That’s the spirit…

So now we know for definite.
‘Derry Girls’ writer Lisa McGee has confirmed the Channel 4 sitcom will end this month with an episode built around the Good Friday Agreement referendum.
If that wasn’t enough, McGee revealed that Tara Lynne O’Neill’s Ma Mary and Kathy Keira Clarke’s Aunt Sarah will also get a special flashback episode next week focusing on their youth.
A word of warning, though, for those of you who watched tonight’s Party Leaders Election Debate on BBC1.
After all that rowing over the state of power sharing, the protocol, the cost of living crisis, the health service and the possibility of a border poll, you probably need some laughs – yes even you David McCann.
However before you read this, if you haven’t seen the latest ‘Derry Girls’ episode either on Channel 4+1 or All 4, hold off if you don’t want any spoilers.
Unless, of course, you want to bluff that you saw it – in which case, fill your boots.
With ‘Derry Girls’ reaching the official halfway point of the series, McGee and director Michael Lennox took viewers on another trek across the border – this time without either Ma Mary’s big clock or an IRA man in a car boot.
This week’s episode began, though, with Erin scowling as the resident school lick Jenny Joyce and her friend Aisling murdered a country song about God, while wearing pink and brown cowboy hats.
It was the usual tuneless affair, prompting Sister Michael to exclaim in exasperation: “Merciful Jesus!”
Michelle was so outraged by the performance, she joined Erin, Clare, Orla and James in the headmistress’s office to “report a crime”.
Just because someone “was really, really, really bad” at something, Sister Michael argued, it wasn’t a crime.
Clare, however, alleged Jenny stole the song which they wrote on a religious retreat.
Her rant was interrupted, however, by a phone call for Sister Michael who received news that her aunt had just died.
As the gang immediately expressed how sorry they were, Sister Michael retorted: “Don’t be. She was ill for a very long time and also she was an absolute arsehole.”
With the hospice eager to release the woman’s body, their headmistress was keen to stall its return because the aunt’s house in Co Donegal was an absolute tip.
She hatched a plan, however, in which James would drive the school van and the gang would clean her dead aunt’s house because she couldn’t be bothered.
Clare was loathe to do it, prompting Michelle to tell her that she found her attitude “shocking”.
After all, Sister Michael had “turned to them in her hour of need” and had asked them to clean and stay overnight in a house with no adults telling them what to do.
While Clare moaned they had plans, Michelle batted back that they could turn jeans into hot pants any day of the week.
The house in Donegal offered them the chance to drink, dance and get off with “hot farmers.. big strapping lads,” with no parents or teachers there to knacker the proceedings.
Given Clare’s sexual orientation, she assured her “lesbian farming” was also “huge in the Republic” before berating James for asking if they could help him pick up a girl.
In the Quinn household, Grandpa Joe was preparing to visit his wife’s grave and was livid about the state of another grave containing a neighbour’s wife.
In his opinion, it was like a jungle.
Sarah warned him against strimming the grave of another man’s wife, arguing to do so would cross a very serious line.
Meanwhile Mary was disappointed that ten years on from their mum’s death, she had not attempted to give them any sign from beyond the grave.
When she suggested going to a psychic, Sarah was dead set against the idea.
When Sarah last encountered a psychic, she recallled she had spirits coming at her “left, right and centre” including the ghost of an American airman who had her demented.
After being stopped in the school van by a British Army border patrol, James, Erin, Michelle, Orla and Clare asked for directions further down the road but encountered Olwen Fouere’s ranting old woman who spoke only in Irish.
James didn’t realise it was Irish and thought she might have had a stroke.
Erin was convinced the woman had seen the Devil, observing she definitely “had a Devilly vibe.”
The van, however, sustained a puncture, forcing James to abandon the vehicle.
However he soon had to deal with it slowly rolling down the road after forgetting to apply the handbrake.
As he tried to stop the van, he was concussed after Michelle finally figured out what to do with the brake.
While Clare, Orla and Erin tried to lift James, Michelle’s first instinct was to carry the crate of booze she had stocked in the van.
Noting Sister Michael had indicated the house was nearby, they carried James to a cottage where Clare got into a lather about not being able to find the key under a vast array of flower pots.
After Clare broke a window, Orla found the key and when the gang got inside it was as cluttered as they expected.
However it was also creepier, with no phone, no electricity, howling winds and thunder feeding their overactive imaginations.
Back in Derry, Joe, Mary, Sarah and Gerry visited Conleth Hill’s psychic Carlos Santini, whose real name was Kevin.
While Gerry was having none of his nonsense about communicating with the dead, Joe, Mary and Sarah were lapping it all up.
Would Erin, Michelle, Clare, Orla and James survive their night in the eerie cottage?
Would Joe, Mary and Sarah make contact through Carlos Santini with his dead wife and their dead mother?
This episode of ‘Derry Girls’ was unquestionably the sweariest ever – reaching Roddy Doyle levels of epic swearing.
It was also the best of the series so far – continuing to improve on last week’s trip to Portrush.
The gags, as usual, came thick and fast, with Aunt Sarah’s rant to Carlos about the American airman a particular highlight.
Santini’s claim that he had a special gift that enabled him to channel the spirits of the dead elicited a wonderfully droll response from Tommy Tiernan’s Gerry: “We gathered as much Carlos. We’re not here for the Kimberley’s..”
Sister Michael, though, had arguably the best line of the episode towards the end, as she tried to explain the chaos that her pupils inevitably brought to Donegal.
Of the guest stars, Conleth Hill was good value as Carlos/Kevin who occasionally broke his psychic persona to have a blazing row with his foul mouthed, bingo playing mother.
While not all of McGee’s gags hit their mark, the strike rate once again remained pretty high with Clarke, Tiernan, Ian McElhinney, Siobhan McSweeney and Jamie Lee O’Donnell all shining.
While some of you, no doubt, got your kicks tonight watching Jeffrey, Michelle, Naomi, Colum and Doug talking about the future and bemoaning the recent past, others  opted instead for McGee’s 1990s nostalgia trip.
It will be interesting to see how the Leaders Debate fared in the ratings battle against McGee’s sitcom.
Did viewers engage with the Assembly Election debate ahead of Thursday’s big vote?
Or did they elect to watch the adventures of Erin, Clare, Orla, Michelle and James?
Whatever the outcome, it’s heartening to observe as we enter the final stretch of McGee’s sitcom that ‘Derry Girls’ appears to be in rude health.
It’s not perfect and it still has a lot to do if it to convince people it’s among the very best of Channel 4’s sitcoms.
However, it’s not far off.

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