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Ranking Derry Girls Characters By Likability

With its third season, Netflix's "Derry Girls" (originally developed at Channel 4) has come to a brilliantly bittersweet end. The Irish sitcom is based on creator Lisa McGee's experiences growing up in the '90s. The series highlights five main characters' lives during their time at the fictional Our Lady Immaculate College. While the series is undoubtedly a comedy, it carefully brings to the small screen the aftermath of The Troubles in Northern Ireland while simultaneously looking at the critical moments of adulthood, such as casting one's first vote.

"Derry Girls" is a quiet excavation that peers into ordinary days and momentous, history-changing events. It's a sweet, yet pragmatic coming-of-age story that features some of the most colorful, outright verbally cruel, and well-written roles in recent years. While Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle, and James are the key players, everyone brings something bright and fascinating to the series. On a show like "Derry Girls," it's impossible not to like characters even when they concurrently annoy the daylights out of viewers or do things so bonkers they merit an eye-roll or two. Still, each of the characters, in their own unique way, makes the series as special as it is. Here we rank each character by likability based on their actions in the show. 

11. Jenny Joyce

Jenny Joyce and Randall from Disney's "Recess" would get along too well. Though Randall wants people to like him, Jenny doesn't seem to have an ounce of self-awareness to arrive at this conclusion. The problem with the series ending after the third season is that viewers didn't get to see who Jenny would turn out to be. Does she eventually stop being passive-aggressive? Is she a sneaky brown-noser in college as well? Does she learn how to read the room and realize that the performances she puts on during assemblies are better for the shower?

Jenny is the only character on the series who's legitimately hard to like. And while that doesn't mean her role isn't entertaining, it simply means it's easy to understand why her overachieving antics and social awkwardness constantly irritate Erin, Michelle, Orla, Clare, and James. Even Sister Michael vocalizes her frustrations despite how frequently Jenny tries to kiss up to the nuns. However, as the school's prefect, she is at least doing a better job of the role than "Harry Potter's" Percy Weasley, a.k.a. the least likable Weasley sibling. 

10. Sarah McCool

Kathy Kiera Clarke's portrayal of Sarah McCool, Orla's mom, is the sole reason the character isn't frustrating beyond words. Sarah believes she's a psychic — she did a course and got a certificate, after all — but is actually completely and endearingly oblivious. While Sarah doesn't do much other than talk (often with unintentionally hilarious results), Clarke does plenty by always bringing to the surface some of the funniest performances in the show's history. She delivers even her most facially ridiculous lines with utmost gravity in her trademark breathy voice, from complaining that an IRA bombing will make her late for a beauty appointment to blabbing on about the miracle of cordless telephones. 

She cares as much about her physical appearance as her auras, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but tanning as much as she does can't possibly be healthy. However, perhaps the loveliest trait about Sarah is her endless support of Orla. Sarah is, without a doubt, the type of mother who doesn't care what her child does as long as she's happy, healthy, and safe. Sarah also has her sister Mary's back despite how often she seems to criticize her.

9. Mary Quinn

Mary Quinn, mother of Erin, deserves immense credit for coining the term "swear on Dolly" — a phrase she uses once in Season 1, Episode 3, that has become a meme all over social media. Like most mothers, Mary constantly deals with way more than she should. Mary is mostly understanding of the kids, even when she doesn't let her daughter explore "her individuality." Mary is very traditional and a strict enforcer of household rules, but complaints of her cruelty are greatly exaggerated. 

Like Erin, she has difficulty letting things go, even if they're as small as Michelle's mom no longer wanting her bowl back. In the third season, a flashback episode shows us that Mary still resents the fact that Jenny Joyce's mother, a former member of their friend group, dumped them after thinking she was better for dating someone in medicine. (At least this way, the audience knows where Jenny gets her sense of superiority from.) 

In the final season, she secretly decides she wants to go to university and only tells her family after Erin accuses her of having an affair. Mary vocalizes that she didn't want to say anything until she was confident, but her family's blessings (Erin's excluded for selfish reasons) nudge her to push forward to going. You have to admire her bravery in going back to school, and no one could claim she's not a caring mother. 

