The final two minutes of Episode 8 (‘Line Spectrum Border’) of Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You pack more of a punch than many TV shows manage in an hour. That could be said of much of this series, but the ending to this episode was particularly powerful and thought-provoking.
As context, just previously Bella broke into her Italian drug lord boyfriend’s* empty flat late at night, was locked out and threatened by him with a gun on his return, and has run out of money. Biagio, who to her represents safer, pre-assault times, has unequivocally rejected her.
She returns to the private beach where he took her on the first night they spent together. For the second time in the same evening, Bella forces entry to a space – aware of the awful violation of her own boundaries, she is largely oblivious to those of others. Having lost the solace she was blindly hoping for in seeking out Biagio (let’s be honest, a man who blames a rape survivor for not protecting her drink and then fails to return her calls is not a safe space), Bella turns to Terry, her best friend, who disapproved of the trip yet agreed to pay for it, but has run out of phone data. She is now truly alone.
The scene cuts to Kwame, who in this episode also explores boundaries (the clue is in the episode title), in experimenting with heterosexual sex for the first time. He only tells the girl in question afterwards that he is gay, and then only when provoked by her calling gay men a derogatory term, but does not draw a personal line at her racial stance (she prefers black men and has a substitute term for the ‘n word’). Kwame retreats to the familiar world of Grindr in his final scene of the episode, but the rain and darkness only add to the feeling that he, like Arabella, is alone and unable to find the comfort he is seeking.
We return to Bella in daylight, who has clearly written feverishly all night as a way to deal with her fear and isolation, and is clutching the pages. The dark intensity with which she looks up feels akin to superhero films, where a damaged character discovers that they too have power and we don’t yet know if they’ll use it to destroy others or themselves.
Phone and writing discarded, Bella walks into the sea to the sound of a synagogue choir. It looks like she is intent on obliterating herself, and it is fitting that she chooses the sea – in an echo of the name of the bar in which the first assault happens (Ego Death), she is choosing to submit her very being to a larger entity. Just seconds before the credits roll, however, there is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment – her head reappears from the waves as a muted roar replaces the sound of the sea. Rather than submission, it turns out that this may be a baptism or rebirth – but has a monster risen from the waves?
*OK, he isn’t her boyfriend, but it’s too complicated to fit in ‘Italian druglord who she has an on-off casually ambiguous relationship with’…
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