Chaotic, complicated, heart-wrenching, mesmerising. These were some words and thoughts that were running through my mind as I watched this mind-blowing twelve-episode series made for HBO and BBC One. Written and co-directed by the charismatic talent, Michaela Coel, who also plays the lead role of Arabella, I May Destroy You is one of the best performances I have seen in recent times. Millennial-life related shows may raise eyebrows at times as, more than once, various showrunners have only ventured into time-tested stereotyped life routines of the millennial. There has hardly been a fresh take on stories that one could easily relate to. Coel however, has championed the intrinsic issues we might face, through multiple layers of clever screenplay and direction. This show makes you think. This show makes you introspect. This show has my respect.
Arabella is a free-spirited young East Londoner who owes her book agents a draft of her upcoming book. But the night longingly makes her abandon her laptop. She quickly slips into a late-night crew party as she drifts to a place called Ego Death Bar. There are shots going around. The night quickly blurs and disintegrates. The audience wonders why Arabella seems dizzy and clawing her way out of a door. But we are not given enough time to ponder, as the next scene cuts to Arabella at her writing desk. She has a minor injury on her forehead that needs cleaning up, but she manages to meet her deadline. Setting the tune of the show are the clouded scenes whizzing through Arabella’s mind, of a man sweating and panting with flared nostrils in a bathroom stall. For those brief seconds, as the memory flashes through her mind, she is in shock. Arabella is a victim of date rape drug.
Coel broke into TV at 28 through her BAFTA award-winning comedy Chewing Gum about a girl desperate to lose her virginity. While pulling an all-nighter drafting the second season of the show, Coel decided to take a break to meet up with her friend at a bar. Her drink was spiked, and she was sexually assaulted by two men. She finds herself returning to consciousness at the Fremantle Media production office, where she had been working earlier. Her phone was smashed, and she goes on to finish the episode that she has been writing and eventually realising what she had gone through in her drug induced state. She portrays her real-life horrific incident in the show with ease and courage.
“I May Destroy You takes the viewer through a journey of despair, blankness, and an attempt to understand what had happened and what might happen in her life going forward. The truth of this show does not lie in showing what happened but in how it felt…how it feels.”
I May Destroy You also bravely touches upon how a gay man encounters sexual assault and finds it excruciatingly embarrassing and uncomfortable to register a complaint, and how a woman visiting an exotic place gets played by charming locals into a threesome, leaving her with a feeling of being used. Is locking your friend in a room with their crush during a party at your home the right thing to do? Did your friend consent to it? Was it a harmless thing to do? The question of consent moves to varying degrees in all our lives depending on the circumstances or situation. One might be forced to ponder deep into its meaning during a harmless conversation with friends. The question of consent is a difficult subject but is in grave need of discussion in mainstream media and this show touches upon all the right notes for the audience to hopefully understand and engage with the topic a bit more.
The art of letting go is probably the toughest motion a victim of trauma must adapt to. Nevertheless, it is a universally accepted coping mechanism. But the question is, how do you do it? What is the right way? The finale of I May Destroy You will bowl you over with its beautifully translated trials and errors through its top-notch screenplay to well, let go. The title, in all its vagueness, is what makes the show special. It is the vagueness of our own understanding of what does or does not happen to us, that shines through our lives as we try to go forward in the best way we can.
I May Destroy You is a much watch.