Women of the Movement: Season 1/ Episode 1 and Episode 2 [Series Premiere] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

Marketing Poster - Women of the Movement Season 1 Episode 1 and Episode 2 [Series Premiere]

In the first two parts of Women Of The Movement, we’re reminded of the story of Emmett Till and explore the cover-up to keep him from being an international headline.


In the first two parts of Women Of The Movement, we’re reminded of the story of Emmett Till and explore the cover-up to keep him from being an international headline.


Aired 1/6/2022
Network ABC
Created By Marissa Jo Cerar
Directed By Gina Prince-Bythewood, Tina Mabry
Written By Marissa Jo Cerar
Genre Crime, Drama, Horror, Historical
Introduced This Episode
Emmett Till Cedric Joe
Mamie Adrienne Warren
Uncle Mose Glynn Turman

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Plot Overview

It’s August 1965, and Emmett Till is 14 years old, raised by his momma, Mamie, with the help of her family, and he is a good boy. He has a slight speech impediment, likely caused by his breached birth, but he has no sign of being less than capable. Because of this, Mamie being overprotective is understandable but does make Emmett feel babied. So while her initial thought was not letting her son head down to East Money, Mississippi, with her uncle Mose, she relents.

Down there, originally, Emmett was having a decent time. He worked more than expected but got to go into town, which is the beginning of his tragic tale. For a bet led to rumors spreading, and before anyone knew it, Emmett was taken from his bed and done unspeakable horrors to. Of which, after the police tried to have the body buried and impede further trouble for their community, thankfully, he found his way back home to Chicago and his momma. Someone who turned her trauma into a wake-up call for the world.

Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered

Things To Note

  • You will see a depiction of Emmett’s face mangled. Mind you, not for long, but long enough to have that image get in your head.

What Could Happen Next

  1. The first two episodes were combined, and we end with Mamie asking Emmett to be prepared for an open casket and public wake.

Review

On The Fence

While It Gets The Facts And Covers The Feelings You Know Mamie Went Through, It Doesn’t Feel As Brutal As It Needs To Be

I don’t like seeing Black trauma anymore than anyone else, especially when it doesn’t feel purposeful. So that’s why we’re kind of iffy on what we’ve seen thus far. Yes, we get to see Emmett Till beyond the two or three most known pictures of him, including the one with his face after his murder. That is probably what you’ll appreciate the most from Women of the Movement. Emmett Till is shown as a vibrant, sweet, and innocent child.

However, then comes our issue. There is no doubt Warren channels Mamie Till-Mobley’s pain in a believable manner, but as much as shows like Lovecraft Country touched upon Black American horror, and it made Emmett’s story and the Tulsa massacre feel like stories that should be told beyond the inclusion of vaguely related narratives, this doesn’t feel like the right way. Granted, there are a slew of Black names behind it, from writers to directors and producers. Yet, while ABC is a network station, which means anyone with an antenna can watch it, this feels like the wrong channel.

Emmett Till (Cedric Joe) and Mamie (Adrienne Warren) in a promotional picture
WOMEN OF THE MOVEMENT – ABC’s “Women of the Movement” stars Cedric Joe as Emmett Till and Adrienne Warren as Mamie Till-Mobley. (ABC/Matt Sayles)

As, I want to say, Chris Rock said, the problem with telling any story like Emmett Till’s is that it will never be as brutal as it needs to be. Yet, at the same time, there is the question of who are these stories for? What purpose is there to create an anthology about a real-life event, rather than just use the archival footage and tell the story as is? Why water it down, make it palatable for advertisement breaks, and set it up for the awards circuit?

But there lies the conflict: Do we want Emmett’s story to be told? Yes. But this is an example of why critical race theory is needed far more than anthology biographies with talented, well-meaning players. For there is just this hint that they are only willing to go so far so that they can commercialize it, and thus they will never go as far as they need to. Yet, with it hard to say where that line should be, it’s difficult to pinpoint what level of discomfort is needed to present something meaningful and not of the same caliber as a horror movie like SaW.

Initial Impression

Women of the Movement really helps you understand why certain stories should be told by the people who lived through it or historians over actors. For as much as you recognize an actor’s celebrity, and the platform the production is on will give the story new life, there is that discomfort that comes from you knowing stories like this will likely just be preaching to the choir. That the main people who may watch are the ones who already know, so unless the point is to make the story accessible for high schools or even middle schools? It’s hard to not feel uneasy and that we’re not just witnessing another example of commercializing Black trauma – even when writing and performances deserve minimal critique.


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2 Comments

  1. I watched the first episode last night, after thinking long and hard about whether the “Hollywood ” treatment would make this murder too difficult to see. I was impressed that the story focused on the relationship between Emmett and his mother and on Mamie’s story. The fact that we do not see the beating and the murder, but read the horror on the faces of those who see the body – the law enforcement officers who recover it, Emmett’s family, and Mamie herself – is, in my opinion, more powerful than any gruesome make-up that could have been done. There is a glimpse of Emmett’s, arms, legs and face and from what I have seen of the original pictures, it is very accurate. What was new to me, was the the fact that the body had to be “smuggled” out of Mississippi back to Chicago. That was something I had not read before. and speaks to the depth of the callous disrespect and disregard in which the family and Emmett, himself, were held by those people. One of those little details that make up the whole picture of hatred.
    I found this episode to be beautifully crafted, not that I am in any way a critic with credentials – just a human being with a love of history and mankind – It focused on the heart and that is what, I think, Emmett’s story did – and it is what brought the United States together and what his mother wanted. I am looking forward to the other episodes in the series.

  2. Emmett Till was murdered in 1955. I was very young when it happened but as I grew older I remember hearing about it during the Civil Rights years in the US. I remember clearly seeing images of dogs and water cannons being turned on crowds of protesters, including children – I remember clearly the murders of Freedom Summer. I am Canadian and these events were covered in our newspapers. The smoke from riots in Detroit was seen clearly in Windsor Ontario and one of our greatest song writers Gordon Lightfoot wrote about it. I am not sure that I will be able to watch all of the episodes of Women of The Movement, because I feel things very deeply – I have seen the original pictures of Emmett Till’s body and I believe, like you, that a Hollywood production could not depict that horror – But this story should be told. I am not Black and maybe I have no place here, but, many of us, who grew up in my countryin the 1960s saw things and know things and feel things too. I comment with deepest respect.

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