As misinformation spreads about an unknown disease, a group of misfits takes to London in the hope of finding love and success in the 80s. Russell T. Davies’ five-part drama is every bit as eccentric as it is heartbreaking as he explores the AIDS epidemic and the stigma that came with it.
Davies creates an incredibly authentic portrayal of the lives of young gay men living in the height of a monumental illness. Fuelled by lust, ignorance, and youthful optimism, It’s a Sin is utterly devastating whilst succeeding in preserving joyful vibrance through its loveable bunch of characters.
Beginning in 1981, we are introduced to the group’s ring-leader, Ritchie (Olly Alexander), ostentatious Roscoe (Omari Douglas), and the angelic Colin (Callum Scott Howell). The three of them are at various stages of their sexuality: Ritchie moves to London and embraces his homosexuality and the party life; Roscoe is very much the definition of out, loud and proud, renouncing his religious parents in the process; Colin, on the other hand, is timid and pure, falling under the wing of Neil Patrick Harris’ Henry Coltrane as he quietly gets on with his life.
From the moment you meet them, there is an immense amount of fondness for the three, which certainly does not help you prepare for the journey ahead! It’s a Sin is not a tale of finding love and happily ever after amidst a time of crisis. Though there are moments of jaunty bliss, the underlying theme is harsh and raw, but Davies perfectly preserves the balance between humor and tragedy. More often than not, you are enthralled by the lighthearted banter between the friends and almost forget the circumstances they are in living in. Throughout each episode, we are swiftly pulled from the high-spirited tone and given a cruel reminder of the uprising of AIDS.
Every episode packs a great deal of drama, intertwining the relationships of the characters with politics. The ignorance towards the severity of the crisis is enough to frustrate and shock you, which is reflected primarily through Ritchie. Referred to as the ‘gay flu,’ the stigma is sickening. The imagery Davies depicts is powerful. People were dying alone in hospitals, unable to contact others out of fear of contagion. They were ultimately prisoners because there was little research going into the disease. There is so much empathy to be had, which I believe Davies really excelled in portraying.
Cultural authenticity aside, It’s a Sin is jam-packed with an absolutely stellar soundtrack. From Pet Shop Boys to Queen, every single song complements the mood. One particularly gut-wrenching sequence is followed by Freddie Mercury crooning Who Wants to Live Forever, which hauntingly adds to your already vulnerable state of emotion. The nostalgia is impeccable, with music playing a huge factor in letting you relive the beauty of the 80s.
As someone who had very little knowledge of the epidemic and did not experience the 80s, I was deeply encapsulated by It’s a Sin. I admire Davies’ ability to educate his audience on how poorly the AIDS crisis was handled. I certainly felt appalled by the mistreatment of the homosexual community and how fearful ignorance became the ultimate death sentence for many people. You will laugh, you will definitely cry, but It’s a Sin leaves behind one of the most influential impacts on television that is not to be missed.
It’s a Sin will be available to stream on HBO Max on 18th February
UK viewers can catch It’s a Sin on All4 now