I May Destroy You Is a Masterful Beginning & Stunning Return of Michaela Coel’s Brilliant Writing
**TW: Mentions of sexual assault.**
Michaela Coel is one of the most brilliant talents working today. Her series Chewing Gum, which aired on E4/Netflix, was absolutely gut-bustingly hilarious. It ended after two seasons, and while Cole has cameoed on Black Mirror and starred in Black Earth Rising, it’s HBO’s I May Destroy You that signals the true return of the creative mind from Chewing Gum.
I May Destroy You‘s pilot, “Eyes Eyes Eyes Eyes,” introduces us to Arabella (Michaela Coel), a writer struggling to finish her second novel while balancing her situationship with a long-distance “boyfriend,” Biagio. In our first scene of the two, Arabella so wants to define their relationship and have it mean something, but Biagio just brushes her off. Yet, the audience knows, as she heads to the airport to return to London, that she will be back in Italy eventually.
Arabella has pages owed to her agents and decides to pull an all-nighter at the office in order to get things done—relatable. She resists the temptation to go outside and drink, but decides to give herself one hour of debauchery before finishing the first draft.
We see her do cocaine, smoke, drink, enjoy some karaoke, and stumble out the door. Then, there is a jump, and we see Arabella in her office, finishing her draft, and then showering—but the hints of something darker are there. Her phone is broken, there is a fresh cut on her forehead that begins to bleed, and just this feeling of lost time. When Arabella returns to her apartment and touches her doorknob, she gets the flash of a memory of being assaulted in the bathroom. It’s jarring to both us and Arabella, and sets up the mystery element of the series. What happened? Who is this man? And where were her friends?
What makes this scene stand out is not just how well-acted it all is, but the fact that Coel, who wrote the whole series and will co-direct the majority of it, brought something that is so personal to the screen. Back in 2018, Coel shared that she had been sexually assaulted in a similar set of circumstances while working on Chewing Gum.
“I had an episode due at 7 a.m. I took a break and had a drink with a good friend who was nearby,” she shared via The Hollywood Reporter. “I emerged into consciousness typing season two, many hours later. I was lucky. I had a flashback. It turned out I’d been sexually assaulted by strangers.”
“Like any other experience I’ve found traumatic, it’s been therapeutic to write about it, and actively twist a narrative of pain into one of hope, and even humor,” she said. “And be able to share it with you, as part of a fictional drama on television, because I think transparency helps.”
Yes, this show has that personal element, but I think it would be too easy to reduce it to being good just because it pulls from reality. All shows do that. What makes it work is the writing, the seamless way we are dropped into Arabella’s world, and friend dynamics. In one episode, we see the shaky foundation she has built for herself—now we find out how she brings it all together.
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