I May Destroy You continues to be complex and challenging in the latest pair of episodes, which reframe Bella as her own kind of monster — one she perhaps hasn’t stopped to consider she might be.
This recap of I May Destroy You episode 9, “Social Media Is a Great Way to Connect”, and I May Destroy You episode 10, “The Cause the Cure”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous two episodes by clicking these words.
Since it began, I May Destroy You has peddled one of the scarcest resources of our depleted age: Nuance. Its story of a survivor coming to terms with her sexual assault has been reliably unconventional and daring, moving backward and forwards through time and expanding outwards to incorporate Bella’s friends, family, and associates, each of whom has their own stories, none of them straightforward. It insisted that contemporary sexual relationships are messy and complicated and that the idea of consent is not a binary yes or no but a spectrum of responses that occur in a constantly reshaping context.
I May Destroy You episode 9, “Social Media Is a Great Way to Connect”, reinvents itself once again, but this time with the empowered victim as an oppressor of a new kind. Bella’s victimhood, and her bravery in sharing her experiences and truths, has conferred an intoxicating privilege upon her that, emboldened through newfound social media fame, she wields as a cudgel against anyone she perceives to be guilty of something – which is virtually everyone, including those closest to her.
We first see it during a visit with a well-meaning doctor who reads her “Afro-Caribbean origins” directly from her medical notes and is subjected to a corrective lecture that doesn’t seem designed to teach him anything about race-based assumptions but instead to appease a burgeoning legion of devotees. This, though, is easy; attacking a straight white man for his perceived ignorance is encouraged, and usually warranted. But once Bella begins to attack Kwame, she isn’t standing up to an oppressor but accusing a gay, black man of the same transgressions that he himself has been a victim of. More importantly, she’s attacking a friend.
Her problem in “Social Media Is a Great Way to Connect”, not unreasonably, is that Kwame had sex with a woman without first telling her he was gay, and then acted aggrieved at her racism and homophobia. She sees what he did from a detached big-picture perspective, her sense of intimacy having been eroded by her constant preaching to a large group of faceless supporters. She, ironically, isn’t seeing the nuance.
Throughout I May Destroy You episode 9, which is set during Halloween, Bella is dressed as a winged devil; her self-absorbed best friend Terry, meanwhile, is dressed as an angel. This is no accident, as it’s Terry who nervously reminds Bella of what she did at her birthday party, locking Kwame in a room with a man while he was still traumatized from his own rape. While cataloging and exposing the micro-aggressions and outright transgressions of others, she has forgotten her own, which she’s powerfully reminded of when she happens on an ultrasound scan photograph that she’d compartmentalized to such a degree that she couldn’t even remember the experience.
This begins a pattern of self-reflection that continues in I May Destroy You episode 10, “The Cause the Cure”. This episode uses the tried and tested awkward family get-together as its setup, but it’s really an excuse for Bella to find more forgotten keepsakes under her bed, both literally and otherwise. Her brother, mother, and father clearly love each other but exist in a kind of uneasy quiet that is quite the opposite of the antagonistic truth-talking Bella preached on social media. Everyone has their own little secrets, their own little truths that they have kept quiet for the betterment of themselves and others. An Aunty that Bella can’t remember turns out to have been her father’s mistress – something she has known since childhood but forced herself to forget rather than deal with.
This pattern of how Bella compartmentalizes her pain echoes throughout the season as a whole; now, her not being able to clearly remember her assault seems less a consequence of being spiked than a defense mechanism, a technique she has always employed to protect herself from the truth she claims to be living. Bella has always been presented as fearless and combative, but I May Destroy You episode 10 proves that she’s also scared, and vulnerable, and in many ways powerless against not just the worst impulses of men in bars, but herself.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.