With a sudden, almost existential bang and Top Boy allowing no time for mourning as it cut to black, the reign of power of Sully comes to a sudden close in the series finale, as his unknown assailant continues the cycle of ferocious violence.
With that, the series, which had started on Channel 4 back in 2011, came to an end, bringing the tale of drug dealers Sully (Kano) and Dushane (Ashley Walters), who ran the black market business in a fictional version of East London, to a dramatic close. Indeed, there was only one way the brutal series could have come to a close, with both protagonists passing away as a result of their own greed and dogged approach to ‘success’.
At first, Dushane is set up to be the series ‘hero’, a savage yet seemingly morally sound individual who looks after his ailing mother and even keeps an eye out for his drug-dealing underlings. Five series later, however, the character mutated into something far more cruel, bitter and selfish, making his long-term friend and business partner Sully, seem more intellectually sound.
Yet, Sully is Top Boy’s crowning jewel, a deeply complex character whose identity steadily melts away from one series to the next until we’re met with a shell of the former icon in series five. Poisoned by the way of life he has chosen to pursue, Sully is a lonely soul, controlling his gang with an iron fist with no mental capacity for sympathy after having his soul battered by years of emotional torment.
Only on a handful of occasions has the character ever even allowed the viewer past his seemingly impenetrable psyche, with each experience only making him even more emotionally resilient. The inciting incident that pointed towards his downfall came in series three, episode four, ‘Bonfire Night’, when his only friend, Jason, a loyal, innocent and vulnerable young boy was burned to death in a house fire.
Indeed, the mere fact that Sully’s best friend was a young boy who had little personal closeness to himself says a lot about the complex, emotionally reserved character, with Jason’s death plunging him even further into a pit of despair and depression. Such a state made it far easier for him to dispatch his long-time friend Dris (Shone Romulus), and by the time he killed the young dealer Jamie (Micheal Ward) at the end of series four, he was already the soulless husk of a man who could be seen maundering the apocalyptic fires of Summerhouse during the show’s finale.
But, it’s difficult to truly discuss the power of Sully’s character without too addressing the performance of Kane Brett Robinson, otherwise known as Kano. Whilst several rappers feature in the series, including Bashy, Little Simz and Dave, none compare to the gravity that Kano brings to his character, with the entire atmosphere of the show sinking into its seat when he arrives on the scene, bringing a deranged mentality takes the series by the scruff of its neck.
Such isn’t easy to take on either, with the character having a lack of emotional range on paper, practically never smiling over five series of the show. Yet, Kano brings layers to the role. Behind every violent stare, there is pain, desire and emptiness. Even when he’s at his happiness, fog clouds his vision, preventing him from fully embracing the moment with the knowledge of life’s hardships having stained his every thought.
Make no mistake, Sully is one of TV’s very best characters. Sure, he rarely has the boiling rage of Bryan Cranston’s Walter White or James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano, but beneath the layers, Sully’s psyche swarms with a cocktail of torturous rage; “Feeling left me a long time ago”.