One thing about sequels is, they are all terrible. They are all pointless; they are all nakedly transparent attempts to synthesise the original work while at the same time taking away artistically from it, every single second movie diluting what was good about the first.
I know already, because I attended parties in university, that there’s someone out there itching to correct me – in my experience it is normally a man with a thin, lank ponytail and a warm can of Hobgoblin and a special email from Wikipedia thanking him for guarding the honour of Terry Pratchett’s bibliography page – who wants desperately to say: “But The Godfather: Part II …”
And yes, yes, I know about The Godfather: Part II. Everyone knows about The Godfather: Part II. But for every The Godfather: Part II there are a hundred cases of Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction, and that is my fear about going into a second lockdown. That Boris Johnson will interrupt Bake Off to luridly cross his legs in front of us while explaining why Christmas is cancelled.
There isn’t a second lockdown, yet, but we are replaying beat-for-beat the high-tension calamity of March, where there wasn’t a lockdown but there was a lot of coronavirus, and everyone stayed indoors to avoid getting coronavirus, and then the government told us to stay indoors to avoid getting coronavirus, and that happened for 10 or 12 weeks and we all went mad.
So I’m just going off the tick list here: have we had a doom-laden statement from Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, who inexplicably still does not have a PowerPoint clicker yet? Yes, we have. Have people who don’t fully understand herd immunity been arguing about herd immunity a lot, either on the Facebook comments section or in short segments on the national news? That never went away. Anxious comparisons with other European countries, Allison Pearson writing something bananas in the Telegraph? Yep. Are pubs closing early while the government refuses to close them completely as that would initiate an economy-shaking raft of insurance payouts? A hearty yeah. Is face-to-face contact with your friends and family dwindling down to a trickle again? Tick, tick, tick.
All that needs to happen now is we have that week where we all go on Houseparty again, a WhatsApp rumour goes round threatening that anyone caught coughing in the street will face an army firing squad, and Captain Tom Moore clambers to the top of a 5G tower to take out all of the major communications in the north-west.
I don’t know about you, but I have a touch of sequel fatigue. Do I have to watch all the Thor films before I can watch Avengers, or will I get the gist if I’ve only seen Iron Man and Iron Man 3? Similarly, do I really have to stay in my house all day doing nothing, or is it more or less alright as long as I don’t interact with any over-65s? As with the original, it’s not exactly clear. “If we follow these simple rules together,” Boris Johnson told England on Tuesday night, “we will get through this winter together.” Sounds simple enough, but this is after saying – as helpfully compiled by Politico – that we need to go to the pub (4 July), go to restaurants (8 July), work wherever your employer tells you to (17 July), go back to the office (19 August), go back to the office or risk losing your job (28 August), report “rule of six” breakers (14 September), don’t report rule of six breakers (16 September), and now, actually, work from home and don’t stay in the pub past 10pm (22 September). Anyway, follow the simple rules and we’ll all be fine.
In echoes of Lockdown #1 (hereby: “Lockdown Classic”), Johnson’s speech on Tuesday leaned on the mighty British bulldog spirit and obliquely referenced Churchill, and, accordingly, the idea that we got through that war once 75 entire years ago so we can probably do this again. “We pulled together in a spirit of national sacrifice and unity,” Johnson said, about that 10-week period we all spent scrapping in the queue outside Asda. I must question the logic of calling for a sense of togetherness in a fractured country where we are both encouraged to stay indoors to save the lives of our neighbours and kin but also watch like hawks at their comings and goings in case we can issue them with a £10,000 fine for non-compliance. Am I the martyr here, or the executioner? Am I meant to protect my neighbours or put them in jail? I know this screening didn’t ask for audience feedback, but that sequel plot point needs work.
Thing is: how long can we be scared until we get bored? We had a summer, remember, and lost our appetite for Lockdown #2 (the marketing team here are pushing for “Lockdown Duo”). Remember garden centres opening again? Remember urinating in all those public parks? How we all inexplicably went on a mini-break to Kent? Being so feverishly enticed by the idea of saving £10 that we made plans in advance to go out for dinner on a Monday? It’s hard to pedal back from those giddy highs, but I suppose we’re going to have to. Coronavirus is still there, colouring literally everything we do. We’re going to have to live through increasingly lazy sequels until it all gets sorted for good. Then, in five years’ time – shudder at the thought of it – recast the main players for a dark and gritty reboot.
• Joel Golby is a writer for the Guardian and Vice