I May Destroy You (2020): Television Review
Michaela Coel's HBO series is a must see.
In a world where binging is the new normal, where audiences are given a countless amount of content to stream, watch, and listen to; it's hard to find entertainment that truly stands out. Most pieces of work, both films and series, eventually begin to feel like mere copies of one another - possessing similar plot points, ideas, and themes. There is good content out there, and there is truly even great content; but trying to locate where and what that content is can sometimes be much more grueling than fulfilling. But sometimes, a film or television series shines so brightly that audiences don't have to set out looking for it. Michaela Coel's (Chewing Gum) newest HBO limited series, I May Destroy You, serves as a prime example of this phenomenon. Through twelve episodes, brilliant writing, spectacular performances, and important themes serve as mere proof I May Destroy You is a must-watch series.
When we first meet Arabella (Michaela Coel) in the series' pilot, her life is sort of a mess. With a draft for her second book due the next day, an on-off boyfriend (Marouane Zotti) who doesn't seem to genuinely care about her, and a flight back to England from her boyfriend's home country of Italy standing in the way of her getting any sort of work done - things feel frantic right from the first moments of the episode. What follows for the next thirty minutes is rapid-fire exposition, as viewers encounter different characters, including Arabella's best friends Kwame (Paapa Essiedu) and Terry (Weruche Opia), different places in London, and quite a lot of partying at London's Ego Death Bar. The tempo of the series changes when Arabella wakes up the next morning with a gash on her forehead, a smashed phone, a jaded memory, and a singular vision of a man sexually assaulting someone. As Arabella begins to figure out what exactly transpired the night before and the reason for her physical and emotional strains, viewers join the character on her journey, along with Terry's and Kwame's journeys, of self-redemption and understanding of what consent truly means.
It's easy to dismiss the series as too much - while each episode is only thirty minutes, the show requires a lot of commitment and patience to get through, especially because of the heavy subject matters and themes it's centered around. But Coel's writing never feels over-bearing in any sort of way, and its quite evident that each character motivation, scene, and plot is in the show for a certain reason that impacts whatever else is happening, making everything feel even more important then it already is. Furthermore, it's almost impossible to feel tired during any of the episodes because of how skillfully I May Destroy You can genre-bend. While it is always a hard hitting drama, there are tones of thriller, comedy, and even action involved at various points during the series. The week long gaps between each episode are nice in that they allow viewers to process what exactly ensued during the thirty minutes, but the show works just as effectively, if not more effectively, in a tight six hour binge.
But perhaps the best part of I May Destroy You is that there is nothing like it. The series is based off real events that transpired during Coel's life, and the show always has its main star and creator in complete control - her influence shines through every aspect of the filmmaking and writing; and her performance is absolutely spectacular. The show simply has everything working in its favor; as I May Destroy You is a poignant, often heartbreaking, and absolutely phenomenal piece of content. As expected, Michaela Coel has proved, yet again, that she is one of the best in the game.
I May Destroy You airs Monday nights at 9PM E.S.T. on HBO, with episodes one to eight available to stream now on HBO Max.