There’s a bromide- “Blood is thicker than water.” Its sentiment, although sweet, isn’t always met with open arms. There exists another quote. “You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family.” That was Harper Lee, and with that, I welcome you to the tenth episode of I May Destroy You (HBO) entitled “The Cause the Cure.”
We start in on a young Arabella (Brielle Atuwo) coloring with her pencils as a young Nicholas (Oluwadamilola Enamejewa) sleeps off to the side. A doorbell rings and their father enters. Arabella is happy to go to McDonald’s as he promised but instead, he brought it to her. Their mother, a younger Grace (Jenny Wambaa) tells her daughter not to eat so fast, but Bella shovels it in as if her life depended on it. She knew he’d come, she just knew it! Like the great tasting but artificial food she’s plowing in, it inevitably comes out regurgitated, leaving a bad taste.
Back in the present, as Terry’s (Weruche Opia) running lines with Ben (Stephen Wright), Arabella (Michaela Coel) gets a call from her father, Kojo. She is ecstatic to hear from him, even looking at Simon’s jacket from that night. This gives her a flashback to Simon giving it to her because she was cold. The more important thing at the moment is she wants to make certain that he’s going to show up for Grace’s birthday to which he confirms for 5 p.m.
While Kwame (Paapa Essiedu) is exercising across town, Arabella and Ben are being entertained by Terry’s audition lines. They believe she’s got this and the only thing she isn’t able to do is to cry on cue. Bella informs Terry about it being her mother’s birthday. Surprised, T video calls her and they collectively wish her a Happy one. Terry is impressed that Bella would have a quaint family get together, as T hated when her father showed up to Christmas dinner, merely “taking up space.”
In the back of the bus, Kwame hits up on Grindr, not one, not two, but rather three different hookups sitting up front. He gets with all three separately, but he’s ostensibly not happy. The drug has worn thin.
At the homestead, Arabella asserts that according to her therapist Carrie’s orders, she shouldn’t be writing… though she needs a draft in order to pay the bills. Oh, yeah, and Ben has to cover for the month’s rent. Terry thinks it disconcerting that her version of a hiatus is stalking the scene of the crime. Though Ben is Switzerland in this situation, Terry is truly concerned.
At the audition, ‘visibly nervous’ is painted all over T’s face. She’s comforted by Bella with the zen-like affirmation of, “You’re amazing,” before being called in.
Back in the park, Arabella meets with Simon (Aml Ameen) to return his jacket. As it turns out, Simon no longer works at his job (as several people are looking for him) and that because his girlfriend of eight years, Kat kicked him to the curb, he now lives with his mum. She stares at him for a moment and has a flashback with Simon as the one raping her. Walk with me, talk with me.
Offering one of his J’s to her, Arabella apologizes for even having the notion of him doing something nefarious. Simon’s not angry at her though. He feels responsible for leaving her there, however, according to him, he’s one “L” less to Terry’s two. This goes back to episode 7, when Terry told Simon to stay away. Turns out, Terry left Arabella in Simon’s care and also told him to lie about walking her home the next day. If the Atomic bomb didn’t hit ears the seventh episode, this series had a second one, and storage was getting expensive.
Revelation in brain, Arabella later helps her bro Nick (Tobi King Bakare) and her mum Grace (Michelle Greenidge) in cooking a sumptuous feast. She ignores a call from Terry in favor of spending some time with her brother. It turns out Nick and his girlfriend Sunmi had parted ways, and just as they could get further, the doorbell rings. She jumps at it, calling ‘Dad!’ before realizing it’s someone else. Lenora (Dada Ashi) – excuse Auntie L. Clearly, Arabella has no clue who the fuck this person is. Nick calls out to their mother that is Auntie L and what ensues is something like a black-tie or black dress that never goes out of style: awkward silence.
Grace makes an entrance, donning a gorgeous dress and equally beautiful hair. They both greet each other in Twi, an Akan dialect of Ghana, though their pleasantries are short-lived as Lenora makes a haste exit at Grace’s prompt. Nick rags on Arabella for not knowing Twi, as she was on her Gameboy when they were kids. She likens her brain to Diet Cola: always light. He remembers it a different way.
