Costumes may hide a lot of things outside an ugly day. When you don’t have a mask on.. ya still do. This is the review of I May Destroy You.
They say something truly magical happens during Halloween. No, not the apotropaic kind. It’s a transformative kind of magic. Whether you’re a shy kid feeling like a certified bad-ass in your superhero(ine) digs or you’re a gregarious adult feeling certifiable in your bloodied horror-themed costume, something takes hold. Whether you’d like to admit it to yourself or not, somewhere deep down, a little part of you is that which you wear. We all embrace a side we don’t normally share with the public on any other day than Samhain. This magic is presented in the ninth episode of I May Destroy You (HBO) titled “Social Media Is a Great Way to Connect” but be warned- it’s a dark kind of magic.
We open up on Arabella (Michaela Coel) sitting on her bed as her mind flashes back to that one vivid memory of her rape. The faces of the suspect however change, as she’s trying to piece together a singular one from the amalgam. Her roomie Ben (Stephen Wright) pops his head in and asks if she’s alright and after she claims to be, he wishes her a Happy Halloween. This prompts Bella to hashtag the video she’s about to post “#IHSWG.” What does it stand for? The rant she recorded earlier says it all- ‘I Hate Straight White Guys.’ This immediately gets a positive response to a misty-eyed Bella. One such comment mentions doxxing, while giving out an address, which prompts Arabella to search up the term itself. “Hmm.”
At the Doctor’s (Jonathan Slinger) office by Terry’s (Weruche Opia) side, Arabella gets the all-clear for her CT scan. Now, instead of taking this with poise, she summarily takes a video proving to her haters that there’s nothing wrong with her brain, so there’s nothing with her fighting with her rapist. I mean, she did make her profession from Twitter. T can only roll her eyes, though she does take a moment out to plug herself on camera before Bella wishes her fans a Happy Halloween. He doesn’t seem amused.
Poppa-Doc insists Arabella monitors her high blood pressure, as a person of ‘Afro-Caribbean’ lineage is at a higher risk for kidney disease. Bella takes immediate umbrage with his “racial ignorance” correcting him as she’s African and to be more mindful next time, lest he appear an embarrassment to his profession. This leaves the doctor gobsmacked. She rails into him further before leaving.
As she’s outside filming Facebooking live, Terry asks the doctor why her blood pressure is so high. He doesn’t know, but he doesn’t like that she’s vaping. Terry comes to her friend’s defense and tells the doctor since the rape and her high demand position as a poster girl for social justice can cause stress, so lay off and let the girl fucking relieve that stress with vaping. She dropped the mic on that one.
As Terry shops for costumes, Bella checks her fans’ affirming comments while Kwame (Paapa Essiedu) checks out a video of a potential hook-up in action. Hey, ya gotta preview the course before ya taste it, right? Terry emerges, claiming all they had were loads of wings, fangs, and a singular halo. She wants first dibs, but they let her have the halo since she set up the entire self-care day. Next on the docket? Paint and Wine…
En route to, Bella is stopped by Rumi (Fela Lufadeju), a fan on the street, thanking her for the content. As a black man who survived abuse as a child at the hands of a straight white man, it was hard for him to come out. Kwame seems uncomfortable with the conversation and eventually leaves. Mocking their conversation to Terry, he is rebuked as he may need Bella someday. This is going to be a relaxing, care-free day, I can nigh guarantee it!
At Paint and Wine, Arabella is looking spiffy in her black demon horns, wings, and dress painting her pumpkin painting prompt. With a brush in one and phone in the other, she snaps a picture but an angelic Terry snaps at her for using her phone. Putting it away, Bella extracts her vape. She’s scolded by the moderator. This surprises T but not a Beatle-haired, white-suited Kwame. So back to her phone Bella goes, promising Terry not to post just yet as she proceeds to make a video promoting the paint and wine ‘movement’ (which it is not.)
Terry brings up Nilufer to Kwame, admitting that she hates it when white girls disappoint her. Though Arabella comforts him, her demeanor changes when Kwame reveals that he revealed that he was gay only after they fucked. According to her, it’s hypocritical for being offended by the F-word yet fine rolling over being racially stereotyped because he got laid. Bella is done with this and leaves.
