“I May Destroy You” presents far more than a narrative about navigating life post being raped. It is a conversation starter with a wide range of topics.
|Aired (BBC)||6/8/2020 – 7/14/2020|
|Genre(s)||Comedy, Crime, Drama, Young Adult, LGBT|
|Theo (Teen)||Gaby French|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
Season Plot Synopsis
Taking place over approximately one year, we begin in January when the author of “Chronicles of a Fed Up Millenial” is like any 20 something. Arabella wants fun, romance, and enjoys partying. However, one of Arabella’s problems is she not only parties hard, with coke, alcohol, and so much more, but her friends don’t try to rein her in or watch out for her as she needs them to. We see this in Italy when Terry parties with Arabella, then abandons her and again when Arabella’s other friend, Simon, abandons her.
However, unlike when she is left to her own devices in Italy, where she ends up falling for a man named Biagio, Arabella partying on her own, in London, leads to her being raped when Simon leaves her behind. Thus begins her journey to not just get justice, but understand what happened and who she is after it. For now forever altered, “I May Destroy You’s” first season evolves into conversation triggers about consent, the complications of intimacy, and reclaiming your person.
The Show Doesn’t Focus Solely On Arabella Being Raped
Like many, with so much focus being on Arabella’s rape there was the need to question if that was all the show would focus on? Especially considering Michaela Coel revealed she was raped at a convention years ago. However, that’s not all “I May Destroy You” offers. It contains conversations about race in terms of Terry’s pursuit of being an actress, Kwame dealing with intimacy with other Black men, and what it means to be Black in London.
Alongside that, we do address Arabella’s rape and a second situation which isn’t as violent, but nonetheless didn’t have her consent. Which is another huge thing explored as the show goes into what a person should and shouldn’t have to reveal about themselves. Also, as we meet Arabella’s family, dive into Arabella’s friendship with a character named Simon, and even experience Arabella’s relationship with Biagio, you see multiple stories the show could have taken further.
Moments of Joy
With a show handling the heavy subject matter of rape, race, and often challenging you, it makes each moment of joy so special. Take, for instance, Kwame, Terry, and Arabella joking around in a park with water flying. These moments, while rare, allow you to remember that there is joy during the period you seek healing and understanding. That struggling isn’t all that goes on, but you will experience and have reprieves.
It Doesn’t Shy Away From Race & The Role That Plays
Arabella and her friends being of either African or Caribbean descent isn’t something danced around. We are given small comments like the ignorant statement Terry makes about Black people not doing coke or getting raped, with the exception of Arabella. Alongside that, we have a character that reminds Arabella of the responsibility she has as an influencer since she can bring in companies that mean to only exploit their people into their sacred space.
In so many ways, “I May Destroy You” makes it clear that Arabella’s story is both universal but focused on her people. I’d even add, unlike many other shows which often feature white women, we don’t see Arabella given that allowance to have the world stop or slow down for her.
Rather, she is forced to continue, and while that is not a specific Black thing, it does speak to how the world doesn’t baby or truly allow Black women to deal with their trauma. It expects them to be strong, not need coddling, and press forward. No matter how painful it is to do so. Thus pushing them to, as Shonda says in the latest episode of “Getting Ignorant With It,” come to a point of not realizing when a situation was problematic since you’ve almost numbed yourself to it.
The topic of assault for gay men isn’t new. Many coming out films contain a scene in which things go to far or become a bit much. However, in terms of Black gay men, on a network like BBC or HBO? It isn’t as common or has the writing of Coel behind it.
For what you have to appreciate with Kwame is how much his journey mirrors Arabella, in some areas, yet leads to different things. An example, while Kwame wasn’t drugged like Arabella, he was trapped and assaulted. However, when he went to a cop, he didn’t get someone who tried to calm him down and helped. The cop he got seemed to so badly want no involvement in what happened and wanted to pass the buck. Leaving Kwame left to deal with things on his own and having to suffer in silence.
Alongside that, we’re of the opinion Kwame’s experience with intimacy is also noteworthy. From him pushing the idea his first experience with sex was just going into a random car and things happening, to it appearing Kwame was in the depths of a ho phase when we met him. One take that we have is that being how Kwame was only presented the possibility of having sex, it made true intimacy, beyond lust and the physical, foreign. Hence being stunned when someone seemingly could want or ask for more and him even rejecting it in a way.
Which makes you almost wish we got a bit more of Kwame’s journey but, alas, while a featured player, this wasn’t his story.
It Challenges You As It Does Its Characters
One of the key things “I May Destroy You” forces is a conversation, and while it doesn’t pursue educating you, it presents situations to challenge your perspective. I’d even add, based on my own misstep with a situation of episode 6, it also makes you think beyond who you identify with and see things from all angles.
Taking it further, with the situation in episode 6, we completely bypassed what Theo went through with Ryan filming and sharing intimate pictures of her because she accused him of rape. With that, the accusation became a bigger focus than why Theo did what she did. Which, rightfully so, led us to get called out.
But, in many ways, that is the point of the show. Many people have a blind spot or point of view which keeps them from seeing the big picture. Even Arabella, who is raped by being drugged and forced into a tight quarters, she doesn’t see any issue with locking Kwame in a room with another man. It leaves her giddy even. Making it so “I May Destroy You” hits you like a kickboxer. It strikes every which way it can to knock you on your behind and forces you to see what you have become numb to, blind to, or never thought about or experienced.
