Let us now praise the law. On HBOâs western Deadwood, the law is Seth Bullock, a hardware store owner and sometime politician who somehow wound up wearing a badge in a Gold Rush mud-hole full of hustlers, killers and thieves. But Bullock is not your standard Western goody-two-shoes. As written by series creator David Milch and played by Timothy Olyphant, heâs Andy Sipowicz in a Stetson, a dark knight weighed down by invisible armor. His public mission to civilize a lawless town mirrors his private struggle to contain his own demons.
Bullock is a brave, righteous lawman, but also a sullen, hypocritical bully. He prizes loyalty and craves respect, but is rude to his friends and often takes their love and patience for granted. He cheats on his absent wife (Anna Gunn) with recently widowed Alma Garret (Molly Parker), yet still strides through Deadwood as if he has a lock on virtue, and thrashes any man who dares disagree.
He cracks down on common thugs and killers, yet forges a deep and curiously respectful relationship with the townâs deadliest crime boss, saloon owner Al Swearengen (Ian McShane). He can spot a troublemaker from a block away, yet seems unable or unwilling to see his own flaws.
âWhat it comes down to is the burden of responsibility,â said Olyphant, 37, during a visit to the Los Angeles set of Deadwood in January. âItâs the burden you went out and took upon yourself. You regret that moment for every day you have to live it all out.â
At this point, Olyphant has no regrets. As the leading man on TVâs oddest, most dramatically complex series, he gets to explore powerfully contradictory feelings each week. But playing Bullock is still a challenge for Olyphant, a well-read, talkative fellow with a droll wit.
Born in Honolulu and raised in Modesto, Calif., Olyphant was a competitive swimmer at the University of Southern California. He has been married for 14 years and has two young children. Many of his film and TV credits have played on his slightly devilish charisma – particularly his acclaimed turn as a funny-scary drug dealer in the 1999 cult film âGo.â He was considered a potential star for years, most likely in Gary Oldman-type roles. So how, exactly, did he end up as Gary Cooper?
Some days, even Olyphant wonders.
âIâm surrounded on this show by really funny people, and when the cameras arenât rolling, we crack each other up,â he said, sitting in his trailer during a break from shooting. âThen weâre rolling and I put the mask on. There are times when Iâm playing a scene with Ian or Bill (William Sanderson, who plays hustling jester E.B Farnum) and I kind of look around and think, âWhen the fuck did I become the straight man?ââ
Olyphant still manages to be funny usually via delayed, incredulous reactions to other charactersâ weirdness, but it isnât easy. Where Al Swearengen constantly analyzes his own motives in monologues and zings supporting players with wisecracks, Bullock is an instinctive, emotional, often withdrawn person who seems to possess little self- awareness. Where McShane tosses words like barroom darts, Olyphant must suggest comparable depths through minute adjustments of his eyes and voice.
Olyphantâs colleagues know what heâs up against.
âTim has an extraordinary sense of how to suggest Bullockâs character with gestures, and heâs obviously thought a lot about how to do that,â said costar Stephen Tobolowsky, who plays political operative Hugo Jarry. âI was in a scene with him in a scene earlier in the season, and a big element with Bullock is where his gun is. We had to redo part of the blocking of the scene because Tim said, âNo, I would have my gun hand free when I walked into this situation, because I have to move the coat back to get my gun.ââ
âDavid (Milch) has often said to me that he believes we are all mysteries to ourselves, some in more ways than others,â says John Hawkes, who plays Bullockâs best friend and business partner, Sol Star. âSol was described to me as a guy who could be in a situation and at the same time floating outside the situation, watching it from above, pragmatically. But Seth is much more emotional – and brutal. Seth certainly has a capacity for a great deal of feeling, of kindness, but in this place, those are not necessarily qualities he would want to foster.â
âBullock is trying to protect himself from his own deepest nature, because it frightens him,â Milch said. âAt the core of his being is a rage so powerful that it supplanted what would have ordinarily been there, which is a consciousness.â
While embellished by Milch for dramatic purposes, Bullock is based on a historical figure, the same- named sheriff of the real Deadwood. Key details differ; for example, where the historical Bullock married his childhood sweetheart, the showâs Bullock marries the widow of his slain cavalryman brother and vows to raise her son (who appears to have been killed in last weekâs episode by a runaway horse).