8. Michelle Mallon

In the real world, Michelle Mallon would be the type of person who's hard to have around. No one would willingly spend time with her when all she does is hurl insults left and right. She goes beyond snarky into genuine mean-spiritedness. While it was somewhat funny in earlier seasons, she progressively gets more and more unlikable as it becomes clear that she thinks she's better than anyone else. This detail isn't to say that Michelle doesn't care about her friends or that she thinks she's better than everyone else like Jenny, but she needs to learn to temper her attitude at some point.

In many ways, Michelle's cruelty should be inexcusable, but because she's loyal to her friends and would go through hell and back to fight for them, the series allows her to be a type of character the audience can appreciate. We don't have to agree with her behavior or every word out of her mouth, but we can usually understand where she's coming from. 

As the third season dives into questions of right and wrong along with morally gray areas, it allows both Erin and Michelle to look inward and ask themselves how their choices affect other people. We get a sense of how much she cares about their group when she stops Erin and James from dating. She'd love for them to stay together, but she's afraid that if they ever broke up, she'd have to choose between her friend and cousin — something she never wants to do. It's clear that, despite her constant mocking, she loves them both dearly.

7. Grandpa Joe McCool

Jane Fonda's "Monster-in-Law" has nothing on Joe McCool, the scariest father-in-law of all time. If any other actor portrayed Joe McCool, he might not have been such a horrific delight. As unlikable as he should be, it's the opposite. Ian McElhinney brings such a ridiculously cunning spirit to the man that it's impossible not to laugh at his crude humor. He still asks why Gerry can't leave Mary alone even after they've been married for 17 years. Like Michelle, you can't help but wonder that his behavior stems from how much he cares. He chooses Gerry as his victim only because he adores his daughters more than anything. 

Grandpa Joe is full of wisdom when need be. He also has plenty of sass to go around at all hours of the day and a lot of heart tucked underneath his always-dapper appearance. It's also hard to believe he's completely terrible when he's simply looking out for his daughters and granddaughters above all else. He is also almost always taking care of his youngest granddaughter, Anna, suggesting he's got a softer side. Additionally, in the third season, he's the one to nudge Erin to vote from her heart because maybe – just maybe – their vote will pay off, allowing their present lives to become a ghost story they'll tell their kids about later.

6. Gerry Quinn

Much like James Maguire, Gerry Quinn is the butt of Grandpa Joe's jokes, yet he steps forward, slamming through with dry comebacks better than anyone else could. Honestly, it's tough to think anyone else would've survived Joe's outright bullying, but Gerry does so admirably, one eye-roll after another. (Grandpa Joe may give Gerry so much guff because he knows he can take it.) Gerry bears it all by attempting to be an example for his kids while trying to consistently prove Joe wrong by being the best husband to Mary. He keeps up a relatively sunny disposition despite his difficulties. 

Gerry is as likable as he is because he's all heart. In the final season, when Mary decides to return to university, Gerry supports her decision without a second thought, telling her there's nothing she can't do. He'll put up with anything for her so long as they're together through it. He also repeatedly proves that there's nothing he wouldn't do for Erin and her friends, making the tough choices necessary to be a beacon of strength when Clare's father suffers an aneurysm. He even reacts well to seeing the girls on TV at the Take That concert in Belfast that Mary tried to forbid them from attending. 

5. Erin Quinn

In more ways than one, Erin Quinn's love for her friends is the heart of "Derry Girls." While she's a complicated character who's not always likable, she is incredibly realistically written and acted by Saoirse-Monica Jackson. As a creative person, Erin certainly exudes the quirky qualities many writers seem to possess while simultaneously harboring plenty of immaturity. For example, she claims her mother won't allow her to explore her individuality, but in truth, Erin follows everyone else's norms instead of trying to find her own. It's also unfortunate that the first thing she says to Clare when she comes out is, "Don't come out. Go back in." We know Erin adores Clare, but that comment exhibits that she still has a lot to learn. Thankfully, she becomes more accepting as the seasons progress. 

Erin is a teenager through and through. She can be an annoyingly selfish prig but also surprisingly warm and kind. She's generally someone who doesn't want to stir the pot but will join in on it when another person starts. Much of the final season sails around Erin's exploration of understanding the future, the importance of a vote, and standing her ground. The story frames itself around growth, and throughout the three seasons, no one develops as organically as Erin does. While the series ending when it did makes complete sense, it would be so fascinating to see what Erin is like in her 30s.

