Michaela Coel as Arabella in I May Destroy You sets the tone for the rest of the series.
I May Destroy You’s Arabella is like most Millennials. She is very opinionated, has a taste for illicit substances, and procrastinates as if her life depends on it. Early on, British star Michaela Coel establishes that her character is very relatable, and most of I May Destroy You’s series premiere plays out like most by-the-numbers dramas that many seem to be putting out these days.
It’s the moment that both the clichéd narrative and carefree life of Arabella get abruptly upended in an unsettling manner that hooks viewers into what this series is really all about. Just like in reality, one moment can change everything. It’s abundantly clear through the hazy visuals, forehead gash, and disturbing imagery displayed that she was the victim of sexual assault.
The chillingly effective manner in which the Chewing Gum actor portrays the events of the morning after to the final revelation is incredibly poignant and exudes a haunting atmosphere, leaving everyone wanting to know the truth while simultaneously demanding justice as soon as the credits roll. Coel’s exceptional execution does an exemplary job of garnering the attention of audiences by providing plenty of thought-provoking breadcrumbs vividly scattered throughout the first episodes’ final moments, making it difficult for anyone watching not to come back for more.
This is a much different playing field than that of the light-hearted British series Chewing Gum, where the rising star played a girl desperate to lose her virginity. This much more mature series allows her to flex her drama skills like never before, and the juxtaposition between the two roles solidifies her status as an elite performer, adding to the many reasons why fans should stick with the series to the very end.
Similar to how Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge connected with audiences early on in her darkly funny, tragedy-ridden, sex-themed comedy-drama, the I May Destroy You star perfectly balances the humor and severity with affecting precision which adds significant value to the overall experience. In what could very well be described as a career-defining turn from Coel will undoubtedly spawn an equal amount of heartwrenching occurrences as it will be teamed with wickedly funny moments all the way through its promising first season.
But what makes it all truly impressive is the handling of the subject matter. Discussing issues about consent and sexual violence can’t be easy, especially for someone who has been a victim. I May Destroy You is inspired by Coel’s own experience with sexual assault, and revisiting something like that in any form can’t be ideal.
Despite all this, Coel’s excellent efforts in bringing her tragic story to life both in front of and behind the camera will definitely shed some light on this controversial topic and bring some much-needed awareness to the situation. The undeniable courage and awe-inspiring creativity it took to deliver this compelling series is something that should be revered as a great triumph. The gorgeously realized take is undeniably one of the reasons I May Destroy You will not disappoint when its all said and done.
It will be very interesting to see how the rest of the HBO original plays out over the rest of its 12-episode run. If the title has anything to do with it, we know at some point Arabella will strike back, but we have just taken the first step of a long, enlightening journey.
One thing that is for sure is that I May Destroy You is an instantly riveting series from a talented, multi-faceted creator that has masterfully kicked things off for this well-crafted affair. Not only is this poised to be one of HBO’s most talked-about top-notch originals of the summer but also an essential comedy-drama series that in the opener solidifies itself as the most important thing everyone should see this year.
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