Black Earth Rising is fast becoming the darkest, most labyrinthine show on television, but also one of the most ambitious and satisfying.
Early in Black Earth Rising Episode 4, blood splatters on a map of sub-Saharan Africa, which is as succinct a metaphor for Hugo Blick’s complex and ambitious drama as anything else. At the backdrop of the show remains the Rwandan genocide, and the bloody political game that led to it and continues apace even today.
Of primary concern in Black Earth Rising Episode 4 is the fate of Hutu genocidaire Patrice Ganimana (Tyrone Huggins), currently in London and riddled with terminal cancer. His incredibly smug lawyer Blake Gaines is played by Hugo Blick himself, who apparently wasn’t content with writing and directing the series and instead turned up for a thoroughly detestable turn in front of the camera, too.
Gaines is, in many ways, the dark moral opposite of John Goodman’s Michael Ennis, which makes the scenes they share particularly enjoyable. But Ganimana’s trial is so fiddly that there’s scarcely time to focus on just one element. Important prosecution witnesses withdraw. The International Criminal Court can’t press for extradition, and thanks to a broader, still nebulous plot in which Michael is involved, neither can he. It’s a nightmare.
Things aren’t going too well for Michael. He’s still grappling with cancer, which Gaines taunts him about, and he worries that his prostate can’t take the guilt of him turning down important cases for the sake of political gamesmanship. Then again he does get to have a fiddle with Alice Munezero (Noma Dumezwini) in a hospital bathroom, so there’s that.
And then there’s Kate (Michaela Coel), who for some reason tries to seduce him too. Goodman sells the shock of the moment masterfully, but it’s a weird scene that didn’t sit well in a show that usually doesn’t make such mistakes. As Kate’s past becomes more and more entwined with the current plot, I’m sure we’ll see what it is that compels her to find John Goodman “the most beautiful man in the world.” She hasn’t had it easy.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Black Earth Rising keeps pointing the finger at everyone and everything, but the true depths of the atrocities that have been committed are yet to be revealed. Blick’s series is labyrinthine, and as it spills more secrets, the better it becomes.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.