4. Clare Devlin

Before she was the Regency gossip columnist, Lady Whistledown, and the quiet Penelope Featherington, Nicola Coughlan was the wee lesbian from Derry. Clare Devlin is one of the good ones — she's straightforward, constantly on edge, and always well-intentioned. When it comes to her friends, there's nothing Clare wouldn't do to talk them out of some bonkers situation that would get them in trouble. Yet, she'll also follow them everywhere. Clare is also the wisest of the bunch and cares tremendously about her grades, which probably frustrates Jenny Joyce that much more.

It's a large part of why she doesn't want to do anything that could get her in trouble. In an interview with Elle, Lisa McGee has referred to the character as the most type-A goody-two-shoes, and it's true; Clare Devlin is a perfectionist through and through. In that same interview, McGee also states that she thinks Clare would be a cutthroat prosecutor. She's a lot like Erin in that way and will always fight when the girls need her. They return that loyalty partly because Clare is so likable, going with her to the hospital after her father passes in a beautiful showcase of their friendship. People will go out of their way to shield Clare from heartaches.

3. Sister Michael

To borrow words from "Ted Lasso's" Keeley Jones, Sister Michael is "a mood, a moment, a mantra." Sister Michael is the most meme-worthy character strictly because she's 110% done with everyone and everything and does nothing to hide it. She's very forthcoming about how frustrated she is by teenagers, parents, and everyone in between. Sister Michael is an unconventional nun, much like "Fleabag's" Hot Priest, consistently making audiences question why she chose the profession. We're glad she did, though, since it provides ample entertainment.  

Sister Michael spits the truth and cuts the faff but not as cruelly as Michelle does. She brings to our screens epic quotes like, "Of courseGod doesn't hate you. You're not interesting enough. I'd say he'd be ambivalent toward you at best." She's loyal, fierce, smart, and so keenly aware of everything that goes on around her that it makes every scene she's in laugh-out-loud funny. Oh, and she's just about the only person to ever make a DeLorean look cool. Viewers adore Sister Michael. Twitter user @aribgross writes, "Finally watched the end of #DerryGirls...is it too much to ask for a Sister George Michael spinoff?" We heartily agree. 

2. James Maguire

While it's entirely understandable why Irish people aren't historically fond of the British, the intense hatred towards James makes no sense. The hate mostly comes from his cousin Michelle, which makes sense considering that family members often believe they get a pass on specific behaviors. Still, James, otherwise known as "the wee English fella," is undoubtedly the kindest and warmest character in the series. Although he is very much the only boy at Lady Immaculate School for Girls, he is a Derry Girl through and through; he even proclaims it proudly in the Season 2 finale.

He is, in every way, the male version of the unnamed woman in "Mean Girls" who wants to bake a cake and wishes people would get along. James is a true gentleman. His innate nobility is on display when he takes Erin to prom after her date leaves her hanging. James goes out of his way for those he cares for, Erin especially, which makes the particular gesture both sweet and vulnerable. As an only child who grew up with a single mother, James isn't afraid of being vulnerable, which is an excellent showcase of his character, making him both likable and admirable.

1. Orla McCool

While fans might disagree with specific rankings for "Derry Girls" characters, it's safe to assume that Orla's high position will not be shocking to anyone. Orla McCool, played expertly by Louisa Harland, is as inimitable as any great character should be. Much of her greatness comes from Harland's subtly brilliant performances. In an interview with Independent.ie, Harland spoke about the character representing individuals on the autism spectrum. She vocalized playing the character with careful consideration to ensure that she is a proper representation and lets people feel seen.

Orla is a delight. Twitter user @serochlonin agrees, stating: "Orla McCool is going down as one of the most iconic TV characters to ever exist, she has my whole heart." She takes everything literally, sarcasm included, but dances to the beat of her own drum better than anyone else. She has also delivered some of the most iconic lines of the series, like "Protestants hate ABBA!" and "Lesbians really do exist!" 

Much of this ultimately comes from her heart. If one thing's for sure, it's that she cares deeply for her friends and family. Orla's love for people pours through not only her words but tirelessly through her actions. She's the type of person who'll follow her friends to the ends of the earth if they need her. She's unapologetically herself, making the character much more complex and wonderfully written.