David Makes Man: Season 1 – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

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David Makes Man presents us with a coming of age story, featuring a young Black child, that often is restricted to indie movies which vie for Oscars.


Network
OWN
Creator(s) Tarell Alvin McCraney
Genre(s) Coming of Age, Drama
Good If You Like
  • Shows Taking Places In Urban Environments
  • LGBT Presence
  • Mixed Depiction Of The Black Experience – In Terms Of Both Negative & Positive
  • Indie Movie Narratives Featuring What If/Dream Scenarios and Sometimes The Shots Meaning As Much As The Dialog
Noted Cast
Gloria Alana Arenas
David Akili McDowell
Seren Nathaniel Logan McIntyre
Sky Isaiah Johnson
Raynan Ade Chike Torbert
JG Cayden K. Williams
Marissa Lindsey Blackwell
Tare Teshi Thomas
Star Child (Starry) Logan Rozos
Dr. Woods-Trap Phylicia Rashad
Mx. Elijah Travis Coles
Femi Trace Lysette
Shonobi Jordan Bolger
Angie Joselin Reyes
Teo Elvis Nolasco
Young Gloria Lauryn Dennis
Ms. Hertrude Juanita Jennings
Gloria’s Mother Lela Rochon-Fuqua

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Highlights

It Talks about Opportunity & Privilege – 84

From the get-go, David Makes Man presents the fact that for many, it is lack of opportunity which causes generational poverty. That is why Gloria struggles and why David struggles in extension. Yet, with the right education, the right mentors, even the right friends, a person can ascend from their situation and make it in life.

The trouble is, while people can very well pull up their bootstraps, attempt to do better because they know better, going from working-class poor to some form of middle class isn’t easy. As shown with David, opportunity could be miles away, and appeasing gatekeepers requires juggling the persona they want and the one you have to be able to tap into to survive. For David is from a rather urban community that has drug dealing, cops showing up, and even a shooting every now and then. Thus reminding us that the process to getting to a better place isn’t some large arc in which you follow the rainbow, but often is just avoiding stepping in some s*** on a daily basis.

Also, sometimes getting to a better place isn’t necessarily a socioeconomic thing. For Seren, what he is seeking is safety, love, and the ability to be vulnerable. And with nearly every character, you can see their drive, and while each may have a different level of privilege, you’re reminded everyone has their own struggle and method to fight against it.

Sky – 90

Sky (Isaiah Johnson) talking to David.
Sky (Isaiah Johnson)

Creating a lovable drug dealer, that can be a bit tricky. Especially considering what drugs they deal, do they partake in violence, and what is their overall effect on the community, or communities, they sell to. With Sky, being that we don’t hear him sell anything hard, just weed, he is able to present himself as this chill father figure. One who acts as the voice of reason in David’s mind and also pushes him to put himself out there.

But even outside of his role in David’s life, as Raynan’s father, a mentor to many young men, and just a plain old person, Isaiah Johnson uses his presence, from his bald head, smooth talk, and those glasses, to enrapture you. Making it so, when you feel like you haven’t seen him yet in any episode of the first season, his absence is felt and questioned.

Seren and David’s Relationship – 91

Seren dressed in drag with David there supporting him.

While David and Seren have a puppy love situation with two girls, mentioned below, the best relationship both kids have is with each other. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t first presented as a bit toxic or having jealousy. Seren lives in a gated community, has both parents, is light-skinned, can sing, and is liked by man. David, on the other hand, lives in a project area, is raised in a single-parent home, is dark-skinned, doesn’t have any notable talents, and his relationships with most are hot and cold.

Yet, after their initial stumble, which gets quickly swept under the rug, we see a truly beautiful relationship. The kind that, for Seren, seems to redeem his faith in humanity, the concept of someone loving him, wholeheartedly, and having the ability to make him feel safe without having to throw a punch. Then for David, his part in it is weird in a way. For with David having a little brother in JG, and a co-dependent mom in Gloria, one could see him as Seren’s brother through friendship.

However, as time goes on, you realize what makes Seren important to David is that he is unlike any of his family members. Seren doesn’t necessarily need David, he chooses David. He chooses him to know his secret, that he is being molested by his stepfather, and chooses him to be the person who makes him feel whole.

And considering David’s father rejected him, having someone choose you, without strings attached, that is irreplaceable.

Gloria – 92

Gloria telling David it will be okay.

