TV Review: ‘When They See Us’ and ‘Good Omens’

 

Ava DuVernay tackles the infamous Central Park Five case in Netflix’s When They See Us and Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s beloved novel, Good Omens, finally makes its way to the small screen.

 


When They See Us

Created by: Ava DuVernay

Starring: Asante Blackk, Justin Cunningham, Caleel Harris, Jovan Adepo, Ethan Herisse, Chris Chalk, Jharrel Jerome, Marquis Rodriguez, Freddy Miyares, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Kylie Bunbury, Aunjanue Ellis, Vera Farmiga, Felicity Huffman, John Leguizamo, Niecy Nash, Michael K. Williams, Omar Dorsey, Joshua Jackson, Famke Janssen, William Sadler, Blair Underwood, Logan Marshall-Green

Ava DuVernay recreates the harrowing events of New York City’s infamous 1989 Central Park Five case, concerning the rape and assault of a young white woman and the five innocent black teenagers who were convicted of the crime. This four-part drama is heartbreaking, touching and completely gut-wrenching. DuVernay moves the story along swiftly in Part One and doesn’t bother spending much time setting up the boys’ lives. Their arrests and how their lives are changed forever is their story now; their life before no longer exists and DuVernay cleverly heads straight into the action.

Part One deals with the horrific interrogation these boys had to endure, while Part Two concerns the trial. You’ll find yourself screaming at the television at the social injustice and crying out to hug these children to tell them it will all be okay. It won’t though and you know that, which makes Part One and Two all the more upsetting to watch. Part Three follows the newly released Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana as they struggle with life outside of prison. The boys are now grown men and struggling to find jobs because of their records and finding it hard to integrate back into family life. It’s difficult to watch their hardship in Part Three while knowing they did nothing to deserve it.

Part Four follows Korey Wise (Jharrel Jerome) who was the only member of the five to be convicted as an adult and who served his full sentence. Wise’s struggles are one of the most harrowing of the entire series — which is saying something — and Jerome gives one of the most stunningly heartbreaking performances I have ever seen. The latter half of the episode is dedicated to the discovery of the real perpetrator and the acquittal of Korey, Antron, Kevin, Yusef and Raymond. Be prepared: the final scene will have you balling into a box of kleenex.

The Central Park Five case is an absolute disgrace for the judicial system in America but it is an important part of their history; one that demands attention and requires lessons to be learnt. DuVernay has crafted an important series, which contains masterful performance from its entire cast, particularly the actors playing the young boys. When They See Us is not only excellent viewing, it is essential viewing.

☆☆☆☆☆

 


Good Omens

Created by: Neil Gaiman

Starring: Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Daniel Mays, Sian Brooke, Ned Denny, Ariyon Bakare, Nick Offerman, Anna Maxwell Martin, Nina Sosanya, Doon Mackichan, Sam Taylor Buck, Jon Hamm, Frances McDormand, Adria Arjona, Miranda Richardson, Michael McKean, Jack Whitehall, Mireille Enos, Yusuf Gatewood

Crowley (David Tennant) — a leather-clad, scarf-wearing demon — and Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) — an impeccably dressed, bookshop-owning angel — are the best of frenemies. After years of living on Earth, they’ve become quite accustomed to sauntering around London and drinking tea, so they try to prevent the apocalypse (the final big bad between Heaven and Hell) by stopping the Antichrist from becoming, well… the Antichrist. It’s a simple, yet unique setup, which garners chuckles due to the fact that an angel and a demon love their “gravadlax with dill sauce” and “old bookshops” so much they don’t want the world to end.

Based on the 1990 novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, this six-part miniseries for Amazon Studios is a rollicking good time! Created by Gaiman himself, the series has his stamp all over it and the quirkiness and wit of his characters shines through. The series’ strength is its cast: from Jon Hamm as Archangel Gabriel to Frances McDormand as the voice of God, everyone is perfect in their respective roles. However, the star of the show (or stars) are Tennant and Sheen, whose chemistry together lights up the screen, witty banter amuses and makes you hope that they work together again soon. Fun, creative and bursting with energy, Good Omens is an immensely enjoyable and quirky series, featuring two of the best British actors working today.

☆☆☆☆

 

 

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