How Derry Girls Season 3 Makes A Scriptwriting Cliché Clever

Derry Girls season 3 makes a scriptwriting cliché clever by using it to give a key character, Michelle, even more depth and explore her vulnerability.

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for season 3 of Derry Girls

Derry Girls season 3 makes a scriptwriting cliché clever by using it to give a key character, Michelle, even more depth. Derry Girls season 3, episode 4 (“The Haunting”) sees James finally confesses his feelings to Erin, with the two sharing a kiss. However, a horrified Michelle walks in on them, telling them she would have to pick a side between Erin, her best friend, and James, her cousin if they ever broke up. The episode ends with Erin concluding that a relationship between them might not be such a good idea, and James claims that he will wait for her.

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The well-worn cliché of a young romance prevented by family ties goes back centuries to romeo and julietbecoming a favorite of melodramas, sitcoms, and romcoms. Derry Girls teased a potential romance between Erin and James in season 2 when James abandons his Doctor Who convention dressed as Tom Baker to take Erin to the prom. However, season 3 is the first time it has been explicitly confirmed. With Michelle as James’ cousin though, there has always been the problem of how she would react, and whether this could fall into the usual sitcom tropes Derry Girls so cleverly subverts.

Related: Derry Girls: 10 Places You’ve Already Seen The Cast


Derry Girls manages to twist this convention by making the reveal equally about Michelle’s relationship with James and Erin, and her insecurities, rather than just about the couple. Instead of the clichés of family honor and class, Michelle’s reservations about her come from the simple fact that she loves her friends about her, and she loves being a Derry Girl. Her fears of her are deeply human: the anxiety that her friendships with her may one day fall apart, and the trepidation of having to pick a side should things in James and Erin’s relationship go wrong.


Derry Girls Season 3

It’s similar to how another sitcom, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s fleabag, uses the typical ‘forbidden romance’ trope between Fleabag and Andrew Scott’s ‘Priest’ as a gateway to explore Fleabag’s deeper personal demons. Indeed, Michelle in Derry Girls has been frequently shown as the toughest of all the girls: brutally honest, reckless, and frequently belittling her cousin, James. But at this moment, she acknowledges that “d**khead or not” she’ll still stick with James, because he’s family, showing both her fierce principles and loyalty, as well as the love she has for James underneath the bluster. Furthermore, this insecurity and vulnerability around people leaving her makes more sense given the later revelation that her brother Niall is a paramilitary prisoner.


Erin and James’ romance is never explicitly touched upon again from there to Derry Girls’ extended final episode, illustrating that writer Lisa McGee stays true to James’ promise he will wait for Erin. Instead of returning into ‘will-they-won’t-they’ clichés and family drama, she uses the moment of passion between them to inform Michelle’s character of her and dig into the vulnerability she often tries to hide. It adds another dimension to Michelle and brings home the foundation of loyalty that she holds Derry Girls together.

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