As assumed, Rebel is a modernized version of the foregone Blaxploitation era vibe. One in which a Black woman is the law, has a complicated relationship with it and pretty much is more complex than any female action hero that quickly comes to mind.
A veteran and now a cop, Rebecca, also known as Rebel (Danielle Moné Truitt) is not the woman to play with. For while she can be comical, have a certain around the way girl appeal, she will beat your ass if you step out of line. And no, it will not matter if you are a man or woman, taller or bigger than her, hell, even if you are her partner. Rebel knows the rules, knows the law, and her idea of protecting and serving isn’t protecting her fellow cop while solely serving justice to the populace. Something which, in the pilot, sets into motion a series of events which lead to the death of a loved one and her reconsidering whether or not she may remain a cop.
Rebecca is the most human action heroine you may ever see
I can’t remember if this was a critique of an actress’ performance or something which an actress said herself about how action heroines are written, but the gist was, “Women, strong women, often are stripped of what make them women to the point it seems like nothing more was done than the role being gender bent.” Now, that is a rough paraphrase, since the quote I’m thinking of is years old, but it still holds true. When it comes to strong women, especially in action movies, they are stripped of their femininity.
Something which I should note, isn’t something which should be solely correlated with looking feminine and being sexualized for the male gaze. When I speak of femininity I speak of it in a similar way as RuPaul does in Lettin It All Hang Out. I’m speaking of the willingness to be vulnerable and show strength through the expression of emotions. Femininity in terms of the burden it is to be mentally and emotionally open and willing to engage these two things which cause a much more lasting impact than perhaps a bullet wound can.
To me, Rebel allows the character of Rebecca to just as much be this badass who can hang with the guys, yet it doesn’t strip her of her femininity in the process. Perhaps one of the best examples is the relationships she has ranging from her borderline alcoholic father Rene (Mykelti Williamson), her relationship with her brother Malik (Mikelen Walker), as well as the other men and women in her life. She doesn’t approach them with a hard stance unless necessary. She is willing and able to be soft, nurturing, yet also put her foot up their ass if needed.
In many ways, Rebel represented the complicated nature and expectations of Black women in society. Something which I say knowing it can be misconstrued, but it is part of the reason I bring up the Blaxploitation era. Rebecca is shown as a superwoman. Someone capable of everything, often better than her peers, but thankfully the shows exhibits that giving 110%, trying to maintain being twice as good, it tires down the body to the point that eventually you will break down. Especially as those closest to you pile on their baggage and leave you no room to organize and handle yours.
Making Rebecca perhaps one of the best-written action heroes of recent memory. For she fully encompasses what it means to be human and not just a soldier who either does as they are told or goes against orders in the pursuit of justice. Plus, all the while, she still is a woman and defines it by her own terms. Be it by the way she dresses or styles her hair, whether she is cold and brutal or with arms open and soft. With Rebecca, you get the type of lead female character you can only hope sets a precedent.
There is a major event within the first half hour of the pilot and things hold pretty steadily after the event. For whether it is Rebel yelling, screaming, people catching some hands, and things of that nature, the energy is maintained. Also, with Rene acting up and showing out, as well as the introduction of Rebel’s ex-TJ (Clifford “Method Man” Smith), you may feel this show is something to definitely watch.
However, as we are introduced to the possible subplots of the show, dealing with what Rebel will investigate when not looking into why the major event happened, so begins the need to question if this series may have staying power. For one of the first cases, we really get to see developed is Rebel looking into a possible affair which may evolve into a murder. One which, sadly, has the weak and sort of thinly written development that is the staple of Blaxploitation films. Which, for me, was an issue since this isn’t a two-hour movie but something which will be 8 to 10 episodes, minimum. So Rebel’s cases are going to be what we’ll mostly be dealing with as she uncovers what led up the major event.
Making it where the first case has to set a positive tone, especially since episodic cases usually fall flat. Reason being, taking note of Gotham, they make our heroes seem to capable of handling anything and any would be villain hardly any sort of real challenge. So for Rebel to be captured and, thanks to her military training, breaking out in the same episode, plus whooping the ass of a handful of guys, who had access to weapons, including guns, so goes any sense that Rebel’s struggles may go beyond her grief.
On The Fence
An Around The Way Asian Character?
I don’t watch a huge amount of BET programming, especially with OWN investing in Black majority productions but, like The Quad, it seems, this show has a token. However, rather than it be a white character it is someone Asian. Who, of all things, is named Cheena (Angela Ko) [note]Which Urban Dictionary defines as “a very Chinese-influenced person, usually from china.” Which makes this name not only ridiculous but questionably offensive.[/note].
Yet, while Cheena may come off as a token, you get used to her. Sort of like Star in Star, as much as there is a part of you which wants to question the character’s authenticity, the actor brings something which makes them seem like they are cool. They aren’t mocking a facet of Black culture but seemingly was raised in or around it and hence why they talk and act the way they do.
Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)
The main issue for me is that I’m worried the cases Rebel handles, from episode to episode, won’t be able to match the greatness of the character. Hell, even when it comes to the investigation into the big event [note]Which I don’t know why I’m tip-toeing around[/note], I feel like there isn’t the type of mystery usually involved with a multiple episode arc. She is trying to understand why the event happened when, for the most part, most of the major details have already been seen and are conveyed for the audience to understand. The suspect had a gun in his hand, dropped it upon command, but then, due to trigger happy White cops, the person was executed – plain and simple. Now, as for why said character had a gun, who they got it from, are any of these cops dirty and said suspect was a witness they had to get rid of, maybe future episodes may reveal that. However, take away the theories and the usual trajectories we see in shows like this and you are left with a pilot which more so feels like an incomplete movie than foundation for an 8-10 episode series.
Yet, based off the strength of Rebel’s character alone, I’d say it would be worth sticking around to see what happens. After The Quad, I’m a bit too hesitant to commit to this series on a weekly basis, but when it is done I might marathon it. If just because this is made by John Singleton and for really no other reason.