Arabella’s Journey Might Be Unlike What You’re Used To
Piggybacking on how Arabella isn’t allowed to pause, her journey as a whole isn’t what you might be used to. Despite the trauma she went through, she is having sex with a man, Zain, not too long after. In fact, he does something which she names as rape, and those two somehow reconnect by the time the season is over. And while we do see Arabella end up in a downward spiral and even become a bit manic for a bit, lashing out left and right, her reconciliation and dealing with what happens feels entirely hers. Maybe, in some ways, universal enough to connect with, but ultimately Arabella’s story, Arabella’s truth, and the way she felt she needed to handle things so that she didn’t end up stuck in a moment long past when it happened.
It Pushes You To Understand Why Going To The Police Isn’t The Norm After Being Raped
The kneejerk reaction to anything violent happening to a person is going to the cops. However, as shown with Kwame, that doesn’t always get results. Also, as shown by Arabella’s case not ending up with a resolution, there are no guarantees of justice. Which the stats, as reported by RAINN, show that, for every 230 rapist who actually do get reported, only 5 may end up incarcerated. That’s less than 5%.
And, let it be noted, “I May Destroy You” thankfully skips the whole, “What were you wearing?” part of the conversation and the two officers Arabella deal with are nice and try to be thorough. However, if the perpetrator is a stranger, and there is no video and no DNA in their system, what can be done? How are you supposed to handle people giving up and you having to accept something that happened and nothing can or will be done? Mind you, after nearly a whole year of meetings which gave you hope.
On The Fence
It isn’t clear why Arabella’s family isn’t introduced until the show is nearly over, but it is made clear that her manner of dealing with conflict and trauma may stem from her dad. For with being blamed that she is the reason he got robbed, and it still being a thing years later, you can see how she is dispositioned to take on blame. Mind you, not with a victim mindset, but her weirdly accepting it and trying to push forward.
Perhaps one of the best ways to see and understand this is her relationship with Zain.
Zain & The Thereafter
When it comes to Zain, his role in the show is one of the many challenges the show presents. Specifically, what is the process to heal and forgive a person who raped you? Note, Zain’s crime was taking off the condom while having sex, but rape is rape.
So, with him returning later in the season and there being conversations and him spending time with Arabella, it leaves you with the difficulty of Arabella’s means of handling a situation, maybe not aligning with you. Like with how she handles seeing her rapist in the penultimate episode and how he, David, is dealt with in the finale.
Simon’s Storyline With His Girl Abruptly Ends
Depending on your investment, know Simon’s situation with his longterm partner isn’t explore. Which, for some, you might be thankful for. After all, Simon’s absence allows for Kwame’s storyline. However, there might be a part of you that wishes from Simon’s feelings about what happened to understanding his influence on Arabella, we could have gotten to understand more through his perspective of her.
Especially since Terry ended up being the sole means of getting an outside perspective on Arabella. Something that you have to appreciate, in some ways, since Terry is flawed. She isn’t the perfect best friend. She, while vacationing with Arabella in Italy, could have been in Simon’s position. For with her abandoning Arabella, she left her inebriated to the point that, if anyone but Biagio found her, it could have been terrible.
Though, what may really get to you is that there are moments that sway you back and forth between liking and disliking Terry. Her struggles as a Black actress gets you on the hook, but then she talks about how Black women don’t do coke or get raped, outside of Arabella. And it is in her not being the perfect friend, nor the ideal person for the situation, we see her, like Arabella, forging a unique and noteworthy path. Even if, sometimes, for all the wrong reasons.
Rating: Positive (Watch This) – Recommended
There will never be a definitive show, movie, documentary, book, what have you, to explain what a person goes through after experiencing trauma. However, “I May Destroy You” as it explores one woman’s journey, and one man’s, to a point, gives you both a very specific take and one that can be seen as universal. And in doing so, it is personal, confronting, and almost present the idea that the person who Arabella is going to destroy could be anyone. It could be David, she could be talking about herself, or maybe even the audience.
Hence the positive rating and recommendation. “I May Destroy You” isn’t made to ride the wave of the #MeToo movement, educate you or explore one woman’s feelings. In the best way possible, it calls out every bit of nonsense a woman goes through, and gives a shout out to how men can deal with the same.
However, in its focus on Arabella, it challenges perception in ways that other productions with similar themes may not have done. Be it through Arabella’s handling of her rape, how she handles the men who assault her, the police investigation, and more, Michaela Coel takes what happened to her, expands on it, and does things which leaves you without words as you try to reconcile all that you are meant to feel and what feelings the show triggers.
Review Summary: A Potential Classic
Season 2 of I May Destroy You
Has Another Season Been Confirmed: Unknown
What We’d Like To See From The Next Season?
- Honestly, I think time needs to pass. For with Arabella still open to intimacy and, again, not experiencing that dramatic shift where she becomes hyper sexualized or anything like that, the only way this show could continue is by giving us Arabella and her friends years into the future. Especially since the ending, beyond no answers as to what may have been done with David, is borderline perfect, considering what was given.