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Derry Girls season 3: Episode 4 includes a budding romance and a sign from above as show is back to its best

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Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson)

Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson)

Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson)

Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson)

Grandad Joe (Ian McElhinney)

Grandad Joe (Ian McElhinney)

Sarah McCool (Kathy Kiera Clarke) and Carlos Santini (Conleth Hill)

Sarah McCool (Kathy Kiera Clarke) and Carlos Santini (Conleth Hill)

Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson) and Orla McCool (Louis Clare Harland)

Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson) and Orla McCool (Louis Clare Harland)

Sarah McCool (Kathy Kiera Clarke) and Carlos Santini (Conleth Hill)

Sarah McCool (Kathy Kiera Clarke) and Carlos Santini (Conleth Hill)

Carlos Santini (Conleth Hill)

Carlos Santini (Conleth Hill)

Mary Quinn (Tara Lynne O'Neill), Grandad Joe (Ian McElhinney) and Sarah McCool (Kathy Kiera Clarke)

Mary Quinn (Tara Lynne O'Neill), Grandad Joe (Ian McElhinney) and Sarah McCool (Kathy Kiera Clarke)

Grandad Joe (Ian McElhinney)

Grandad Joe (Ian McElhinney)

Mary Quinn (Tara Lynne O'Neill), Grandad Joe (Ian McElhinney) and Sarah McCool (Kathy Kiera Clarke)

Mary Quinn (Tara Lynne O'Neill), Grandad Joe (Ian McElhinney) and Sarah McCool (Kathy Kiera Clarke)

Maureen Coleman

Maureen Coleman

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Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson)

Ever since James saved the day and accompanied Erin to the prom in series two, fans of Derry Girls have been hoping for romance to blossom between the pair.

And on Tuesday night it finally happened.

Following a nervous declaration of his feelings by ‘the wee English fella’ (Dylan Llewellyn), - “I like me Erin. You, s**t, you. I like you. I just want you to know that I think you’re beautiful”- Erin played by Saoirse-Monica Jackson, rewards him with a smooch. It’s a tender moment, made all the sweeter by the background track, Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer.

But it wouldn’t be Derry Girls without their intimate interlude rudely interrupted by James’ dry-bokin' cousin Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) and her disgusted, over-the-top reaction to their wee snog.

“What the actual f**k”?, she yells at the startled pair. “This is incest!”

“No, it’s not,” James retorts. “We’re not related.”

“Oh, and that makes it ok, I suppose?” is Michelle’s defensive comeback.

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It’s this juxtaposition between fluffy and acerbic humour that makes Lisa McGee’s writing so clever. She never strays into sickly sweet territory, not even when giving fans their much-awaited rom-com moment. There’s always a big side helping of harsh reality to bring us back down to earth with a bump. And the reality is that a romance for the pair could spell disaster for the teenage gang’s uncomplicated dynamic. O’Donnell, as ever, is superb at conveying a fragile vulnerability under her tough, potty-mouthed exterior.

While last week’s train journey to Portrush went a bit off track and felt too rushed and flat, this instalment has all the hallmarks of a Derry Girls classic. Sister Michael (Siobhan McSweeney) gets more airtime for a start and proves that it’s never wise to offer your services to someone in need, unless genuinely intended.

After the nun’s aunt dies, a hoarder and ‘absolute a**ehole”, Erin asks if there’s anything ‘the girls’ can do to help. Before they know it, the teenagers are being packed off to Donegal to clean up the dead woman’s house in time for her wake.

The cameo appearances just keep coming this season. Holding star Olwen Fouéré pops up as an Irish speaker, who points them in the direction of the derelict house, with warnings of the devil. When James despairs at her inability to speak English, Michelle points out “Well your crowd had a good stab of forcing the entire world to, but we didn’t really enjoy it much James.”

The unfortunate James has a van-related accident and knocks himself out, later claiming to have had a near-death experience when he finally comes round. His poetic description of bright lights, over-grown, intertwined trees and voices from the distance is lost on the girls though, as they are only focused on food. But it’s his brush with death which forces him to face up to his feelings for Erin, so all is not lost. 

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Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson) and Orla McCool (Louis Clare Harland)

Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson) and Orla McCool (Louis Clare Harland)

Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson) and Orla McCool (Louis Clare Harland)

After finding the house, the teens discover a faded photograph in a box which conjures up all sorts of scary imaginings as they are forced to spend the night there. The morning brings a hammer-wielding intruder, who tries to smash through the door. Cue hysterical screaming and trays transformed into weapons.

The gang is convinced he’s a ghost who’s come back to haunt them and not the rightful owner of the property, as he claims to be. But Sister Michael rocks up in a flashy DeLorean car and explains that they’re at the wrong house. Naturally.

Elsewhere Ballycastle’s Conleth Hill, who recently starred in ITV’s Holding with Fouéré and McSweeney, does a fabulous turn as the make-up-wearing medium Carlos Santini. In a nod perhaps to his appearance as Elsie in Peter Kay’s Car Share, Hill is wonderful as the psychic who Ma Mary (Tara Lynne O’Neill), Aunt Sarah (Kathy Kiera Clarke), Granda Joe (Ian McElhinney) and, reluctantly, Gerry (Tommy Tiernan) go to visit in the hope of hearing from the other side.

It’s been 10 years since Mary and Sarah’s mum  passed and the sisters want a sign. Joe does as well. He wants to know where his dead wife put his good razor, for a start. An unconvincing Santini says he can see water and a red box. Gerry is skeptical and thinks Santini is a conman. 

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Sarah McCool (Kathy Kiera Clarke) and Carlos Santini (Conleth Hill)

Sarah McCool (Kathy Kiera Clarke) and Carlos Santini (Conleth Hill)

Sarah McCool (Kathy Kiera Clarke) and Carlos Santini (Conleth Hill)

But the great Santini comes good for Joe and his girls in the end. What a simple but beautiful moment when Joe reaches under the sink, pulls out the red tin and on discovering the long-lost razor, smiles upwards and says to his dearly departed: “Thanks love.” Co Derry's Cara Dillon crooning ‘Black is the Colour’ in the background is a perfect touch.

I’m not crying, you are.


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