In Review of… 2020 (Part Four)
Following on from Episode One of the TV that I enjoyed last year, this week, I continue looking at one of the television shows that helped me through those long 2020 Lockdown nights.
The TV (Episode Two)
When They See US
On my radar for quite some time, in early November I finally decided to start honouring those shows that I had put, and ignored, on my Netflix watchlist. After devouring the first 3 seasons of Fargo (more to follow on that) and giving a notable mention here to Turkish show The Gift, I finally got to When They See Us – and I am still thinking about it now.
Released in May 2019, When They See Us is a Netflix Original, broken down into four powerful, hard-hitting episodes, directed and co-written by Ava DuVernay, whose previous works include 2012’s Middle of Nowhere and 2014’s Selma. Spanning over 25 years, this true story begins on the night of April 19th 1989, charting a series of events that culminated in a brutal aggravated assault and rape of a female jogger in Manhattan’s Central Park.
The limited series follows the story of the five black youths who were arrested by the police in the park that night, and the following investigation that lead to them being charged with the terrible attack, and them becoming labelled in the media as the Central Park Five.
I knew nothing about this story going into this show, and if, following this spoiler-free review, you decide to watch it, don’t do any research beforehand. I cannot describe the emotions I went through watching this:- as they ranged, quite frequently, between shock, dismay and utter anger. I cannot think of the last time a TV show had quite the same effect on me.
Showing the impact these charges had upon the families of the youths, and the way in which confessions to the crime were obtained is shown with such care and attention to the facts, it is hard, despite what you are seeing, to become involved in events, the trial and what the next quarter of a century holds for the five young men.
The ensemble cast are truly oustanding, featuring stunning performances from the actors who played those charged with the attack, particluarly the young actors we encounter in the first couple of episodes – Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, Jharrel Jerome and Marquis Rodriguez. Supported by names such as the brilliant Michael K.Williams, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Linda Fairstein, Vera Farmiga, Joshua Jackson and John Leguizamo, this powerful show does not hold its punches, and the actors, especially Jharrel Jerome in the role of Korey Wise, portray the struggles of all in involved with such skill and devotion to the subject matter.
There is so much I could say about the events that unfold, but I want you to find out for yourself, if you have not already, about what happened during this case. It will leave you exhausted and emotional, but this, much like the film Spotlight, is a powerful true story that people should know about, and people should be talking about.
To my great shame, as I mentioned before, I had not heard of these events, was not aware what had happened to these five young men, and my life is all the more appreciative for following them on their incredible struggle and journey. I cannot praise the director Ava DuVernay enough for her dedication, care and devotion to this story, and the considerate way in which she handled the upsetting, powerful subject matter.
Don’t miss this!
When They See Us
My rating: 9/10
Watched on Netflix
Join me next week for Episode Three of the TV that kept me going through 2020 – plus a run-down of some notable shows that almost made the list.