Griffin Matthews and Issa Rae in “Roar,” premiering globally April 15, 2022 on Apple TV+.

Apple TV+’s ‘Roar’ Offers a Feminist Anthology of Twisted Tales

Issa Rae, Nicole Kidman, Cythia Erivo, Alison Brie, and more star in the series.
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Anthology series are a famously tough nut to crack. Television’s answer to the short story has the unenviable task of introducing a new cast of characters, a conflict, and a mind-bending twist all in a 30 to 60 minute runtime … and then do it again and again for as many episodes as the season contains. It’s a challenge to do this well once, but to maintain a level quality over a full season? That’s a challenge that even the most talented teams struggle with, as Amazon’s Solos and Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot remind us.

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Enter Roar, Apple TV+’s new feminist anthology series based on Cecelia Ahern’s book of short stories of the same name. Roar features a genre-spanning selection of stories which follow different women as they face challenges at various stages of life. Many of these stories have a magical realism bent, evoking the dark underbelly of fables and fairy tales. And just like how Netflix’s Black Mirror episodes are connected by the thread of technology gone wrong, Roar‘s stories are linked by the injustices, insults, and injuries that come with existing as a woman. If that seems dark, fear not. The series comes from GLOW creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, who manage to infuse a darkly comedic sensibility into the series.

Flahive and Mensch have recruited an all-star ensemble both in front of and behind the camera for their twisted tales. But the episodes are a mixed bag: some hit you over the head with their metaphors, while some take too long to reach their point. Some feel like they run on way too long, while others end abruptly. But just as there are some stumbles, there are some terrific episodes.

The series premiere, “The Woman Who Disappeared” stars Issa Rae (Insecure) as a celebrated author whose memoir is being adapted into a movie. But her trip to Hollywood quickly takes a dark turn, as the white male studio heads ignore her in favor of turning her trauma into a VR experience. Rae tries to protest, but finds that she’s turned invisible. No one can see or hear her.

Another episode, “The Woman Who Found Bite Marks on Her Skin”, stars Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) as a working mother eaten away by guilt. The metaphors aren’t subtle, but they’re nonetheless poignant. While Erivo’s episode skews more towards horror, the series plays with genre. One of its best offerings, “The Woman Who Solved Her Own Murder”, skewers the dead girl detective procedural. As two detectives, a hilariously volatile Hugh Dancy (Hannibal) and his steady partner Chris Lowell (Promising Young Woman) investigate the murder of a woman (GLOW‘s Alison Brie), they’re haunted by Brie’s ghost. The ghost eventually gets fed up with the detective’s reductive and sexist take on her life and goes about solving her own case with the help of a sympathetic woman detective (SNL‘s Ego Nwodim).

The more successful episodes take whimsical turns, such as “The Woman Who Was Kept on a Shelf”, which sees Betty Gilpin (GLOW) turned into a literal trophy wife for her husband, played by Daniel Dae Kim (Lost). Another highlight is “The Woman Who Returned Her Husband”, which sees Meera Syal (Doctor Strange) trying to return her husband to a big box store.

While Roar has its hits and misses, its anchored by strong performances and stylish production value. It’s also refreshing to see an anthology series focus on women’s issues, driven by (mostly) women writers and directors. More of this, please.

Roar premieres Friday, April 15 on Apple TV+.

(image: Apple TV+)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.