With “Top Boy,” Ronan Bennett has created a gruesome world of organized crime with gray characters running the narrative. The narrative puts forward the plight of refugees who face discrimination and slim chances of getting a decent job to earn a livelihood, and thus the circumstances bring them to one place, and one place alone, the streets. Most of them don’t sell on the streets out of choice but out of necessity to support their families in a foreign country where their greed and desire are further amplified, leading to crime and chaos.
Due to the critical acclaim of the original “Top Boy” that was released in 2011 on Channel 4, Netflix decided to reboot the series. Hence, the earlier two seasons, created for Channel 4, were renamed “Top Boy: Summerhouse,” while Netflix’s rebooted version that was released in 2019, became “Toy Boy,” “Season 1.”
Season 1 majorly focuses on three men: Jamie Tovell, Dushane Hill, and Gerald “Sully” Sullivan. Sully and Dushane belong to a fictional public housing estate in East London called Summerhouse, and they used to run a drug syndicate in their borough until they fell apart due to a crisis that eventually led to their rivalry. After their business fell into pieces, Sully was arrested while Dushane fled to Kingston, Jamaica. On the other hand, Jamie is the new lad and is a member of the rival gang, London Fields, that belongs to a drug lord named Modie, who is in prison for murder and runs the gang from inside. The narrative follows the power struggle between these prominent gangsters to become the Top Boy on the streets of London.
‘Top Boy’ Season 1: Plot Summary
In Dushane, Sully, and Modie’s absence, the Turks have taken control of the drug supply and are maintaining their monopoly on the streets as both gangs, Summerhouse and London Fields, struggle to survive on bare minimum profits. After Dushane escaped and Sully was arrested, their partner, Dris Walsh, manages to keep the gang afloat and brings a loyal partner, named Jaq, to work with him. Modie’s loyal right-hand, Leyton, looks after London Fields and takes orders from Modie, who contacts Leyton through cell phones smuggled inside the prison. A new lad named Jamie Tovell becomes a member of the London Fields and sells drugs to support his two younger brothers, Aaron and Stefan, after they lost their parents.
Season 1 begins as the Turks raise the price again, and Jamie revolts in anger. He tries to persuade Leyton to shoot the Turks, but Leyton doesn’t want to incite a gang war. Hence, Jamie takes matters into his own hands and finds new suppliers for the food (drugs). Jamie and his best friend Kit meet Irish drug suppliers, Lizzie and her husband, who hail from Dublin. Lizzie promises to keep the flow of drugs going in the Turks’ absence, and so Jamie and Kit discreetly burn the Turks’ warehouse and kill them. With new suppliers in his contacts, Jamie quickly rises through the ranks of the gang. While Leyton believes he is still in charge, it is Jamie who pulls the strings.
On the other hand, Dushane Hill, who fled to Kingston, Jamaica, now runs a taxi-rental service with his handicapped cousin, Donovan. One day, a local gangster who works for a kingpin named Sugar, convinces Dushane to rob a post office, but later decides to rob a general store and shoots an innocent young man. Dushane tries to stop the gangster and finally shoots him to put an end to his impulsive violence. Dushane decides to run away to escape Sugar’s rage, but finds out that Donovan doesn’t have a passport. Hence, Dushane helplessly makes a deal with Sugar to sell his drugs in London and earn him a hefty income. Sugar keeps Donovan as leverage, and to save his brother’s life, Dushane returns to Summerhouse, but he needs 10 grand to buy drugs from Sugar, and if he fails to do so, Sugar will kill Donovan in Kingston.
