Review: 'Destroy' sheds unique light on modern questions of consent

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

Arabella likes to party, no way around that. 

She takes drugs and drinks and dances and forgets where she is on a regular basis. She’s young and talented, with pink hair and a fierce beauty and the whole world before her. True, she’s not the most responsible person – as a writer she misses deadlines, as a friend she sometimes drifts off – but she is undeniably electric. 

And then she’s raped. 

Michaela Coel stars in "I May Destroy You" on HBO

It’s not some wildly violent scene – in fact she can barely remember it. She’s at a bar and somebody “spikes” her drink. She has an incoherent, blackout night that leaves her with flashbacks and ugly feelings. 

But Arabella remains Arabella. The electricity and sensuality and ferocity are still there, only now tainted with confusion and perhaps paranoia. But she remains electric at heart. 

Which makes “I May Destroy You,” the series debuting Sunday on HBO, much more than your standard morality play. This is a raw and realistic “Sex and the City,’” updated for millennials and the #MeToo movement and including all the ugly parts. 

As the series progresses it comes at the idea of rape from multiple angles, probing the ideas of consent and liberation, the price of self-indulgence and the roots of sexual attitudes. 

All of which might be dreary-if-relevant but for the huge talent of Michaela Cole, who wrote the series and stars as Arabella.  Arabella’s family comes from Ghana, she lives in London, most of her friends are British and black. She’s living in a very specific time and community while dealing with issues beyond geography and the moment. 

“I May Destroy You” is fascinating TV, taking a dark subject and turning it every which way. It can be shocking, it can be fun (which is also somewhat shocking), it can hurt and maybe even heal. No matter what, it’s an unsettling revelation. 

'I May Destroy You' 


10:30 p.m. Sunday