I May Destroy You

Dept. of Sex and the City


She’s launched her own TV series, been through the Black Mirror and even been in a Star War. With I May Destroy You, her latest series for HBO, which she executive produces, writes, and stars in, Michaela Coel takes a far more serious, and darker, approach to sex and the city (of London) than she did in her smash Chewing Gum.

After a night out with friends while trying to avoid the impending deadline for her second book, Arabella finds herself at a loss for how exactly she got home, why she has a cut on her forehead, and why she has weird images of a man in a bathroom stall in her head. She wasn’t assaulted. At least she doesn’t think so. She just has this “thing” in her head.

Arabella’s reckoning with what happened and who is responsible would be gripping in itself, but over the course of the series, Coel expands out from it to examine the culpability of her friends who left her that night, the ups and downs of her gay friend Kwame’s love life, her rebirth as a social media crusader, and her on again off again relationship with a drug dealer in Italy. Most of which she undertakes to avoid working on her second novel, a follow up to a collection of tweets called “Chronicles of a Fed Up Millennial”.

How Did Last Night End?

As the show progresses it becomes clear that Coel is examining the spectrum of sexual assault, not just Arabella’s, from a variety of angles. From a vulnerable friend engaging in intercourse under false pretences, to men secretly removing condoms during intercourse. all the way up to drug assisted sexual assault, I May Destroy You explores them all through Arabella and her circle of friends and colleagues.

I May Destroy You should be lauded for its non-stereotypical portrayal of an assault victim, her experience, and reactions. Arabrella might not be sure what happened that night, but even with what’s going on in the world right now, there’s no hesitation about going to the police where she’s treated with care and respect. It is a far cry from the hesitation and mishandling portrayed in most TV drama’s and should be seen more, even if it’s counterbalanced with the clueless handling of a gay man’s complaint in a later episode. The one person who engages in victim blaming is quickly and curtly excised from Arabella’s life which is also refreshing to see.


Coel continues her unflinchingly frank portrayal of sexual relations from Chewing Gum, sometimes disgustingly so, but always with stark honesty. In trying to examine sexual assault in so many guises, however, the reach of I May Destroy You may exceed its grasp.

The Alliance

While initially focused on Arabella, later episodes divert their attention to flashbacks to her time in Italy and to her school days. I couldn’t help feeling that these detracted from the central story.

As expected, Coel is fantastic as Arabella, coming to terms with a trauma which, it turns out, might merely be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her past unresolved issues. Along with Weruche Opia as her close friend Terry and Paapa Essiedu as Kwame, they form such a strong trio, that it’s disappointing when they are not the focus. The show also has some fantastic “oh shit” moments, with some amazing needle drops and reveals.


It can be wickedly funny as well, but veers from humour, to stark honesty, to horror, so much, that it can be hard to get a feel for the show.

Ego Death

While its final episodes pull together the various plot threads into a satisfying conclusion, I can’t help but feel that the show might have been better served with longer episodes or a shorter season. It often feels like an episode ends just as things are just getting going, and some of the episodes feel like less than vital digressions.

A far more realistic look at sex and the city than Carrie Bradshaw’s misadventures in New York, I May Destroy You‘s lack of narrative focus makes it slightly less than compelling overall.

I May Destroy You
HBO , Season 1, 12 episodes
Writer: Michaela Coel
Cast: Michaela Coel, Weruche Opia, Paapa Essiedu, Stephen Wight, Marouane Zotti, Karan Gill Karan Gill, and Franc Ashman

I May Destroy You airs same time as the U.S. on Monday, 8 June, at 10.30AM exclusively on HBO GO, with a same day encore at 11.30PM on HBO (Astro Ch 411 HD).

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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