'Years and Years' viewers left 'in tears' after 'gut-wrenching' episode 4 death

Russell T Davis' dystopian BBC One drama just delivered one of the most harrowing TV moments of the year.


Words: Will Stroude

Warning: Major spoilers for 'Years and Years' episode 4 follow.

Wow. Just wow.

After three episodes which established a growing sense of dread for Manchester's Lyons family in the face of an increasingly uncertain future, Years and Years delivered a dagger to the heart on Tuesday night (4 June) as housing officer Daniel (Russell Tovey) was killed off in the most tragic of circumstances.

After a left-wing revolution in Spain left his boyfriend Viktor (Maxim Baldry) in need of a new place to go, viewers saw Daniel empty his life savings and travel to Europe to help bring his partner back to the UK before he could be deported back the Ukraine, where he could face possible execution.

Having had their first attempts to cross the English Channel foiled, and losing of most of their money by groups exploiting vulnerable migrants, an increasingly desperate Daniel made the fateful decision to use the last of their money to pay a man to smuggle both himself and Viktor back to Britain aboard a boat.

Viewers of Russell T Davies' dystopian BBC One drama were left "sobbing" and "in tears" as the the pair's attempts to life and love freely came to a horrifying conclusion when the tiny, overcrowded dinghy sank just half a mile from the coast of Dover.

The sight of Daniel's lifeless body washed up on the beach, so close to returning home, ranks as truly one of the most harrowing TV moments of the year.

And having narrowly escaped death himself during perilous crossing, it was left to Viktor - now safely at Daniel's former home in Manchester - to break the news to his dead partner's increasingly fractured relatives, leaving viewers on tenterhooks ahead of episode five.

Devastated viewers described the episode as "one of the best pieces of television ever made", as they praised Davies for deftly bringing the horrifying reality of Europe's ongoing migrant and refugee crisis to the small screen.

"That’s the reality for people across the world right now and it’s utterly heartbreaking," wrote on viewer on Twitter.

"I am truly in tears. Truly sobbing. [Russell T Davies] showed what people needed to see," commented another.

They added: "That is the true story of refugees. People who are desperate, trying to be safe. They're not a danger to us. They're vulnerable. They have people who love them. They matter."

Speaking to the Radio Times, Davies described the shocking nature of Daniel's death as "the heart of the show."

"What Years and Years really sets out to do – and we couldn’t talk about this much when we launched the show, because we didn’t want this story to be spoiled – is to show how those events we think of as far-away, as other, as foreign, are closer than we think," he said.

"We imagine that drowning in an escape from one country to another is something that happens to other people. It could never happen here. When that toddler, Alan Kurdi, was washed up on a Greek beach, we all wept and said things must change.

The Queer as Folk creator added: "We must change. The world must change. Nothing changed. The problem gets worse and worse. And closer and closer."

Meanwhile, while you recover from Years and Years episode four (if that's even possible) you can read our recent interview with star Maxim Baldry (Viktor) here.

Years and Years continues next Tuesday 11 June at 9pm on BBC One.