While Dushane struggles to get money and Jamie slowly rises in power, Sully is released from prison. As soon as Sully comes out, Dushane approaches him to get financial help as Sully has saved some money from their previous venture, but Sully refuses to trust Dushane again and starts his own small syndicate in Ramsgate with the help of his former loyal lads, Gem and Jason. However, in a tragic turn of events, Sully’s loses both Gem and Jason in a house fire and thus returns to Dushane to begin their syndicate again. Sully provides money to Dushane to buy drugs from Sugar, but as Dris and Jaq start selling in Summerhouse, they face competition from London Fields, and as soon as Jamie learns about Dushane and Sully’s return, he retaliates violently and attacks the Summerhouse field boys to instill fear in them.
Season 1 also follows a power struggle between impulsive young blood like Jamie and the old idealistic Summerhouse kingpins, who incite a war to rule London’s streets.
Major Spoilers Ahead
How Did Dushane Deal With Jamie?
In their days, Dushane and Sully had seen the consequences of violent gang wars and the loss of life. It was for this reason that Dushane tried to make a truce with Jamie to convince him to sell on his own turf while staying out of Summerhouse, but Jamie wanted to rule it all and become the new drug lord of London. He was ambitious and had big dreams, which even Dushane cherished.
In all the chaos, it was Jamie who entered into the world of crime on his own free will, as opposed to Dushane, who was forced by Sugar. But after running the syndicate for several years in the past, Dushane and Sully had accepted the fact that they were going to be on the streets fighting a war forever, because they knew nothing else. They will win and win until they lose and someone else takes over. That’s the rule of the streets. Either Dushane and Sully could fight the war forever or they could organize the syndicate so that no one would ever try to revolt; for that, Dushane needed Jamie’s expertise to organize the Summerhouse empire, which was why he didn’t want to kill Jamie; instead, he decided to teach him a lesson to earn his loyalty like a true leader.
Jamie’s strategic brilliance could be understood from the fact that he decided to attack the Summerhouse peddlers to scare them off the street, instead of going after the big players, Dushane or Sully, because he knew fighting with the Goliaths would cost him gravely. His plan was working splendidly until Modie decided to intervene. From prison, he ordered Leyton to take revenge on Sully for attacking Modie in prison and scaring his face with hot water. Leyton lured a summerhouse peddler named Lauryn and found out about Sully’s location while he attended Jason’s cremation. Leyton’s impulsive attack on Sully messed up Jamie’s plan, so to teach him a lesson, Jamie decided to strike Leyton, but things went out of control and, due to a massive loss of blood, Leyton lost his life.
On the other hand, Dushane and Sully believed that Jamie tried to kill Sully and hence devised a plan to take Jamie from the scene. Dushane abducted Jamie’s supplier, Lizzie, and found out about her network in Dublin. At this point, Dushane and Sully decided to cut off ties with Sugar and end his regime. They planted a woman in Kingston prison who poisoned Sugar and killed him, while Dushane took care of Sugar’s men in London to finally take revenge for Donovan’s murder. After Sugar’s death, Dushane and Sully planned to murder Jamie and deal with Lizzie to rule the streets, but Modie intervened again.
With the help of Sully’s estranged brother, Jermaine Newton, Modie escaped prison and decided to kill Sully’s for once and for all. Jermaine contacted Dushane’s loyal partner, Dris, and convinced him to betray Dushane and Sully to finally become the leader of the Summerhouse. In all these years, Dris had been struggling to gain power and money, and he had entrusted Dushane to treat him like an equal partner in the syndicate, but Dushane swore all his loyalty to Sully, and that influenced Dris’ decision to ditch them. Modie attacked Dushane and Sully in their hideout, but they were able to flee. In the end, Modie was surrounded by the feds who shot him in a confusion.
After Modie’s death, Jamie reassembled the team to target Dushane and Sully, but Dushane planned to end the war without any bloodshed. Through Jaq, Dushane threatened a young boy named Atticus “Ats” Ayittey and forced him to plant drugs and a gun at Jamie’s house, as Ats was Jamie’s youngest brother, Stefan’s best friend, and had unrestricted access to Jamie’s house.
