When They See Us! (and Chernobyl)

I love a good limited series. A show that introduces and wraps up a show in just a few episodes and is, essentially, a very long movie broken up into parts.

I’ve recently watched a couple of extraordinary ones that were recently released and based on true events. Both are getting rave reviews (and rightfully so)! I’m sure you’ve heard of and maybe you’ve even seen both of these already. But just in case you haven’t, I wanted to shed some light on them, especially one in particular.


WHEN THEY SEE US

Photo: Netflix

Photo: Netflix

What if all boys were created equal…

Network: (streaming on) Netflix

Episodes: 4

Three quick thoughts that describe the series:

  • Mind-Blowing and haunting!

  • Incredible acting!

  • Thought provoking and essential TV!

**Trigger warner: Brutal attacks on black men. Race-based police harassment. Anger and tears will flow through you while watching this show, but it is A MUST SEE.**


When They See Us, co-written and directed by Emmy award winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay and executive produced by Oprah Winfrey (among others), is a 4 part limited series currently streaming on Netflix! Based on the true events surrounding the Central Park Five boys: Korey Wise, Yusuf Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, and Raymond Santana Jr. — who were falsely accused, wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for brutally attacking and raping Trisha Meili in Central Park on April 19, 1989. Their convictions were vacated and the men exonerated in 2002 when the real serial rapist admitted to the crime, with a detailed account and backing DNA evidence.

While filming the series, there were crisis counselors available to the cast and crew if they needed them. It was a difficult shoot, I’m sure, because just watching it had me in '“shambles.”

The overall series is haunting. I had to pause and stop it 4 times during the first 15 minutes of the first episode. That’s how angry I got at what happened to these kids (now grown men). It’s literally mind-blowing to me how it all unfolded, every single detail. DuVernay and her cast and crew did an exceptional (and I’m not using this word lightly) job, at bringing this story to life. I cannot praise the entire cast (with a strong supporting cast of veterans!) and these young actors in this show enough — especially during their intense performances during the interrogation scenes in particular. Every single one of them shined playing these real life young men. Wow.

I have to point out the most stand out episode though, that literally everyone is talking about — and the performance that is still sitting with me to this day. DuVernay dedicated the last episode (with a running time of 80 minutes) solely to one of the young men and his journey, as he was tried as an adult (at 16 years old) and thrusted into adult prisons. He spent a lot of time in solitary confinement to try to avoid the (most of the time unavoidable) violence on and against him throughout his incarceration. His name is Korey Wise.

Wise is portrayed by Jharell Jerome (from Moonlight), as both his younger self and adult self. He’s the only one of the 5 boys in the series to play both versions of their characters. When I say this young actor blows you away, I mean — damn. I believed every single second of his time on screen. He ripped my heart out, held it, and carefully placed it back. Incredible. Give him all the awards!! His work in this is extraordinary, and I mean he better get an Emmy nomination and WIN. Come on, Television Academy!! :)

I think this might be my favorite thing I’ve seen director/writer Ava DuVernay do. The direction, acting, cinematography, editing — every single piece came together so well. Also, I’m grateful to DuVernay for shining some more light on these men and our justice system (her Emmy winning documentary, 13th, is also streaming on Netflix — check it out if you haven’t seen that too)!

Please watch When They See Us. It is essential television, essential storytelling. You can stream all 4 episodes on Netflix, now!

(This video is the property of Netflix.)


CHERNOBYL

Photo: HBO

Photo: HBO

What is the cost of lies?

Network: HBO

Episodes: 5

Three quick thoughts to describe the series:

  • Well-crafted

  • Eerie

  • Compelling

**Trigger warning: Gruesome bodily harm and gore.**


Chernobyl, written by Craig Mazin and directed Johan Renck, is a dramatization of the nuclear explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26, 1986 and the aftermath that followed the tragic incident.

The series follows Valery Legasov (Jared Harris), who was brought in to help aid the cleanup efforts, the Council of Ministers’ deputy chairman, Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgard), and a nuclear physicist (a composite character representing all the scientists who helped in the aftermath to figure out solutions). I knew very little about what happened at Chernobyl, aside from some basic knowledge, but had an interest to watch from rave reviews it received and HBO usually does a good job with their limited series shows.

First off, there might be something that throws you off at first. The actors are all speaking with various forms of British accents, not Russian accents. This was an odd filmmaking choice to me and throws it off a little in the beginning, but you soon get over it by the compelling storytelling at hand. I’m sure there are a few inaccuracies as all “based on true events” shows have them and is a dramatization — but nevertheless, this series was well put together with excellent performances from the actors. I particularly loved the eerie score that accompanied every episode, a running theme so to speak — and crazy undertone led by the sound design to match the cinematography and gripping shots. Overall, I really enjoyed watching Chernobyl, and the whole “what is the cost of lies” theme of the series.

All 5 episodes of the limited series are now available on HBO, HBO Go, and HBO Now! Add this one to your list if you haven’t seen it yet!

(This video is the property of HBO.)


I’m always looking for the next great television show or miniseries (or limited series)! Please send over any recs you might have for me! :)