Much like the structure of Derry Girls through the first two seasons, the considerable political turmoil facing Northern Ireland serves as the reflective backdrop for the everyday struggles plaguing these precocious teenagers.
In the final episode of Derry Girls season 3, all the characters wrestle with their votes in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement referendum. At the same time, Erin and Orla plan a joint eighteenth birthday party that’s, not surprisingly, foiled by rival Jenny Joyce’s plans to host a far more extravagant celebration on the same night.
The social predicament starts to simmer at the same time Erin feels the pressure of the impending vote on Derry’s future. She brings up the provision of the agreement that would allow early release to paramilitary prisoners, and we learn how it might affect Michelle’s brother, who’s currently in jail.
Derry Girls is mainly about a group of friends trying to lead normal lives in a tumultuous setting. The Troubles are background noise. We know what they’re living through, but they readily diffuse any tension with humor—as you’d expect from anyone growing up in this environment.
This final episode, though, is one of the few times the conflict directly touches the characters’ lives. And like the divergent factions across Northern Island, the ensuing argument between Erin and Michelle creates a rift until Clare sabotages Jenny’s party and shepherds all the guests to Erin and Orla’s birthday. The friends make up, and all is right in their small corner of Derry.
While the final episode takes on a more serious tone, the gang isn’t afraid to add some necessary levity—like when Mary decides to split the cost of the party venue with a first communion to save money, much to Erin’s chagrin.
The series opened with soldiers, barricades, and tanks rolling through Derry, The Cranberries’ “Dreams” blaring in the background. In the end, the group heads to their polling station to vote in favor of the referendum and the promise (or at least the hope) of peace, the same song playing but with a new meaning.
Derry Girls season 3 ending: What was the Good Friday Agreement referendum at the center of the final episode?
Season 2 of Derry Girls ended with a ceasefire between the factions in Northern Ireland (1994), a conflict raging since the 1960s and claiming thousands of lives.
In the years after, the parties brokered a peace agreement that resolved issues related to government structure, relations with the Republic of Ireland and the UK, and what to do with the paramilitary prisoners jailed over the years. The referendum asked Northern Ireland to vote on whether or not to accept the agreement, which they ultimately did with a record turnout.
Throughout the final episode, issues related to this referendum are debated and discussed. Grandpa Joe is seen with a corkboard trying to explain the referendum’s catalog of problems to the rest of the family. At the same time, Erin and Michelle’s argument centers around what to do with the paramilitary prisoners.
The actual peace process was far more complex than this short comedy show could expound on, but this final episode must’ve captured the mood and angst of the period while painting a hopeful picture of an uncertain future. Erin expresses these same sentiments in her final monologue, reaching the core of what Derry Girls is about.
Derry Girls season 3 ending: What was the Chelsea Clinton cameo?
The final scene takes viewers to present-day New York 24 years into the future. We’re unsure what the connection is to this time at first—after such a satisfying conclusion once the Derry girls vote for the referendum. A mailman delivers a weathered piece of mail, and we see Chelsea Clinton start to open it.
At the end of the second season, the girls wrote to then-First-Daughter Chelsea during Bill Clinton’s visit to Derry. Chelsea reads this letter out loud, giving the audience one last breath of charm and comedy before the credits.
This final season and especially this final episode were fitting tributes to this “class” show. And in a world that often demands more content and seasons, Derry Girls didn’t want to drag on or turn into something it wasn’t. The show stayed in its lane and, though it’s easy to long for more Michelle vulgarity or Grandpa Joe outbursts, and gave fans a “cracker” ending.
Derry Girls season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.