In episode 5 of I May Destroy You, “It Just Came Up,” Arabella continues to push through adversity in an effort to reclaim her narrative.
“Tribulations” is typically a word that proceeds “trials.” The world is pain, as is life at times. We’re not so much used to suffering as much as accepting it at times. Sometimes, the evil that men do goes unpunished and even worse, unnoticed. Such is life. However, what if instead of the word “tribulations,” we lived in a world where “retributions” was more of a common phrase. Try it on for size. “Trials and retributions.” Feels kinda good, yeah? It is in the fifth episode of I May Destroy You (HBO) that we could wear that article that feels oh so right, that we just don’t want to give it up.
We open in on Biago (Marouane Zotti) and Arabella (Michaela Coel) engaged in coitus in a beautifully lit room. This, of course, is merely a positive flashback as Bella is in the present, staring at Zain (Karan Gill) as he sleeps. Maybe he simply puts her at ease, regardless of what he did the night before- or perhaps Arabella’s about to find out something she was unaware of.
As she commits to her daily morning yoga challenge through podcast, she immediately feels better. As Zain takes a shower, Bella cycles through other stuff recommended for her until she comes across a podcast where two women are talking about the horrors of “stealthing.” In fact, one girl cites a Reddit thread where a common phrase to use is “I took it off, I thought you knew.” This heinous type of line gaslights the victim and before Zain is out of the shower, Arabella is out the door.
Donning nothing but Zain’s shirt on top of her underwear, she hops into a thrift store and emerges fully clothed… with Zain’s shirt still on. The fuck he’s getting a shirt back as it may have his DNA evidence on it as well as he may have been caught on CCTV wearing it. Plus, she does also have the condom itself. She proceeds to the beauty parlor.
As she’s going for a new look, her agent Julian calls to inform her that the big boss of her publisher, Susy Henny, wants to meet with her in three hours. A very awake Bella agrees and immediately receives a call from Officer Funmi…
At the police station, a brashly bald Bella, flanked by Terry (Weruche Opia) and Kwame (Paapa Essiedu) is informed by Officer Funmi (Sarah Niles) that there’s been a break in her case. Semen had been found on a flannel confiscated from her agents’ office. The only problem is that the DNA sample is weak so they would have to perform a direct comparison to a potential suspect, which they do. Though no CCTV footage had been retrieved, someone was just remanded for a similar incident, so in order to proceed, Arabella has to contact any consensual relationship she’s had and inform them of the situation and why their DNA is requested to clear their name. This includes Biago, whom she did not tell. When asked as to why, in classic Terry fashion, she nervously diffuses the tension by telling the po-po because he’s an Italian drug lord.
They even crack a funny calling the police Rape-busters, which didn’t land with an already affected Kwame. Before leaving, Arabella queries if secretly removing a condom constitutes as rape, to which Officer Beth (Mariah Gale) informs her it does under law, but the only problem is that when people don’t realize what is and isn’t a crime, they don’t report it and the perpetrators walk free. “Hmm.”
Exiting the station, Kwame surreptitiously searches up if non-consensual humping is rape. Bella leaves for her meeting, and T waits on a worried-looking Kwame, joking if there are no good prospects around. He simply laughs it off.
At the agents’ office, Julian (Adam James) and Francine (Natalie Walter) sit down with Susy Henny (Franc Ashman) and her assistant Sion (Ellie James). They are waiting on Arabella, and, as they are, Susy subtly takes jabs at Julian and Francine as to why their client’s work was submitted unfinished for the Writing Summit. They flounder but are saved by the Bella! Mutually excited to meet her idol, Arabella is then questioned as to why her work was unfinished. Before she could answer, Zain shows up. As it turns out, his work was submitted as well.
He also realizes that he knows Sion from somewhere. Once the British Library came up, he grows a little nervous. Bella has the floor now, however, and speaks candidly about her unfinished symphony- she was at the police station earlier because she had been raped and that she knows the identity of the suspect and has the DNA to prove it. She calls out Zain… thanking him for helping her finish her writing. He’s sweatin’ now, which is an added bonus to Bella, as she’s been asked by Henny House to read a segment from this new project. She’s over the moon and stipulates that a friend read it for her. Once told she’s thick as thieves and black, Susy’s totally on board.
At their yoga session later, Terry’s ecstatic about the opportunity. Biago calls, but Bella shoos it aside. A clear and calmness in her seems pretty ostensible and kind of freaks out T.
This is also applicable when Bella, painting with Zain, turns the tables and gaslights him. Clearly upset, he wants to know why she didn’t tell him about the rape, the word almost being ineffable to him. She slides a veiled slip and accuses him of being a rapist but when asked to repeat what she said, she says that she figures he knew about the rape, it would change things between them. Though she claims she likes the time spent with him and that she likes to spend cuddle time with someone she trusts, he still seems very worried. Well played, Arabella, well played.
Kwame goes to the police station to “report a crime.” I congratulate him on that. It takes guts to come forward in any of these cases, no matter who you are. The wording of “crime” shows vulnerability and intelligence because he doesn’t know really what it is.
Meanwhile, outside the Writing Summit, Arabella tells Biago on the phone first the good news and then the bad. The bad seems to have more affect on him, as he flies off the handle, when Bella simply tells him that her drink was spiked. He blames it on her not watching her drink and she hangs up. Though only 30% of the bad news was divulged, this is her night and she should enjoy the shine with her girl T.
Back at the precinct, Kwame relays to Officer Tom (Kadiff Kirwan) the night’s events and because they met on Grindr, he only has an alias and address, but no name. The office seems to either be mocking Kwame or having some slight fun with this, but when asked to describe what happened in detail as rape and assault are two different things, the officer gets uncomfortable. He tells Kwame he could have filled out the same information on the machines they have.
The officer clearly isn’t taking Kwame seriously, going as far as neglecting to close the door to the interrogation, though a blatant sign is posted for the victim’s safety.
At the Summit, Bella finds out through Sion’s personal experience that she wasn’t the first this happened to. With nervousness in Terry’s eyes and a fire in Arabella’s, the night is all about to begin. As Susy waxes poetically about the written word and the power behind it, Bella is hit with another flashback, instead of a man’s face on the body from above, it’s her own, clear as a bell… but there’s no time for that, as it’s time for her voice to be heard through Terry.
The only problem is Terry is too afraid to go on, leaving the stage all to Arabella. As T waits in the back, her girl takes the stage, thanking her agents and her publisher- and then she flat-out calls Zain in front of everybody a rapist under UK Law. She explains what happened and the only thing louder than the murmur in the crowds was Terry filming him and giving him the what for as he tries to make an exit.
At the station, Officer Tom explains to Kwame that they are dropping the complaint, as before the incident they’ve had consensual sex and that the situation has absolutely no real merit in the eyes of the law. This goes without saying, but it bears repeating: that is FUCKED UP.
At the bar though, celebrations are in order for Bella as Sion and Terry join her for beer. T’s over the moon on being trending as a GIF and Sion informs Bella she’s trending hardcore, now with an article just posted.
At his flat, Kwame is in his VALIDATED pain and granted, it’s not a party at the moment for Bella either, arguing with Biago about the whole story. She’s had enough when he blames her for not watching her drink and that’s seemingly their end as she bursts out in tears… before seeing all the love she’s getting online which makes brings a smile to her face- which we haven’t seen that in a minute! It looks proper on her.