The British crime series Top Boy is set on the fictional Summerhouse estate in the London Borough of Hackney, focusing on the drug-dealing activities of Dushane Hill, played by Ashley Walters, and Gerard Sullivan, aka Sully, played by Kane Robinson.
After Channel 4 dropped the show in 2014 after only two series, rapper Drake, who was an ardent follower, stepped in to help revive it, brokering a deal with Netflix to produce three more series before finally resting the show for good. The Netflix series debuted in 2019, five years after the drop.
Now that the show has run its full course, there are many differing opinions, especially about the season finale, but one thing most viewers can agree on is that choosing to lead lives like Dushane and Sully is not really worth it after all. Both men attained the status of Top Boy, calling shots out of Summerhouse and making millions of pounds in profit, but in the end, what was it all for?
Dushane was Top Boy for most of the series, with Sully his second-in-command when he wasn’t in his feelings or breaking off to make one trouble or the other. Despite the ruthless kill-or-get-killed nature of their business, Dushane was relatively empathic and had better decision-making skills for the most part.
He was also better grounded, relatively tethered by family ties and other close relationships, even though it didn’t always seem like it. His mom lived in Summerhouse until her death, and his girlfriend, Shelley, was so close to his heart that she was the major reason he decided to move into a better apartment. This soft side of Dushane, however, was also why he never saw Sully as a threat, despite the latter’s actions always making it obvious that he was.
Being in the shadows of Dushane for so long did not always sit right with Sully. Coupled with his innate readiness to get his hands dirty regardless of who was getting the bullet, it wasn’t too surprising when he orchestrated a coup d'état to get the Top Boy crown for himself.
Two things happened afterwards.
Dushane decided to focus on his plans to diversify into legitimate businesses, one of which was setting up Shelly with a chain of nail parlours in London. When this didn’t go as planned and he found out that he might have actually lost all the money he ever worked for, Dushane’s rationality went out the window, and he began to unravel in a dangerous way.
If Sully had the slightest pressure on the brakes before he became Top Boy, that pressure dissolved, and he went completely out of control, especially with him realizing that being Top Boy wasn’t exactly rosy and that things would not always go his way. His ruthlessness became unhinged, and almost no one was safe from it, regardless of their relationship with him.
These two things were the recipes that led to the downfall of both men, respectively. The Top Boy seat is a sweltering one, and while its perks make it attractive enough to aim for, the reality mostly only sets in when the position is finally attained.
But on the flip side, we all started to watch the series knowing there was going to be a Top Boy, right? Someone who rises to the top and excels there. Someone who beats the game. Someone who wins. Dushane and Sully rose to the top, but did they excel there? Did they beat the game? Did they win?
No, they did not. Not only did Dushane lose all his money, but he also got popped by—guess who—Sully, who himself got popped too in the show’s last scene.
A Top Boy ending in the way either of them did was quite unflattering. Or perhaps we, the viewers, are all looking at this wrong. If Dushane and Sully did not achieve what we expected to see when we started out watching the series, were they really the real Top Boys after all?
This is just a thought, but if Dushane and Sully weren’t it, who then was/were the real Top Boy(s)?
Dushane and Sully ran the business, made a lot of money, and oftentimes decided who got to live or die. These are the things we think them to be Top Boys for, but let’s look a little closer.
Dushane ran the business and made a lot of money. But how is he any different from Jaq, Kieron, and the other soldiers who were making money on the streets and remitting it all to him if, at the end of the day, he also gave all that money to someone who ended up owning the booty that was supposed to be the fruit of his labour. In the end, all the money he made went to Lizzie and Lithe, right?
In Sully’s case, he also ran the business, maintaining his hold on power by never hesitating to pop shots at people. But in the end, he himself was popped. A lot of viewers disagree on who did it, but for me, the clue is in the walk of the shooter—a signature Jaq walk.
If you look at the story in a general context this way, who then were the real Top Boys?
Think about it. Who realistically rose to the top and excelled there? Who emphatically beat the game? Who won in the end?
For me, it is the ones who took the money from the Top Boy, whose reign was all about making money, and the one who popped the other Top Boy, whose reign was all about popping others. For me, the real Top Boys in Top Boy were not even boys. They were Lizzie, Lithe, and Jaq!