We rewind the Blu-Ray back to when it was VHS. Arabella’s on her handheld Nintendo, and Nicholas is chomping on something because he’s hungry. The doorbell rings and as Arabella shouts “Dad!” but is met with a young Lenora (Adwoa Akoto). Auntie L, dressed in her finery. She and Grace parlay in Twi because her daughter’s been waiting on Kojo for lunch at McDonald’s, though it’s currently 10 p.m. Nicholas is simply sitting inquisitive, studying what they are saying. (On a side note, I’ve noticed that is half the time he’s presently promised for Grace’s birthday.)
At present at their dinner table with everything laid out, Arabella and her brother with their mother sit and wait in silence. Like the Great Pumpkin, Bella thinks that her apparition will show up, and though like old times Nick sneaks something to stave off hunger, the doorbell rings, leaving Arabella to dart to the door with the fervor only matched by a Chuck Jones cartoon. Their mum tells Nick to fetch the plates, including the blue plate he likes. I feel there’s something more to this statement that I just can’t put my finger on just yet.
As “Truth” by Kamasi Washington adorns their stereo, Kojo asks his son about the state of things and though he’s going to Uni and holding a job, his dad doesn’t seem exactly satisfied, as both Bella and he had moved out by the age of 17. He claims to have had a house by 26, not muscles. Though this gives Nick a little bit of grief, dinner is served, as are stories.
Like the one where his house that Arabella spent so much time at (because he was there) was robbed, his ‘Burnt Clementine Toyota’ was stolen (which Arabella thought was a Mercedes)… we can see where Bella gets her storytelling ability from. However, because he blamed her for sneaking in as a teen, a whole new world at that table was opened up to Arabella as she abruptly retreats to her old room.
We rewind the Blu-Ray back to when it was DVD. A teenage Arabella (Danielle Vitalis) and teenage Terry (Lauren-joy Williams) passes after school a bunch of guys, Kevin being one of them. Terry guides her through it but also tells her to come correct with her ‘garm-game’ if she wants a shot at Kevin, so she naturally sneaks into Kojo’s house, but Terry wants her to ‘Double Tap’. The thing is, doing so, she comes face to face with a young Lenora at the steps. Continuing on and noticing a pair of silk panties on the radiator, Arabella makes an exit without changing only gesturally telling ‘Auntie L’ to keep it on the mum. Mum. That’s a funny word considering all this shit. Bella doesn’t tell T.
Hot off the presses from that buried memory, mum comes into the room, ink still fresh on Arabella. She reveals that she knew that Lenora was Kojo’s playmate- but it’s no matter because it’s her birthday, she’s single and she looks good and all she cares about is her children. In the warm embrace of her mother, Arabella reveals what happened that January night.
That night, on the bus Kwame hits up someone with the handle ‘Sum_Fun’ thinking it’s a slam dunk. At Tyrone’s (Gershwyn Eustache Jnr) pad, the A-1 course is on the menu: not a lascivious slab of beef, but a well-crafted meal… literally. Not the drinking of kisses, but the drinking of Mojitos… literally. No sex involved.
Kwame thinks this is a ruse just to get him into bed, but when Tyrone refuses, Kwame freaks out due to his fear of intimacy. He threatens to leave but ultimately admits to just wanting a fucking hug. This is one of the most tender scenes and I think something well deserved for our ‘bwoy.’
Bella’s back outside of the Ego Death Bar meeting Terry. Ordering from Kai (Tyler Luke Cunningham) whom T thinks is suave, two red wines, Bella tells her that she’s met with Simon. The ensuing silence speaks volumes and they nearly speak at the same time before Arabella tells her misty-eyed sis “You’re amazing.” They tearfully repeat their mantra: “Your birth is my birth, Your death is my death.” Only now, it’s taken on a new meaning. They are thicker than thieves, despite all of the deceit. Her greatest role thus far is the one of keeping the truth from her friend. This means they are thicker than blood. Her fam is her friend.
Going back earlier, Arabella and mum go back to the table. Bella tells Nick everything’s okay but to her father when questioned, she remains mum. As she plates her father’s further dinner and hugs him. This makes Nick smile but Arabella and her mother know certain secrets as she chews on food while “About Her” by Phazz takes us out to the credits and three stories of three women of three deceptions.