A lot of the time in shows and films focused on young Black men, the women in their life barely evolve beyond being their mother, sisters, or love interest. They have a strict purpose and barely step out of that to remind you they are their own person. Gloria, on the other hand, she doesn’t fit that trend.

With Gloria, we are reminded that as much as she is David and JG’s mother, she was someone long before them. Be it a person who was raised in a hellacious household, a young woman who loved the gay scene, and was always down for a party, a former addict, or someone who has as many dreams as her son, Gloria was her own person. And as we got to know more about Gloria, it made every decision she made as a parent or person not only make more sense, but become heartbreaking as well.

Take Gloria pushing David to go to the dance, and participate in Halloween. These two things Gloria didn’t get to do, and one would submit, her lack of an ability to is why she went wild and made a lot of the mistakes she did. So in encouraging David, she did more than tried to live vicariously through her child, she decided to break the cycle so the trauma she went through, he wouldn’t know beyond her telling her story.

Raynan – 85

Raynan sarcastically thanking Dave for holding the bus for him.

While Raynan did fall off a bit as we got to know him better, the initial mystery had you wondering if he was friend or foe? The age of him saying, “Brother Dave” made him seem on the level of Lucifer in terms of being this brilliant, beautiful person, who could come off as friendly as you desired – yet he’d turn on you when it suited him. Making you wonder, time and time again, how does he really feel about David?

Even towards the end of the season, there continually were moments when you wondered, as David rose and Raynan fell, would he try to make David see that, in their relationship, he is the big brother who would rule over, sometimes protect, him. Add in Raynan’s jealousy over David’s relationship with Sky, and it crafted a complicated relationship that really enhanced the character.

Marissa & Tare – 89

Though neither Marissa nor Tare were developed on the level of Gloria, Seren, Raynan, or many others, their presence was always welcomed when seen and felt when absent. Marissa, for example, with her wit and ability to cut David down to size, like Tare, she presented the type of girl we rarely see starring in films, and the rare show, like David Makes Man. Which made us seeing her having a similar situation to Dave, minus her mother doing better than Gloria, curious. Making the fact we didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time with just that character unfortunate. Even if we did get just enough to want more.

Then with Tare, what you have to appreciate is that as much as she is written to be David’s love interest, she isn’t regulated to just that. Hell, on one of the first times we see them go out as any semblance of a couple, she goes off on him for seeming like he is embarrassed by her – and I lived for it. Add in her interest of dance, which we got to see and hear, and it brought on the idea that every person, whether seen every episode or only a few, they have a life and it doesn’t start and stop just because David is interacting with them.

But I must say again, it is sad that girls like these two don’t often get movies and shows based on them. They just play the supporting part in a guy’s life.

The Moments When The Ville Comes Together And Gives You A Sense Of Community – 83

With members of the Ville dealing with poverty, gang and gun violence, drug abuse, and more, it paints a negative perception of the Ville. Yet, we are thankfully reminded that places like that aren’t all bad. For example, there is the Halloween shindig where people gave out candy, dressed up, and presented the idea the community could turn around if all members were committed. Also, after someone died, they came together to mourn and assist those grieving.

Leaving you to realize, those times many talk about, when everyone looked out for each other, and neighbors weren’t strangers or nosy people who got on your nerves, community wasn’t restricted to the suburbs. Even in urban areas they existed. It’s just, something broke the trust, and many never found a reason, or attempted, to repair the bonds.

David – 95

David in a crown, sitting where Seren once did.

Akili McDowell is the type of find any and all casting directors want to claim. A young kid just as capable of being vulnerable, showing the innocence and naivety of youth, as he can show being at the crossroads of adulthood and forcing himself to grow up to survive. McDowell’s performance rivals many of his peers, even those old enough to play his father. For just his command over a scene, such as when he had to bulk up with Raynan in the latter half of the season, it brings upon the best kind of exhaustion for you can feel all that pent up rage and energy be dispelled to the point nothing left could be said.

Yet, like any great lead, McDowell knows how to share a scene and make his scene partner feel seen and even have their moment. For whether he is playing the man of the house with Gloria, or the son that maybe should have been aborted, Gloria’s mother’s words, not mine, the way those two interact makes you want to talk to your own momma and have a conversation.

And with everyone else, be it Marissa, Seren, as noted above, Star Child, and so many others, just as much as McDowell is giving so many young men like him a voice, he finds ways to challenge his scene partners, to give them space to make sure they are seen as well.

