After last week’s dip in form, the question on some ‘Derry Girls’ fans’ lips was: could Lisa McGee relight their fire?
Even Gary Barlow had high hopes about the episode, tweeting hours before the programme: ‘Not sure what this Derry Girls is – but it is on Channel 4 tonight at 9.15 – could be fun.”
Episode three found Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle and James glued to the TV as they prepared for the two hour drive to Belfast to see their favourite boyband, Mr Barlow’s Take That.
Grandpa Joe joined them watching Take That on the telly but was appalled that Gary, Robbie et al appeared to be “touching themselves”.
Erin insisted the pop group were artists but Grandpa Joe was not convinced.
“Dirty English bastards is what they are,” he roared in outrage, before turning to James to say: “No offence, son.”
As Donna Trainor relayed the latest statement from John Hume calling for all party peace talks, Aunt Sarah observed of her local MP: “John’s really dying for peace, like, isn’t he?
“It’s all he ever goes on about. I hope it works out for him.”
Gerry, meanwhile, rallied the gang for the two hour drive to the King’s Hall, prompting Joe to go on another rant about the evils of Belfast.
Their plans were upended, however, when Donna Trainor announced on the news that a polar bear had escaped from Belfast Zoo.
Fearing the worst and egged on by Joe, Ma Mary decided the girls would not be going to see “This and That”, despite Erin’s pleas that an escaped polar bear would never rock up to the King’s Hall.
There was a typically off the wall attempt at an argument from Orla too: “Sure, the tickets were sold out months ago.”
A crisis meeting was held in Erin’s bedroom as she plotted with Michelle, Clare, James and Orla how they could flout the ban.
Michelle’s plan was to lie to their parents that they were at each other’s houses while they sneaked onto an Ulsterbus destined for Belfast.
And that is exactly what they did, with Clare wearing a balaclava, “looking like a Provo”.
Their excitement was quickly dampened when they realised Sr Michael was on board.
It didn’t help that Michelle had packed a suitcase full of vodka “and mixers as well – I’m not a savage”.
When Sr Michael enquired what was in the suitcase, the gang denied all knowledge of who it belonged to – resulting in their headmistress raising the alarm and the bomb squad being called to carry out a controlled explosion as the passengers stood at the side of the road.
With their bus trip thwarted, the gang set off on foot and on their incredible journey they encountered Ryan McParland’s touchy Traveller, Kerri Quinn’s beer swilling merchandise saleswoman and a sheep.
The latest episode of ‘Derry Girls’ was an improvement on last week’s episode.
But while it had some good lines, McGee’s latest instalment still fell quite a distance short of the high bar set by the second series’ first episode.
As in previous episodes, some characters got to shine more than others.
Dylan Llewllyn generated some laughs as James fell in with the Travellers and Jamie Lee O’Donnell probably had her best episode of the series so far.
However, at times, McGee’s writing seemed so preoccupied with its zaniness that its credulity wasn’t just stretched but bent out of shape.
Could there be magic in ‘Derry Girls’ again?
A lot will depend on the quality of the writing which appears to have got a little creaky.
McGee will need to raise the bar much higher in the remaining three episodes if we are to feel the sharpness really is back for good.
Dan McGinn is a journalist who was previously the Ireland Political Editor and Ireland Deputy Editor of the Press Association and has worked for the Irish News, Belfast Telegraph and other publications and for TV and radio. He currently works in communications and public affairs and is also a film and television critic with his own blog They’ll Love It In Pomona which covers the latest cinema and television releases.