While Jamie was looking for Dushane and Sully on the streets, Dushane tipped off the cops about Jamie’s house, and they raided the place and arrested his brothers, Aaron and Stefan. To save Aaron from prison, Jamie took the blame and confessed to the crimes. Dushane and Sully won the war without killing anyone, except for Dris, who was shot by Sully for betrayal.
‘Top Boy’ Season 1: Ending Explained
All the three prominent characters portrayed in Season 1 flaunted a distinctive layer that separated them from regular one-dimensional gangsters. In Sully’s case, he lived by a certain code of conduct. He always followed certain principles and never crossed the lines drawn by him. In Sully’s law of court, anyone who betrayed him had to die, which was why he shot Dris, irrespective of the fact that he was like a brother to him and had tears in his eyes when he pulled the trigger. For Sully, these rules of conduct were everything, probably because he thought these principles helped him to create a separate identity apart from being a ruthless gangster. And it was because of Sully’s rigid rules that Dushane decided to hide Lauryn’s betrayal and even gave her money to leave London.
On the other hand, Dushane had his own ways of dealing with things. He didn’t want to shed unnecessary blood and so devised a plan to catch Jamie without killing anyone. However, Dushane’s plan brought in two small boys and Aaron, who was just an innocent young lad studying at a university. Sully, who had a daughter of his own, didn’t approve of this plan because he didn’t want to involve kids in the drug wars, but Dushane still did it. It was the reason why, after Jamie’s arrest, Sully pointed out that the fact that just because they didn’t lose doesn’t mean that they won. They did a lot of immoral things, and Sully won’t be able to forgive Dushane for that.
In the wake of Jamie’s arrest, he was sent to prison for 20 years, and in his absence, the London Fields gang dispersed. Kit lost control and tried to shoot Ats at his house, but Ats’s mother fortunately saved her kid’s life. Dushane had already made a deal with Lizzie, and after Jamie was gone, the Irish suppliers started selling to the Summerhouse, and the gang created a monopoly on the streets of London. Jaq groomed the new peddlers and managed the end supplies. However, Dushane needed to fill the gap left by Dris, which brought him to his rival, Jamie.
At the end of “Top Boy” Season 1, Dushane met Jamie in prison and offered him to join his gang. It can be speculated that Dushane never intended to kill Jamie because he adored his passion, dreams, and the way he organized the gang. Dushane always stressed the fact that Jamie should run the gang alongside him, and thus finally gave Jamie a chance to come out of prison and follow his passion. Dushane had video evidence that suggested that a hooded boy entered Jamie’s house with the green bag that police found at the scene. The evidence would help Jamie’s lawyer build a case that he was framed and only confessed to crimes to save his brothers. However, Dushane would only share the evidence if Jamie agreed to join Summerhouse and work for him. The season came to an end before Jamie could reveal his decision.
Season 2: Predictions
The two wasted addicts, Sarah and Lee, who constantly appeared on screen trying to score some drugs from the Summerhouse gang, were police informants (or cops) in disguise. The closing shot suggested that Dushane Hill had finally climbed up the ladder and became the top boy, at least in police records.
A trailer for Top Boy Season 2 released by Netflix suggests that Jamie will take Dushane’s offer and will come out of prison to work for him. And with Jamie on his side, Dushane decides to expand his business and contacts with his links in Spain and Morocco. However, Jamie’s arrival in the gang rubs off on Sully in the wrong way, and that builds up further tension until a major tragedy strikes.
At this point, Jamie is still in love with Lizzie, and she probably plans to take out Dushane to rule the streets of London, but at the end of it all, it comes down to one and one simple thing: “family.” Dushane has Jaq and Sully’s undivided loyalty, but will Jamie ever become a part of the Summerhouse family, or will he betray Dushane in order to step up? Season 2 will unravel the gang rivalry further, while the police authorities will intervene to end the drug syndicate. Whoever survives the rush will rule the streets and become the new kingpin.
“Top Boy” is a 2011 crime drama television series created by Ronan Bennett.