On The Fence

Dr. Woods-Trap – 73

The problem with Dr. Woods-Trap is it seemed the accomplishment of getting Phylicia Rashad led to wondering what to do with Phylicia Rashad. Thus, Dr. Woods-Trap went from an advocate to David to his biggest obstacle, if not someone who you questioned whether or not she was an uppity negro with a sense of respectability politics. Yet, one could say, what she was trying to do with David was make it so he didn’t build himself up by putting his mother down or making the sum of his story the fact he was dealing with being impoverished. It really all depends how you take her going from trying to keep him in the magnet school to her, to Tare of all people, say the chance of David getting into a prestigious school is something he says, but she implies may not happen.

It Leaves You Wanting So Much More From Its LGBT+ Characters – 70

While Mx. Elijah and Star Child, I can’t really say we got to know them well or their stories. In many ways, Seren was the only character who may not have been heterosexual who saw any real development. For as much as Mx. Elijah was Gloria’s friend, outside of it being hinted they are the reason she broke out of her shell, and developed a drug addiction, you don’t learn all that much about them. Yeah, things are hinted, like them having some kind of relationship with the building manager, Ms. Hertrude, that has to be beyond neighbors, but that isn’t developed.

The same goes for Star Child. Upon us meeting them, and the only once seen Femi, you’d think that would become David’s new friend. Instead, we occasionally have the pleasure of seeing them in a scene, maybe interacting with JG, David, or having a back and forth with Shinobi, but not much else.

And speaking of Shinobi, considering how his family seems not to see him or want to speak to him, it makes him being homo aversive a thing of interest. Especially considering he has an intimate relationship with Mx. Elijah yet refuses to claim them. Even though, in the dark of night and light of day, they have no issue stepping into their apartment for notable lengths of time. With no real reason to go in since it isn’t like Mx. Elijah deals or does anything notable. Hell, we don’t even know if Mx. Elijah has a job or just designs clothes all day as a hobby.

Oh, and bringing back the name of Femi, while Star Child is trans, they are a child. So it would have been nice to have seen Femi for more than one episode, hear about their life, and that of this network they apparently had for kids like Star Child. Never mind, considering they seemed to be a sex worker, getting that perspective since, outside Pose, there aren’t any notable programs taking note of the lives trans sex workers live.

Angie – 71

Angie having a conversation.

Raynan’s mom is someone who you appreciate getting to know, yet the more you know, the more you feel like she could have just appeared once, and you’d be fine. If only due to, in the long run, her relationship with Teo, Raynan, and Sky not being developed to the point you can say she added much to the show.

The Dream Sequences – 72

Being that David Makes Man is the type of show which could get you in your feelings and deeply invested in what is happening scene to scene, the multitude of fake-out, or dream sequences, not only get annoying but present a certain level of confusion. The kind which can make you question what is real and what’s not.

One prime example is, at the end of the season, a lot of things seem to be coming together nicely for David. Yet, as we see him surrounded by a white light at the end, it makes you question, like so many times before we saw scenarios that went too well, was the rug going to be pulled from under us? Leaving you in a state where you feel like you were given a cliff hanger made to more so frustrate you then hype you up for a second season.

Overall: Positive (Watch This)Recommended

Title Card - David Makes Man Season 1, Episode 1 David's Sky [Series Premiere]

Let’s set aside the overall number not being high, since numbers I don’t think can adequately convey how great this show is. Now, does it not properly take care of its LGBT cast members? One could say so. Also, when it decides to show two ways something could go, does that present the possibility many moments could be simply dreams of a character? Yes.

However, as a whole, what David Makes Man does is give us what we see in films like McCraney’s Moonlight and bring them to the small screen. Making it so those stories seem less geared towards prestige and those who frequent indie movies, and brings people like David, Mx. Elijah, Gloria, Seren, Tare, Marissa, and more onto a major platform. One in which they become part of the network’s identity rather than a film that has its moment, and then stays alive strictly due to cinephiles or those who name drop it and are willing to keep its name alive.

Hence the positive label and recommendation. David Makes Man not only further shows how OWN has some of the best dramas featuring Black talent, but reminds you what many other shows are missing. For while diversity is nice, there is something about honing in on one ethnicity, one culture, or sub-culture and allowing them to flourish. To present both the good and bad of growing up in an urban area, showing how difficult it can be to leave such a situation, yet also acknowledge all those who try to push you out.

David Makes Man gives viewers all of that and more and gives you hope it will not find itself alone in the media landscape for long.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Your analysis of this show is dope fam. I really dig your perspective and insight. Keeping doing your thing. See ya for Season 2!

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