Reinvention. It’s not a word to be feared. From da Vinci to Bowie, some of the world’s best and brightest minds have seen it whether through whim or through necessity to embrace it. It’s not a death knell but rather the bugle playing Reveille. In this penultimate episode of I May Destroy You (HBO) titled “Would You Like to Know the Sex?”, we’ll explore how our favorite trio wake the fuck up from their slumber with a new take on a new day.
We open up with a POW! of energy. This reserve we haven’t seen in a minute with the likes of Arabella (Michaela Coel) and Terry (Weruche Opia) sweatin’ it up in double-time to Kwame’s (Paapa Essiedu) rigorous aerobics class. On their break, Bella reads, Kwarms notices that Tyrone’s wants to go kayaking, and Terry hyperventilates. It turns out that she’s got the job. Terry’s got the job! Now comes the cool-down…
As Bella’s on the toilet, head buried in The Sundial, Kwame spills to Terry and Ben (Stephen Wright) his plight- he fears he’s becoming ‘nice’ and that Tyrone’s rubbing off on him and not in the carnal way he’s used to. Kwame feels that this man is the right person for him, but that he’s not in the right headspace to be the right person for him- yet. Ben in his simple yet flawless wisdom simply tells Kwame to take the steps in becoming that right person.
Emerging refreshed from literature, she gushes to them about the author, Della Croy-Dickie (no doubt a play on de la Croix meaning “of the cross” and the inelegant pronunciation of it.) Arabella feels a kinship with this author and simply must meet her since they are both published under Henny House. She’d rather not go the Susy Henny route, as no draft’s been materialized, so Ben and Terry help her film a video to be posted to social media. T’s not feeling the first demure take, so they reshoot it with more panache: on the toilet! Bella propositions, woman-to-woman if they can grab a coffee and elucidate on being under commission in the patriarchal system. Once sent, however, the plan backfires. Della’s seen the video but blocks Arabella in the process. Fuck. What’s a girl to do?
In her office, Susy Henny (Franc Ashman) shows Arabella her collection of plants. This is especially off-centering to Bella as Susy strokes her “centering” plant after admitting that she’s not had a break as a publisher in eight years. She asks Arabella if she’s been growing because it’s essential- that we’re all descendants of the trees. Arabella retorts that it’s because of the melanin. Susy doesn’t follow leading Bella to sheepishly explain that because trees’ bark is brown, their skin is brown before awkwardly chalking it up to a “silly race joke.”
Not one to be trifled with, Susy asks Bella if she believes in multiple races as a rational taxonomy. This is a lead-in question as Susy knows Arabella doesn’t know the answer as she through a condescending chuckle and smile flat out inquires about the draft she’s due. What stage is it in, what the word count is. Bella admits the reason for her being there is asking to me Della Croy-Dickie and feeling it beneficial to her creative process. After telling Arabella no and dismissing her, Susy gets on the horn.
Sitting across from her agents Julian (Adam James) and Francine (Natalie Walter), Arabella’s day is about to get worse. It turns out that Henny House is withdrawing Arabella’s commission because “their desired outcome may not be achieved.” This leaves Arabella, Julian, and Francine in a bind, as they have to repay all that money. This leaves both of them with no choice but to drop Arabella as a client.
Elsewhere, Kwame sits down with Nilufer (Pearl Chanda). He orders the tofu “just to try it out” which isn’t winning any brownie points with her. Diving right in, Kwame explains his intentions, his knowing it not feeling right and regret going through with it anyway, as they may have been friends in a different situation. This is simply not enough for Nilufer, as she calls him a predator and cancels her order before “canceling him” and storming out. Kwame looks oddly relieved.
Outside of the Ego Death Bar, T comforts a teary-eyed Bella. She also flirts with their waiter, Kai (Tyler Luke Cunningham), giving him her number. Reaching her nadir, Bella’s in more debt than she’s ever been in her life and has no idea how she’s going to pay the commission back but there is a light at the end of this tunnel- it turns out Della’s seen Bella’s post and would like to meet up when she’s free i.e. now. As Kai’s now off of work, Terry goes after him while Arabella’s day might have a turnaround.
At the restaurant with Terry, Kai is complimented by their waitron Milanka (Yaz Zadeh) about his appearance on “The Flip Side”. This prompts Terry to switch her meal to what he’s having and asking him what the exchange was all about. Offering to order her another drink, perspicacious Terry knows secrets will be divulged and excuses herself to the toilet.