But the psychological details are accurate, Milch says, and they inform Olyphantâs performance.
âBullock was the son of a retired sergeant major who used to beat his balls off every night, which is why Bullock started running away (from home) when he was 12 years old,â Milch said. âHis dad would dress up in military garb because when he did that, he felt like he was under control.
âI think Bullock took upon himself this kind of military bearing as a protective mechanism,â Milch continued. âIt protected him not only from his fatherâs rage, but from his own rage in response to what his father did. When Bullock experiences uncontrolled emotion, he wants to answer it with violence, and that frightens him, because it reminds him of what he ran away from.â
Olyphant says that in constructing Bullockâs personality, he drew on some of his favorite screwed- up-hero performances, notably Russell Croweâs and Guy Pearceâs work in âL.A. Confidential.â
âWhat I drew from Guy Pearce in that one movie was his willingness to be unliked,â Olyphant said. âHeâs a guy who wants to do the right thing so bad that it doesnât even matter how many people hate him for it. He sticks to his gun, and he doesnât flinch. Croweâs character is more emotional, and heâs got such a temper, he could easily have ended up one of the guys heâs always arresting or beating up. If you put those two characters together, you kind of get the two halves of Bullock.â
âHe is certainly a mystery to himself,â Milch said of Bullock. âBut thatâs true of anybody, and the way Tim universalizes that fact makes it easier to connect with this unreachable guy. Iâm 60 years old and I understand about one-eighth of one percent of what I do. For so many of us, our lives live us.â
This article was originally published in Star-Ledger.
Review: With My Psychedelic Love Story, Errol Morris Cuts His Subject Down to Size
One of the tensions driving the film is a question of its subjectâs self-awareness.2
Speaking to documentarian Errol Morris in My Psychedelic Love Story, 74-year-old Johanna Harcourt-Smith, with sharp eyes and a sensual Cheshire cat grin, looks positively giddy about the dirty secrets sheâs about to spill. As one of Timothy Learyâs lovers while the LSD evangelist was hopscotching around the world to elude Richard Nixonâs opportunistic war on drugs, Harcourt-Smith fraternized with arms dealers, filmmakers, artists, and sui generis celebrities like Andy Warhol throughout the 1970s. Of course, for a privileged Swiss boarding school girl whoâd always had a command over men, who frequently vacationed throughout Europe, and who lived for a spell with the Rolling Stones as a teenager, such adventures appear to have felt inevitable to her.
As is his wont, Morris takes Harcourt-Smith on her own terms, seemingly allowing her to talk without much guidance. Morrisâs questions and responses are largely unheard, and as Harcourt-Smith drones on, the film succumbs to âand this happenedâ syndrome. An irony emerges: Harcourt-Smithâs story is so rich in incidentâwith escapes and sexual interludes and druggy reveries and changes in exotic locations seemingly detailed every few secondsâthat it grows tedious. Part of this is the result of Harcourt-Smithâs poor sense of storytelling. For instance, she alludes to a pregnancy she had as a teenager when she heard the Moody Bluesâs âLegend of a Mindâ and felt the pull to seek out Leary. Weâre naturally led to wonder what happened to this baby, which isnât revealed until an hour later, at which point weâve been so narcotized by Harcourt-Smithâs rambling as to have forgotten that there was a baby.
In her way, Harcourt-Smith captures what the counterculture is often said to have been like: a barely coherent tapestry of hedonism meant as an effort to discover utopia amid authoritarianism at home and abroad alike, and as such dictated by wild alternating swings of euphoria and paranoia. Thereâs a sense in My Psychedelic Love Story, as there was in Thomas Pynchonâs Inherent Vice, of a wealth of anecdotes being used to obscure the circular hypocrisy and futility of rebellion. (In this case, a little rich girl can afford to play at revolution, and Harcourt-Smith is never more obnoxious than when talking of her excitement over going to prison.) Leary certainly comes across in this film as a flim-flam man, a hip L. Ron Hubbard who used nonsense about destinies and Tarot readings and Aleister Crowley to glorify stereotypical tastes in drugs, young women, and especially fame. In this context, itâs no wonder he turned to the C.I.A. when the American government finally snagged him and Harcourt-Smith in Kabul.
