It has been a few weeks now, and Arabella is trying to find her new normal. But, as she finds the means to become intimate, trust is stolen from one of her friends.


Director(s) Sam Miller, Michaela Coel
Writer(s) Michaela Coel
Aired (BBC) 6/15/2020
Introduced This Episode
Kwame Paapa Essiedu
Zain Karan Gill

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Sometimes Talking Isn’t Enough – Zain, Arabella

Approximately it has been 7 weeks since Arabella’s assault, and she is dealing with it as she can. She does her best to always be surrounded by one person, since an idle mind is the devil’s playground, and she goes to therapy because life didn’t stop because she got trapped in a moment. A book still needs to be done, she still needs money to live and seeing some white man thrust over her can’t hold her still.

And to perhaps force herself so really move on, she has sex with a man named Zain. Someone who, while having sex, decides to take the condom off and cum inside her. Which, to some surprise, isn’t triggering or leads her to majorly blow up. Instead, she forces him to pay for Plan B, and things are surprisingly chill between them.

It Can Happen To You Too – Kwame

Kwame (Paapa Essiedu) smiling after a dance class.
Kwame (Paapa Essiedu)

Something not touched upon that often is that men can be assaulted to. Now, for Kwame, he is assaulted by another man, after meeting him on an app. So while not a heterosexual assault, there is also a need to recognize that in the homosexual world, there is also the plague that is someone stealing your ability to consent and thinking nothing of it.

Highlights

It Happens To Men Too

The conversation around men being assaulted is slim. It’s depiction and hearing discussions about it also don’t really exist in the mainstream. Add the layer of Kwame being assaulted by another man, a gay Black one, you get the type of story that is rarely, if ever, seen on a platform like HBO.

So in the depiction of Kwame’s assault, you get an unseen face and unheard voice. One that may join Arabella in trying to navigate life post-assault with the unique spin of his sexuality. Much less, the complication of Kwame himself being a man and how that dynamic changes the conversation.

Arabella Not Reacting How You Maybe Accustomed To

It’s almost jarring the way Arabella is portrayed. In most shows or films dealing with someone being assaulted, that consumes them. Flashbacks lead to moments that are grandeur, or you see them die inside to the point of being a shell of their former self. That isn’t the case for Arabella.

Her handling of what happened feels, for a lack of a better way of putting it, unique. Yes, she still is triggered, but it seems she is still capable of being intimate and enjoying it, without there being some loving and trusting relationship. Also, she isn’t portrayed as being hypersexualized, with the goal of reclaiming her body and pleasure. Her hooking up with Zain wasn’t a big deal.

Zain (Karan Gill) sitting, and contemplating something.
Zain (Karan Gill)

Hell, even Zain taking off his condom, which some could see as rape or assault, didn’t lead to her flipping out. All she asked was for him to buy her plan B, and even once that happens, they still hang out like the worst thing he did was snatch her phone and accidentally drop it on the pavement.

Leaving you to wonder, between Kwame and Arabella, are their means of dealing with what happened supposed to go against the norm or represent Coel’s specific story? If not break the narrative that traps survivors into a box. One which, even when they have found their new normal, they find themselves unable to escape a moment people define them with.

Arabella Not Reacting How You Maybe Accustomed To - 89%
It Happens To Men Too - 84%

87%


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