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

I May Destroy You's penultimate episode shows us the truth

Michaela Coel (left), Franc Ashman
Michaela Coel (left), Franc Ashman
Photo: Natalie Seery
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There’s only one more episode of I May Destroy You, but a lot happens in “Would You Like to Know the Sex?” Arabella loses her book commission. Terry confronts her threesome incident. Kwame tries to make amends for his mistakes. Overall, these stories work, but given the show’s long season, some of the timing feels a bit rushed. Kwame’s initial assault was handled very well, but his character has subsequently floundered. Nothing Kwame does in “Would You Like to Know the Sex” makes sense and the show doesn’t offer much justification for his attempt to reconcile with the woman he slept with. In Terry’s case, it feels like she’s finally given a story outside of Bella. We’re finally seeing who Terry is and how she processes her own issues and next week it all comes to an end.

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Terry and Kwame’s stories have felt lost in everything that is Bella. As Bella’s viewpoint became more narrow and self-focused, her connection to what Terry and Kwame were going through was also limited. “Would You Like to Know the Sex?” lets us check in with them, but not enough to make sense of some of their actions. Why does Kwame want to be friends with a homophobic and racist white woman who fetishized him? Perhaps Kwame feels he needs to fix this in order to be “good enough” for his new boyfriend, but that buys into Bella’s villainization of Kwame. What Kwame did doesn’t make him unworthy of love or “not nice,” but an uncomfortable parallel is drawn when Kwame gets a text from the woman while on a date at the museum. I hope that text is the last we see of her and they don’t try to use Kwame as an example of cancel culture gone off the rails.

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Throughout these reviews, I’ve talked about Terry’s threesome from the perspective that it was shown to us as an audience. It was brilliant writing on Michaela Coel’s part to let us see Terry’s threesome as it happened to her and not as she experienced it. When the men walked away together, it was obvious they’d coerced Terry. Kai, Terry’s date, sees the situation for what it is almost immediately too. When Kai says it still burns, it’s like Terry realizes for the first time she was ever burned at all. I wish we could’ve seen Terry figure this out on her own throughout the season. Or it would’ve been great if she’d gone out with Kai sooner. As viewers, we’ve been able to see the truth of Terry’s threesome. It’s placed more gravitas on Terry’s actions beyond doing right by Bella because of guilt.

These are minor pacing issues in what has been a near perfect first season for I May Destroy You. For Bella, this is a perfect penultimate episode. She has to confront Zain and the memory of what happened to her the night she was drugged. “Would You Like to Know the Sex?” is the show’s most graphic episode. Bella’s assault is detailed with no lapse in memory or shifts in perspective. This is simply what happened. It’s horrifying to watch. The show also knows it’s the moment some viewers have been waiting to see. There are viewers who’ve waited for the Law & Order SVU moment and this is it.

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Bella is able to remember this memory after she works with Zain to figure out her book. I’m not crazy about Zain being Bella’s creative spark, but she needed to stand up to him to find her voice. I do think it was sort of odd that Zain just showed up to teach her some basics of story structure, though. Just some real basic stuff you could Google. But, she has him literally take out her under-bed-trash and that’s what he was there to help her process. It does says a lot about Bella’s publishing house that they’d still work with Zain after Bella’s accusations. It’s even worse that Susy chose the fictional female pseudonym, Della. Suddenly, their relationship with Bella is “complex,” but they found a way to make things happen for Zain.

Bella has healed in the process of finding her story, but that has opened her up to new memories that could derail her. Bella still deserves justice and she can now identify her attackers, but what kind of faith does she still have in the system? Will she revert to old tactics and the allure of social media with all of its doxing capabilities? As we head into the finale, I May Destroy You brings our attention back to the show’s central event and there’s truly no answer to expect.

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Stray Observations

  • I wish they’d gone into Terry’s stage fright more before she got this role. The moment was full of joy when she found out, but I wonder what getting this particular part means to her.
  • All of the Kwame “What if someone is right for you but you’re not ready to be the person you need to be?” stuff feels so rushed! He just met this guy! Calm down, Kwame. You’re great.
  • Poor lonely Ben.
  • Susy...Obviously Susy was never going to feel any sort of black kinship with Bella, but I thought she was at least inspired to help Bella grow as a writer. Bella is a plant, she just needs some nurturing.
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Ashley Ray-Harris is a stand-up comic and writer.

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