Terry tries to reason with her, asserting that Kwame feels bad about it, but that falls on deaf ears. According to Arabella, a man under false pretense following a woman home and bedding her as she’s vulnerable is wrong. Bella goes even harder, calling him a victim blamer when he asserts that she initiated it. Ye ought not to cast the first stone, as Terry brings up Arabella locking Kwame in a room with Jamal.
Arabella doesn’t see the big deal, but Terry maintains it wasn’t right because it was dangerous for him. Already on a hot streak, Bella has the temerity to tell her bestie to shut her gob and fuck off, as Kwame can speak for himself. Going to Kwarms, already uncomfortable and hurt, she asks him, throughout the support she’s given him if she did anything to him that day. With tears in his eyes that can’t look Bella straight in the face, he claims he can’t remember. Going even deeper, she says that if he paints himself to look like a victim and that’s not exactly the case, she has to question his person, that’s unbecoming. With that and a “fuck this shit,” Bella rolls out.
The streets of London find Arabella vaping up a storm until she isn’t able to get any pulls from it. Thinking she’s out power, she heads over to a congregation outside of a bar and asks to borrow someone’s wire so she can’t hook her cell up to her vape. With both addictions in both hands, she’s as in heaven as a demon could be.
After Arabella asks someone to snap a few pics as she vamps for the camera (for social media fodder), a patron compliments her on the horns, and she unleashes some heat on the fella about how white men must feel so special having opinions.
Continuing down the street, she videos herself speaking on crash test dummies not having feminine features, the size of smartphones being based on the size of men’s hands. It’s an all-around screed. If anger-fueled fame is her drug, then her commenters are the suppliers. Comments, Likes, and Loves litter your TV screen. Now, this scene starts beautifully shot from a head-on view, so it reminds me of a Spike Jonze music video… and it doesn’t stop.
Like any good drug worth its high, overdosing may be a side-effect. The comments, now both negative and positive lead Arabella to ask for Zain’s home address. The comments keep on flooding and time begins to slow down and Bella goods woozier, as does the music until it STOPS.
At the home of her therapist, Carrie (Andi Osho), she speaks about Kwame and how it would wreck her if she knew that her good friend turned out to be that which she stood against. Showing her Facebook to Carrie, she feels merited in the work she’s done to call out that which isn’t. The problem is her need for social media is the problem. She doesn’t need it in the vital sense, but it doesn’t look like she wants to give it up at the moment. She’s informed that the business model for these networks is simple: it promotes speaking at the risk of listening. Carrie suggests she simply takes a break if she cannot quit cold turkey. Bella informs Carrie that her case is closed, unresolved and though she has the evidence, she hasn’t opened the bags. They lay dormant under her bed.
Her therapist shows Bella a little diagram, writing A for Arabella, drawing a line underneath, and putting an X underneath the line. The A represents Bella. The X represents all that contradicts or threatens her perceived reality. These include guilt, self-blame, uncertainty. These things are important to process and understand for her because if she cannot do that, it isn’t possible to truly know herself. With that, under the X, Arabella simply writes the A, puts the X on top of the A, and strikes a line through it.
At home, she takes the leap and deletes all of her social media accounts. She dives even further and extracts everything from under her bed. Ben pops his head in to make sure she’s alright. She fixates on one particular bag and extracts its contents. It’s a sonogram and wonders for a moment how many weeks she was in. Ten- that she was so young, she just did it and forgot about it. Ben asks her if she had any regrets to which she claims no regrets.
She flashes to her younger self, repeating the very same lines she’d lain into Kwame earlier: “If you felt good, I’d be even more horrified.” “When you paint things to make you look like you’re the victim and I find out that isn’t the case, really makes me question who you are.” “Just look in the mirror, do you know what I mean? It’s really uncomfortable and unnerving for everyone.”
With a knock, Bella’s come back to the present and not only apologizes to her girl T, but also Kwarms, who dips out for a rendevous with his All Hallows booty call.
Arabella decides to open all of the evidence and lay it on her bed. So where does that leave her and Terry for the rest of the night? Well, Bells has an idea. A walk. A nice. Long. Walk. Where to? The Ego Death Bar. The place where it all happened. As both she and Terry take a seat outside, she pulls from her vape. It works! She then continues to pry inside from the outside, eyes darting. She’s the hunter. She’s going hunting.
Track and Treat!