One of the tensions driving My Psychedelic Love Story is a question of Harcourt-Smithâs self-awareness. She speaks of naĂŻvetĂ© in terms of attempting to spring Leary from jail (which includes barely sensical stories of drug deals) and of working with the government herself, yet this globetrotting debutante seems anything but naĂŻve. However, Harcourt-Smith also appears to authentically believe that she was the womanizing Learyâs true love, unless thatâs the pose sheâs chosen to cement her own legend. Itâs a shame that Morris didnât push his subject harder on some of these points, though a purpose to this indulgence is eventually revealed.
Morris understandably seems to see Harcourt-Smith as an opportunist. When she talks of appearing on a Swiss game show (another long story) as a child, Morris cuts to footage of a girl on TV with text informing us that this isnât Harcourt-Smith. Such visual jokes stimulate Morrisâs imagination more than his interviews with his subject, as the film is another of hisâs hallucinatory slipstreams, a la Wormwood, with dozens of clips from classic films, TV shows, and newspaper headlines that foster a heady sense of bottomless, reverberating conspiracy. And time after time, Morris cuts Leary and Harcourt-Smith down to size with found footage.
Though Harcourt-Smith claims to suspect that she was an unconscious C.I.A. mole, Morris unearths recordings that suggest she knew she was working for the government, especially when sheâs trying to set up a lawyer for a drug sting. Meanwhile, footage of Leary casually makes a fool out of him, such as when heâs claiming that the Earthâs gravity is an illegal form of repression. Such counterpoint to Harcourt-Smithâs self-mythology is necessaryâMy Psychedelic Love Story would be unwatchable without itâbut also a bit cruel, suggesting that Harcourt-Smith, who passed away in October, is being set up for a joke she wasnât in on. In Morrisâs best films, such as The B-Side: Elsa Dorfmanâs Portrait Photography, thereâs a sense that the director is truly simpatico with his subjects. In My Psychedelic Love Story, though, Morris lets a fading never-quite-legend blather her way into a trap.
Cast: Johanna Harcourt-Smith
Review: Between the World and Me Is a Sharp, If Visually Limited, Social Document
The film doesnât offer the most incisive social commentary, but as a document of our contemporary political moment, its force is undeniable.2.5
Based on the Apollo Theaterâs stage adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coatesâs Pulitzer-nominated book of the same name, the themes that drive HBOâs Between the World and Me are perhaps even more relevant now than when the source material was first published in 2015. Written in the form of a letter to his 15-year-old son, Coatesâs original text recounts his experiences growing up with the realities of racism and violence in West Baltimore, as well as describing the joys of finding belonging and love at Howard University, and, more broadly, discusses his feelings about being black in America.
The 2018 stage adaptation, directed by the Apolloâs executive director, Kamilah Forbes, was composed of a series of monologues, linearly working through the book with a large ensemble cast. A similar format is used here, and Forbes has assembled a spellbinding array of black talent to bring Coatesâs words to life, including Mahershala Ali, Wendell Pierce, and Angela Bassett, alongside activist Angela Davis and Coates himself. Forbes also includes documentary footage of cast members at home, as well as deploys old home videos, recordings of historical speeches, and amateur footage of relevant real-world events.
A key incident in the book is the racially aggravated police killing of Prince Jones, one of Coatesâs college friends, and the fresh injustices of the past year have also been woven into this one-off special to give the original text a renewed sense of urgency. Though the protests this year in the wake of George Floydâs death and other incidents of police brutality have done much to underline the continued relevance of Coatesâs message, the inclusion of these more recent events is sometimes at the expense of cohesion and focus.
