Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

I May Destroy You introduces Arabella's family in a moving episode

Tobi King Bakare (left), Michaela Coel, Yinka Awoni, Michelle Greenidge
Tobi King Bakare (left), Michaela Coel, Yinka Awoni, Michelle Greenidge
Photo: Natalie Seery
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Last week, Bella put away distractions and started to face the fact that she may have some unresolved issues. In “The Cause The Cure,” Bella finally understands the consequences of running away from her problems. It turns out Bella has a habit of burying her trauma and prefers to gloss over difficulties. She likes her head to be like diet cola: light. That means there’s no room for heavy topics like an abortion, assault or locking the window after witnessing your father’s infidelity.

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If there’s one thing that signifies Arabella taking her healing process seriously, it’s telling her mom about what happened to her. While we may not know exactly what Bella shared with her mother, the imagery of them sitting on her childhood bed, hiding its own secrets, is enough to let us know that Bella is finally ready to deal with some weighty topics.

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Dads can certainly be people who let you down. Despite their best efforts, some of us eventually have to come to terms with the fact that our fathers weren’t the heroes we thought they were. In Bella’s case, this is alarmingly clear to everyone but her. Since Arabella was a child, her mother has apparently known what kind of man her father was and his affairs weren’t a surprise. Unlike Bella, her brother liked to pay attention to grown folk talk. He knew better than to wait for his dad because he listened to the women around him.

Even as a kid Terry could sense Bella’s parents didn’t have a traditional relationship. Bella, however, has ignored this reality into adulthood. She eagerly answers the phone when her dad calls. She asks her mom when he said he’d be there. She’s still little girl Bella, eager to eat up the fries and attention her father gives her until she pukes.

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When Bella’s father reveals she was the reason he got robbed, she isn’t shocked at her own mistakes. The shock is Bella realizing just how deep Bella has buried her own experiences. Like the sea, Bella has let so much of her life just wash over her. Her father’s infidelity barely registered to her. She didn’t even recognize the woman she found at the top of the stairs, Auntie Lenora, when she came over. Bella can’t let these events pass her by anymore and telling her mother is a type of confrontation that can’t be avoided and adds depth.

To keep something from your mom is to deny its existence in a way, it keeps the event from being entirely real. When you tell your mom something though? That you fought with a friend or an ex? That a horrific thing happened to you? It suddenly has to be confronted in a way that’s different than talking to friends or a therapist about it. At least, this is true for black people. Once my mom knows something, there’s no going back.

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I think it’s the comfort her mother provides that allows Bella to forgive Terry and appreciate her support. Simon tries to place the blame on Terry since he reveals she told him to leave Bella at the bar and lie to her, but it’s still not their fault. Simon wasn’t part of some conspiracy to drug Bella, he was just a fuckboy who prioritized his side chick and left his friend in a bad situation. Terry wasn’t acting out of malice, she was reacting more to Italy when she told Simon to leave Bella. None of this changes anything, however. It’s still solely the fault of the man who assaulted Bella. It doesn’t seem like Bella is interested in carrying a grudge against either of them and I don’t think that would be a healthy choice. Terry has more than made up for what she did.

Kwame’s story felt more disconnected than it has for most of the season. Kwame essentially ends up in a place similar to Bella: he needs to address his needs directly. In his case, he makes his needs clear to his latest hookup. Kwame needs a hug. Even though he’s gotten comfortable with sex again, he hasn’t gotten over the attack on his emotional intimacy. Kwame wasn’t just sexually assaulted, he also lost his chance with a guy he had real feelings for in the aftermath.

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Casual hookups don’t force Kwame to confront that aspect of his experience, but his latest date encourages him to slow down. This does seem to be what Kwame needs and I would like to see his character engage with situations beyond sex, but I don’t think forcing his character into a stable and traditional relationship is a replacement for really digging into Kwame’s healing process. We all wish the perfect guy will drop out of a dating app, but this feels a bit too neat. That being said, that plate did look really good.


Stray Observations

  • Bella is back in purple as a kid when she’s eating those fries. Literally consuming the affection of her father puts her in her power and too much of it has horrible consequences. This is reminiscent of the purple glow of Bella’s social media attention. I also loved the use of “That’s How The Good Lord Works” by Sunday Service Choir. Since the pilot, gospel music has soundtracked moments of significant change for Bella.
  • Terry has an audition!
  • Again, I’m so glad they didn’t drag out any drama between Terry and Bella. Friendships require that kind of dedication and Bella really does realize how good Terry has been to her.
  • I loved Kwame’s bus scene.
  • Bella’s mom is amazing.
  • Simon’s cardigan is gone for good and Bella wears her own when she meets him. She’s back in her own power and isn’t relying on the comforts or protection of men.
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Ashley Ray-Harris is a stand-up comic and writer.

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