A look into a brave, new series, I May Destroy You takes us on a journey to examine and educate, and it all starts with the pilot. This article starts with…
Rape. It’s a four-lettered word that doesn’t look away from you, so don’t look away from it. It is vile (another four-lettered word). As a cis-gendered male, I can’t in any way comprehend the aftermath of such a despicable act… but, I want to understand what goes through one’s head after the fact. I want to empathize with something so insolvent to one’s soul, they can still have the bravery and gumption to proceed on. This story isn’t so simple, however. None of them are. It isn’t simply about the crime perpetrated, but who it was perpetrated to. This is the story of not just the wound, but rather, more importantly, the wounded. She’s a bad-assed drinking, smoking, drug-taking writer, who lives in the moment, not for it, who can search her purse for fucks to give and always happens to be out of them. Did I mention she’s a proper self-saboteur? Welcome to the pilot of I May Destroy You (HBO) titled “Eyes Eyes Eyes Eyes.”
Ostia, Italy. 3 p.m. A queen kisses her serf goodbye and wishes to see him again. This is not normal, but if your name is Arabella (Michaela Cole) and you’re the number one trending Gen-Z vox on a writing vacation, literary agents may give you a little bit of room to Rome. It turns out on this particular trip on the proviso, it’s for work and not pleasure, she’s met someone — Biago (Marouane Zotti) and she just isn’t sure what he is in her world. He abhors her smoking cancer cudgels, is thoroughly convinced that all guys want to be with her, and lastly refuses to send her off with a proper fair thee well, IRL.
I suppose for the moment, it matters none, as a welcome is in place for Arabella, compliments of her boy, Simon (Aml Ameen) once she touches down in her native London.
Before any of that can transpire, she needs to touch base with her friends, Ben (Stephen Wight), Terry (Weruche Opia), and most importantly her literary agents, Julian (Adam James) and Francine (Natalie Walter). It turns out her writing vacation was more for pleasure and experience, which was the purpose, but these things don’t come for free. Her fee is a finished second book, and it turns out, she’s only two-thirds done and with a writing summit nipping at her heels, she needs to produce something substantive by 6.00 a.m. the next day.
Jet lagged and brain-fried, Arabella needs to focus and get on her grind. This is where I can completely relate as a writer. Procrasturbation is a thing, and no amount of weed, music, or staring at the scariest thing ever (a blinking cursor) can save you from a deadline. Her friend Kwame (Paapa Essiedu) passes through, and, though he can provide an audience of one for her to workshop her shit, inspiration isn’t there, only perspiration.
With Terry gone for the night, getting beauty rest for an audition promoting a feminist beauty campaign, and with Kwame already on the hunt to smash whatever hot guy is nearby, the night is calling. Shirking work supersedes responsibility, and that is a part of adulthood, right? Putting herself on a one-hour restriction, ‘Bella heads out to the Whisky Love Bar for some comfort and companionship.
It turns out Simon’s girlfriend of eight years, Kat (Lara Rossi) tried to orchestrate this entire meetup in the hopes of a threesome. What, with Simon’s cousin from America, Derae (Ansu Kabia), having his last night in London, this would seem like a hat trick, no?
As it turns out, no. The couple tries to rope in Alissa (Ann Akin) from a dating app, but, though the music’s hot at the bar, the atmosphere betwixt them all isn’t. There’s something not quite so right about this scenario and Alissa makes it known. Forthright with her issues, she magnetizes drama and is co-morbidly anxious and depressed.
Receiving a call from her mother’s caretaker, Alissa splits. The vibe is killed when she entered the room clutching her purse. It’s not her fault, as you will soon find out. Either way, Kat’s libido has gone down and chalks the night up to a loss. She leaves the two to their own devices. Though the vibe left the room, mischief is just around the corner in the form of Arabella.
She happens to catch both Simon and Derae exiting the club and is down for whatever. Remember, she’s now like a 45-minute window. Simon sees her as one of the guys… or does he? After being accosted by a fan of her book, “Chronicles of a Fed Up Millennial,” Arabella gives into the night at the Ego Death Bar.
It turns out it’s Thursday, which means hip-hop karaoke, and the writer smashes that shit like a Queen. Her writing comes from experience and much like beat poets before her, her wit is her life.
After spitting a proper rendition of “Truffle Butter,” ‘Bella sits down to shots of silver tequila, compliments of David (Lewes Reeves). They play the simple game of Eyes Eyes Eyes Eyes, and she’ll be on her own imposed clock in a matter of minutes. Simon insists she stay… and that is when shit goes down.
It helps to mention that the selector chooses “Flowers” (Sunshine Edit) by Sweet Female Attitude flares up because we all have our jams. This happens to be a siren song to Arabella because nothing can help her at this moment. Not interference, not a logical voice and certainly not a Lorrie.
The problem with this is she’s compromised. To wit, she’s only had one shot and soon stumbling out of the club as if she downed an entire bottle. Something’s not keen.
CUT TO: Next Morning – Day
It’s 5.56 in the a.m. and ‘Bella is finishing the last of her lived lines for her deadline. All she needs is a shower and a meeting.
The problem with that whole scenario is the glossy-eyed and Chesire-grinned ‘Bella is now coming off as a weirdo to her agents. They don’t understand the last third of her manuscript and they seem legitimately worried about her.
Oh, not to mention, she seems to have a rivulet of blood coming from her skull. Yeah, that’s normal AF.
Deciding to table the writing for another summit, Arabella’s agents send her home, only she has a buzz in her head. The everyday cacophony of the Londonian streets is both muted and piercing as she’s trying to piece together her steps from the night before. Something is amiss, but she just isn’t understanding it at the moment.
It doesn’t help that she’s also stopped by another fan wanting to faun and take a selfie. Something doesn’t add up.
As in her head, she is grinning and trying to figure shit out, her fan orders her a livery to her home. Ahh, home. The one place you can feel safe. The only thing is once she turns the knob to her bedroom door, the flash of possibly David is thrusting above her. It’s shown but unknown.
Arabella simply looks back on the memory and simply says, “Hmm.”
There you have it. The first episode of Michaela’s show, and I, for one, think it’s harrowing. This is a writer clearly in touch with what’s around her, and she isn’t afraid to call out her demons or the demons surrounding her. She’s Dorothy Parker and Toni Morrison in the same take.
Dramaturgy is the study of how one presents themselves in the theatre of people, be it friends, strangers, or enemies. Arabella has the proscenium covered, acting very professional while having backstage as well, relaxing with friends, but guarding herself which is the border.
I wish we could all be like that.
This series will be trying on me but it well it should be. There is no excuse for sexual abuse. There is a light, and it isn’t going out anytime soon, which could only mean one thing — this is war.