On paper, much of the power of Coatesâs writing lies in its piercing clarity, combining objective reportage and precise social observation with a deep compassion, in a way that breathes new life into familiar themes. At his best, he makes you feel as though anything less than a complete reimagining of our social relations would be ignorant and complacent. Forbesâs use of newsreel of the protests and smartphone shots of police violence tends to detract from the filmâs authorial voice, bringing us closer to the contemporary realm of deadening media spectacle and dulling the blade of Coatesâs historically informed rhetoric.
Between the World and Me is also somewhat hamstrung by accommodating itself to the restrictions imposed on the production by the Covid-19 pandemic, which apparently limited the settings and shot choices available to Forbes, and the result is a heightening of the stilted presentation style that often afflicts theatrical adaptations. Filtering Coates through so many different voices already slightly undercuts the sense of intimacy that his epistolary form was intended to create, and the compositions used here often overcompensate for the lack of an audience, making performers seem even more isolated and incapable of interacting with others. Coates talks to his son about a sense of community being one of the few things that can alleviate the suffering he and fellow black Americans have been through, but there isnât much opportunity for this to be expressed visually in the film.
At times, Forbesâs procession of shallow-focus monologues addressed directly to the camera bears an awkward resemblance to an infomercial or a political ad, but the moments when the device works can be profoundly moving, effectively fusing spontaneous performance with precisely crafted personal testimony. The most successful scenes tend to be the ones where the performers embrace the artificiality of the setup, instead of trying to work around it. Ali in particular leans into the phrasing and rhythm of the text as if it was a well-worn soliloquy to be recited, rather than trying to inhabit a character. This reverence for the source material transforms the best readings into a kind of spoken-word poetry, not dissimilar to the excellent hip-hop soundtrack that gives Between the World and Me its pulse.
Ultimately, the limitations of Between the World and Me may be reflective of Coatesâs own pessimistic views about the insurmountability of white supremacy, and his suggestions of the impossibility of real structural change. But the impact of the filmâs consistently excellent performances transcends its occasional tone of weary resignation. Itâs a powerful experience to witness the rawness of some of the monologues cut through the overly familiar symbolism, as if weâre watching the performers privately reckon with injustice and reaffirm their own sense of humanity. Between the World and Me doesnât necessarily offer the most incisive social commentary, but as a document of our contemporary political moment, its force is undeniable.
Cast: Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance, Phylicia Rashad, Wendell Pierce, Mj Rodriguez, Oprah Winfrey, Janet Mock, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Davis, Kendrick Sampson Network: HBO
Review: Moonbase 8 Teeters Between Embracing & Skewering Sitcom Convention
The series suggests a more conventional comedy, with jokes that are intended to be taken at face value.2.5
Over the past decade or so, Tim Heideckerâs work has walked a fine line between accessibility and postmodern provocation, without ever being anywhere near as pretentious as that might sound. His ongoing On Cinema web series is perhaps the most ambitious example of his stylistic gambit, taking a simple premise that seems to mock the very idea of entertainment and developing it into a fully realized fictional universe. Released at the tail-end of a 12-month period that has been fruitful even by the multihyphenateâs standards, Moonbase 8 does away with almost all of the conceptual aspects of his previous work, offering some of his most straightforward comedy to date.
Set mostly within the confines of a small NASA training facility in the middle of the desert, the Showtime series concerns three would-be astronauts (Heidecker, Fred Armisen, and John C. Reilly) who are preparing to further mankindâs noble dream of exploring beyond our own planet, despite being either unwilling or manifestly incapable of doing so. Very little information is ever given about the lunar program that theyâre supposed to be part of, and we mostly see them dealing with the more mundane mishaps that befall their moonbase simulator, in various contrived sitcom-style scenarios.
Though Moonbase 8, which was directed by frequent collaborator Jonathan Krisel, is marked by their brand of stone-faced irony, it also leaves the impression that they believe that the idea of incompetent astronauts is hilarious in and of itself. The series shares elements of Deckerâs ridiculous genre pastiche and the studied anti-humor of Beef House and the recent An Evening with Tim Heidecker, but it often suggests a more conventional comedy in the vein of Danny McBrideâs Eastbound & Down, with jokes that are intended to be taken at face value.
