Tragically articulated and well-directed, Ava Duvernay’s Netflix series When They See Us is one of the best shows on the platform this year.
If you are not aware of the jogger case in 1989 in New York, then before you watch Ava DuVernay’s Netflix series When They See Us, I’d recommend you watch the 2012 documentary The Central Park Five. A story of real injustice, a real sense that the actions of the prosecutors will never be forgiven for what they did to those five men. Ava DuVernay’s Netflix Series takes the audience full circle with fictionalised events to what happened at the time, all the way to their bittersweet exoneration.
The series has a patient undertaking of respecting each of The Central Park Five by spending time with each of them equally through each episode. Ava DuVernay has attempted to treat the real-life story with care, without the need for overdramatising what happened and instilling a sense of realism to what these men had to go through. When They See Us displays sobering accounts of the rusty, racial profiling justice system, with prosecutors and lawyers only appealing in their agenda, their politics and the media frenzy which coincides with it.
There will be moments where you undoubtedly tear up at Netflix series When They See Us, as Ava Duvernay’s way of direction brings a heavy and gloomy setting that can hardly express the ordeal that happened back in 1989. Serving great performances, the story comes to life, with The Central Park Five having representative cast members for their younger and older selves, really inflicting the fact that their teenage and adult years were ruined in conjunction with each other, due to the police needing the story.
Episode 1, in particular, is a hard pill to swallow. Watching minors get interrogated by the police for hours reaches an incredulous level, whereby you wonder how no-one with a heart tried to stop it.
But overall, Ava DuVernay has hit the nail on the head, serving the messages respectfully and making the points impactful enough to leave you in thought for hours after. Netflix series When They See Us is not a rushed project, and it’s evident that it was made with The Central Park Five in mind; there’s respect in the material – the creator wants you to understand what happened here. And with the likes of Kalief Browder falling victim to the flawed justice system, this serves as a timely reminder that this needs to stop – the system needs a rethink, and quick.
Our coverage does not stop here for When They See Us. We also recapped each episode. If you want to read the first episode recap, then click these words.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.