Consensual doesn’t equate to consent. Think about it.
I May Destroy You Season 1:
Episode 4 – “That was Fun”
The stigma as a victim of sexual assault and rape is criminally stomach-churning. The entire process of healing is arduous and hell. The fucking messier shitshow is when the lines aren’t as clearly delineated and what constitutes as consent given and consent violently wrested. The waters are even further muddied as the law varies from country to country in what is rape and what is rape-adjacent. Welcome to the fourth episode of I May Destroy You (HBO) titled “That Was Fun.”
This is juxtaposed by Kwame (Paapa Essiedu) browsing a supermarket for more than just produce, lobbing horny texts through Grindr to a potential encounter just around the corner and just behind his mother’s back. There’s no shame in his game.
Bella is rather nervous, as this session takes an hour. She has a great and supportive group of friends around her, but when all by her lonesome, or possibly in the presence of strangers, she may encounter flashbacks. This makes it imperative that she be physically around those that care for her at any time, if such should transpire.
When this is the case, Arabella is diminutive to her own trauma by shifting the worry to other peoples’ problems, like famine. Having done similar things before, I agree when her therapist says that in trying to see the bigger picture, we’re actually the most important one.
Back in the dank supermarket bathroom (and they all are, no matter the country) Kwame is orally shaking hands with his random hookup. Well, not so much a handshake as servicing. After the deed is done and Kwame washes out, he’s still being checked out by the Grindr hookup in front of his mum. Hey, he’s completely out and proud!
After revealing to her therapist that she’s no family that’s privy to the incident, Arabella’s told to try relaxing activities, like yoga or painting, to jog her creativity in helping her finish her current book. In switching the subject around, Bella asks her therapist what her roommate Ben must be doing, much to her chagrin. This could be a deflection. Either way, Bella sees herself out.
Before you know it, Bella’s laying into a punching bag as Kwame militantly commands a Tai-Bo class with Terry (Weruche Opia) in tow. Arabella is spent and, during the two-minute water break, Kwame hits on a student, Nicholas (Tobi King Bakare). Spent and on her back, Bella once again sees the figure but exhales to make him go away.
Kwame later relays to Nicholas his comfortable nature as being gay, though his father visiting from Ghana can’t even look his own son in the eye for it. You see, this is seeing a person not for who they are but rather what they are and, if a title holds more sway than the person holding it, that’s simply not acceptable. Though Nicholas is apprehensive about using the title to identify himself as of yet and Kwame’s okay with Nicholas questioning to find the answer on a possible “date” with him.
Approaching his flat, Kwame throws out the possibility of maybe a future of living together if things work out that way as he’s not scared. This might be a little too fast for Nicholas because dude straight up leaves.
Meanwhile, at a cafe, Arabella meets Zain (Karan Gill), the ghostwriter that was assigned to her in helping her finish her book. Since the joint is closing up, he suggests Julian’s office, but the setting brings back memories of the morning after her attack, so she suggests a hotel bar instead. Her therapist did cite that certain locations may trigger these flashbacks, and a bar seems like a neutral location.
In his own bedroom, Kwame casts out his line again on Grindr for a threesome with Nicholas. He immediately gets hit up by Malik (Samson Ajewole), and it’s a go.
At the bar, Bella’s reading back her manuscript. Zain inquires what genre it is and what her literary background is. Before she gets a chance to answer, the ringing rears its ugly head again. A waitress comes up and asks if they’d like anything to drink, and, though he opts for water, she opts out of anything. A glass is soon dropped, as is the boring case in any bar, but Arabella denies any culpability. This completely knee-jerk reaction doesn’t stop there; Zain knows she’s published by Susy Henny and begins to hit on Arabella but is immediately shut down, with his slightest touch drives her out the door and to her brother’s house to retrieve colored pencils.
On the bus home, she repeats to herself that “there’s a war in Syria, there are children going hungry, and not everybody has a smartphone.” This is a classic example of the rule of threes, and Arabella may need to do this just for herself, just to keep some levity in her life.
As Kwame and his date embark on their threesome, Nicholas asks if he has to do anything with the other guy. Kwame says he doesn’t, with a grin pursed on his lips. The confidence shows that he might actually show this nervous guy how fun it is to be open with it all. As they show up at the door of Malik’s flat, they kiss before entering. Inside, they are greeted to the third and are requested to immediately take their shoes off.
Back at her flat, Arabella’s shaken from her catatonia by her doorbell. Zain comes in and rereads her stuff. He seems to like it, and, because she’s in a safe space, she turns the tables on him a little. She asks him about his background. He’s a Cambridge graduate from India and backed by Portland Street Publishers. There seems to be somewhat of a connection there, and even though he claims he doesn’t like colored pencils when asked, Bella seems calm.
Sex is inevitable, but not before running into Ben, who is mixing his band’s session. Around there, there things that go boom in the night, and Arabella just might be one of them. The rub is that she cares if someone likes her book, or doesn’t to be honest, and isn’t in this for simply the lay. She abandons all fear once he asks for a kiss, but fear is instilled again when Zain’s face replaces the stranger’s visage. Getting freaked, Bella lights up a joint and though Zain offers to leave, she wants him to stay. As they sit together, her poster falls once more… not a good sign.
Back at their whole threeway, Kwame inquires about the third guest. Though sketchy in his answers, Kwame still goes along with it as a song citing phrases “batty boy” and “fucked in the ass” plays on the radio. Nicholas uncomfortably begs them to change the song. When the Grindr date asks Kwame what he’s into and is met with the response of “everything“, Nicholas is visibly freaked out and his Grindr date is turned on. Again, Kwame’s not trying to fuck Nicholas so much as give him a peek into his world to see if he likes it.
Things at Bella’s seem to be going okay sex-wise, but we truly see Zain for what he truly is when they switch to doggy-style. LIKE A FUCKING DICK, he “stealths” the situation. For those not in the know, the term “stealthing” is removing a condom without your partner’s consent and therefore is a complete and unequivocal form of assault.
As both Kwame and his Grindr hookup are having a good time, Nicholas eventually leaves. For someone who should be eased into all of it, Kwame shows him more of the extreme side right off the bat, which would have plenty racing for the door.
After cumming in Arabella and being confronted about it, Zain’s forced to buy her Plan B pills- which is a pittance to what a fucking creep like that deserves.
Kwame is ready to call it a night, but before he can have a chance, a naked Malik through sheer size forces a clothed Kwame on the bed and forcibly assaults him through humping him from behind, treating him like a sex-toy and not an individual with a soul.
Visibly shaken, Kwame leaves and is taunted by Malik. Through tears, he calls Arabella but instead of revealing what just happens, he opts to tell her goodnight.
This episode was a fucking rough watch on any level, be it human being, or through a critical lens. This was about initial consent before it’s fucking latently stolen. Despite being labeled a dark comedy at times, there was very little to nothing laughable about this episode, and that’s the point. I can only fucking pray someone gets their comeuppance in the next episode. On the bright side, Greentea Peng’s “Mr. Sun (miss da sun)” takes us out of this very dark space and into the credits.