At the Ego Death Bar, Arabella waits on her company when Zain (Karan Gill) comes into the frame. Surprised, Bella makes some paltry talk until he goes away- but he doesn’t. Remember that light at the end of the tunnel? Sometimes it’s the train chugging right for you.
It turns out that because Susy still wanted to publish him, even after the summit, she did it under a pseudonym, even choosing the name himself. His agents dropped him, so the only people in the know are Susy, his mum, and now, Bella. She uses a few moments to compose herself and lets him come closer. She informs him that he doesn’t scare her, that he’s present, not under her bed. She informs him that she’s gone underneath, into the darkness, and now that darkness is in her, staring back at him. With that, she commands Zain to sit down. Zain presents her with a few printouts of plot diagrams for creative non-fiction. He’s in the Queen’s court now.
After finding out through a video that Kai is a trans-musician, she continues back to the table. Offering to pay the bill, thinking she’ll leave, Terry wants to stay and find more about the person in front of her. All is lain with amazing brevity at Terry’s feet, from the dreams of being a guitarist to art school to being up above a man and down below a woman. This doesn’t scare Terry and as her meal arrives, she enjoys it with her date.
Zain shows Arabella how the setup works. The regularity of the world before an event disrupts it with the conflict, be it person or thing. Zain asserts that any major conflict ensures the story moves on, raising the stakes before the final piece in the puzzle, a resolution is found. It can be found through multiple narratives or circular structures. Armed with this knowledge, Arabella unflinchingly invites Zain to her flat.
As Terry at the restaurant informs Kai that she’s not a prude and them having a laugh over her threesome, Bella at her flat hands over scraps of writing and ideas over to Zain, taping them to her wall, coming up with a plotline. This is the way it was initially intended to be.
Explaining how both Luigi and Giovanni were two strangers into her and she could’ve gotten anything she wanted, Kai regrets to inform Terry that it was most likely premeditated, giving Terry pause. It was so long ago, but in her date’s understanding words, “it still burns like yesterday”. Laughing it off, she knows it’s the truth.
As Arabella looks in awe at a wall and some festooned with notes, she thanks Zain. He thought it was about consent, as did she. He doesn’t get it, but she does. Before leaving and disposing of her two black trash bags at her behest, she thanks “Della”.
Staring at the wall, mouth agape, there’s a spark in Bella’s eyes. In her head, she’s noticing the concatenation of events leading her up to this moment. Arabella rearranges, edits, tears up, rewrites, and places her entire story together with tape- all day and into the night. By the end of this deluge of creativity and inspiration, she’s left on the floor sleeping in the fetal position with her ENTIRE room covered in notes.
As a new day dawns, Arabella is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. She greets Ben and gives him a standing invitation to join her at her new old haunt. He declines as he tends to his plants and videos about loneliness in the UK.
That night, at an art gallery with Tyrone (Gershwyn Eustache Jnr), Kwame seems at ease. Content. Not even a text from Nilufer calling him a “fucking pig” can spoil this evening. When asking Tyrone, “Where were we?” and Tyrone simply responding “Here,” not even apprehension could stop him from leaning in closer.
At Ego Death Bar, T meets up with Bella as Kai goes inside. Things seemed to have gone swimmingly for them. That’s when Bells sees a man. As “Siren’s Song” by Ionian Singers begins to play, time itself comes to a crawl and things become lucid. The vision at the ATM machine? She was met by a homeless person wanting shelter for the night, as she can only say “I need to get to work.”
Arabella now looks into the bar and sees that same guy commiserating with a blonde-haired bloke with a pink shirt. She vividly remembers the game of “eyes, eyes, eyes, eyes” as she can clearly see his exact face staring back at her… and now he’s at the bar.
From a third-eye view, she can see him picking her up from the entrance, putting her in a cab with his mate. She can see them riding with her, she glossy-eyed. She can see the new bar, the paying off of the doorman.
She now in POV can see the bar as she passes through, the stairs as it leads down to the ironically named “Gents” loo. She can see the open stall as she falls and cracks her noggin on the toilet paper dispenser (hence the head wound). Then she can see nothing for a moment only to wake and see a piss covered floor. She can see the window as she’s turned around. She can see David thrusting and looking down at her. She can see him now in the bar. She can see justice. She can see prey.