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‘I May Destroy You’ is a Powerful and Thought-Provoking Story of Survival – Review

In the new series created and written by Michaela Coel (Chewing Gum), I May Destroy You takes viewers on Arabella a.k.a. Bella’s (Coel) journey after she is sexually assaulted in a night club. The series follows Arabella on her path to writing her second book. With her advance in hand, but the words not coming to her, Bella needs to regain her focus. In a quiet space, Bella tries to find her groove but it eventually lured out by her friends. While she declines at first, the temptation to go out and have a good time trumps her need to continue writing. 

Toward the end of the night, we see Bella stumbling from the nightclub seemingly alone. However, when she finally does make it to her flat, she keeps getting flashbacks that allude to something more sinister – but Bella doesn’t believe that any of it is real at first. However, the following day she decides to seek out some answers that all lead her to the fact that something was slipped into her drink. With the help and support of her friends Terry (Weruche Opia) and Kwame (Paapa Essiedu), Bella tries to put her life back together after the realization that she was raped.  However, not everything goes to plan and Bella has some major setbacks in her recovery process. 

Michaela Coel as Arabella in I May Destroy You (Courtesy of HBO)

I May Destroy You deals with triggering subject matter like sexual assault, however, it’s the focus the series has on reinvention and the healing process that is so important to watch. The show explains that it’s okay not to be okay and that the stages of grief and healing are different for each individual.

There are no right or wrong ways to continue on after something traumatic occurs in your life, and that is an element of the show it was clear Coel was very cognizant of. Coel’s writing is uniquely her own and while the series deals with heavy subject matter, bits of Coel’s comedic prowess still shine through, providing poignant moments of levity to various episodes of the show. 

The series unpacks a plethora of various topics in its 12-episode run including consent, sex positivity and privilege just to name a few. This is something that may have been difficult had the writing been different and had the cast not been top-notch. However, the show’s strengths lie both within its script and within the lead and supporting cast members. Whether it is a character we see regularly like Bella, Terry and Kwame, or ones that we see less of such as Ben (Stephen Wright), Theo (Harriet Webb), Biagio (Marouane Zotti) or Simon (Aml Ameen), each has their part to play within the grand scheme of the series.

The acting throughout the show is pitch-perfect from start to finish by all the cast members, but the friendship between Bella, Terry and Kwame is truly amazing. The ups and downs of friendship are expertly explored throughout and is a part of the show that many viewers will find utterly relatable. 

Michaela Coel as Arabella and Weruche Opia as Terry in I May Destroy You (Courtesy of HBO)

But where the series thrives is in its handling of sexual assault and what it is like for the survivors. It speaks volumes to the trauma that’s experienced and explores all the “what ifs” and self-blame that often occurs. It depicts the reluctance to share what happened because you may think someone won’t believe you, or that they will blame you for what happened because you “didn’t watch your drink” or “you shouldn’t have been at the club in the first place.” It also goes through Bella’s steps to rebuild her life after the assault.

She knows she needs to finish her book and while we do get the sense that she might breakdown, she gets herself on track and does things for herself that she’s wanted. She finds solace in joining a therapy group, she does paint nights with her friends and attends Kwame’s fitness classes, she calls out one of her attackers and begins to finish her book. 

While there was darkness in Bella’s life, she realizes that light is still able to shine there if she wants it. However, she has to be the one that turns on the light. But she never forgets what happened to her and knows that every feeling she’s experienced after that painful moment are all valid. The confusion, the sadness, the anger, questioning herself, the need for vengeance – they were all part of Bella’s journey, and emotions that she needed to go through in order to be in the place she is when we see her in the last episode. 

Beautifully written by Coel and amazingly acted by the entire cast, I May Destroy You is a series that everyone should take the time to watch. 

The series premiere of I May Destroy You is this Sunday, June 7 at 10:30 PM EST/PST on HBO. New episodes to air every Sunday.

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