not just about the drugs and the guns, the gang culture and the money, but it's about the families, friends and communities too," he wrote.

"It's a show that touches on real social issues from police and politicians' treatment of those in the estates to gentrification, Brexit to immigration."

The Independent' Nick Hilton awarded three stars as Irish screenwriter Ronan Bennett's "bleak but cinematic vision of modern urban life smashes to a close".

"Attempts to crowbar in a contemporary political resonance (the Home Office is trying to send a Summerhouse resident on Dushane's crew 'back to Rwanda') and expand the visual scale of proceedings (a shootout in a care home ends with a half-dozen bodies, an event that would presumably lead the national news for weeks) detract from the narrative realism," he noted.

"Top Boy takes itself seriously, but, in the end, it was never [US crime drama] The Wire," he continued. "But then, what is?

"This concluding chapter of the Top Boy saga pulls none of its punches - if anything it makes too many of them, like a rabbit-punching flyweight - and demonstrates that a big American streamer can be trusted to tell Black, British stories. Perhaps more so than our domestic broadcasters."

Araloyin Oshunremi
Araloyin Oshunremi plays Stefan, Jamie's younger brother

Walters and Robinson have said they always wanted the story to end "in the right way". The recent trailers promised there would be "no loose ends".

"As ever, Top Boy transcends gang matters to consider its wider impact and contexts," wrote the FT's Dan Einav, awarding four stars. "A quasi-novelistic saga of the streets, it continues to immerse us in a fragile community and to probe failing social systems."

He praised the "thoughtful writing and instinctual performances", adding: "What stands out again is the complete absence of glamour.

"Criminality here is never aspirational but is often inevitable, as seen in a subplot involving Jamie's brother Stef becoming drawn to the world he was sheltered from. The show may be coming to an end, but the cycle of violence seems set to go on."

Jasmine Jobson returns as Jaq
Jasmine Jobson returns as Jaq, looking to protect her family

This is the fifth series but is officially billed as season three by Netflix due to the first two having appeared on a different network, Channel 4.

The streaming giant revived Top Boy, after it was cancelled by Channel 4, when Canadian rapper Drake championed it and became an executive producer.

As well as Walters and Robinson, aka Kano, the show's cast has featured other rappers-turned-actors including Little Simz and Dave, plus future stars like Letitia Wright and Michaela Coel.