This is relatively new terrain for Heidecker, and Moonbase 8 doesnât always strike the right balance between mocking its characters and itself. With the deliberately cheap, trashy TV aesthetic of his other work replaced with a more cinematic sheen (including an excellent soundtrack by Flaming Lips guitarist Steven Drozd), and situations that are more grounded in some form of reality, the showâs tone at times feels oddly flat, lacking the satirical edge, metatextual tension, or surreal flights of imagination that fuelled his best output.
As the season progresses, we see the unlikely spacemen start to become a little more rounded, though thereâs never anything as predictable or relatable as a character arc to disrupt the showâs absurdist flow. The tone is usually set by Reillyâs Cap, a divorced, failed businessman looking to regain some self-respect by going to the moon. He serves as the showâs emotional center of gravity, with the unique balance of pathos and goofy inarticulacy that has served Reilly equally well in such varied work as Magnolia and Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule.
Moonbase 8âs more character-based comedy comes into sharpest focus in episode four, where the teamâs insecurities and foibles are exposed by an encounter with another group of younger, fitter, more qualified SpaceX trainees, including Alia Shawkat and Thomas Mann. These recruits temporarily, and more effectively, take on the straight-man role thatâs often filled by Armisenâs Skip, the son of a former NASA astronaut and the groupâs passive-aggressive leader.
While Moonbase 8 leans on more traditional comedy tropes and setups than Heidecker has used before, his own performance teeters between embracing the showâs premise and wildly sending it up. He plays Rook, formerly a self-described âPhish-head…obsessed with the music of the band Phishâ whoâs now a born-again Christian, urged to go to the moon by his pastor in order to spread the Gospel. Rook displays the smug confidence and naĂŻve incompetence thatâs become Heideckerâs trademark persona, but without the occasional outbursts of narcissistic rage. Casually confusing Elon Musk with âLeon DiCaprio,â or flatly answering, âIâll take her any way she comes,â when asked for his favorite phase of the moon, Rook allows Heidecker to deliver another master class in deadpan line delivery, and prove that there are precious few other actors who can wring so much humor out of a small remark or turn of phrase.
Indeed, much of the joy of Moonbase 8 comes from watching three of the greatest comic performers of their generation play off of each other, demonstrating their individual ways of developing a simple character and elevating a basic, formulaic workplace comedy into something entirely unique. The series might lack the audacity and boundary-pushing of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! or Mister America, but it has enough low-key moments of inventionâlike the trio taking time out from their training to gamely participate in product testing for a new Snickers bar, or a climatic celebratory dance in newly delivered NASA jumpsuits, soundtracked by Billy Joelâto make you want to see what direction this star-studded lunar vehicle is going to steer toward next.
Cast: Tim Heidecker, Fred Armisen, John C. Reilly Network: Showtime
Review: Season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery Remains Stuck in the Futureâs Past
The showâs third season plays it ideologically and conceptually safe.2.5
Values like hope are often deployed to describe Gene Roddenberryâs vision of the Star Trek universe. Season three of Star Trek: Discovery, the franchiseâs current flagship series, adopts this view of Roddenberryâs creation as its driving theme: Titled âThat Hope Is You,â the season premiere finds the showâs protagonist, Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), stranded alone in a galaxy-wide dystopia nearly a millennium into her future, seemingly the sole embodiment of the transcendent values of the United Federation of Planets and the interstellar governmentâs military wing, Starfleet.
Burnham tumbles out of her temporal wormhole to discover that 931 years in the future the Federation has collapsed, seemingly leaving in its wake a society that exclusively breeds Star Wars-esque rogue smugglers like her new acquaintance, Book (David Ajala). Star Trek has tried and failed at constructing a one-episode arc around a rugged male individualist before, and Book isnât the worst instance of this archetype (seeâor donât seeâthe notorious Next Generation episode âThe Outrageous Okonaâ), but Book is too obvious a pulpy fabrication for the kind of emotional weight his reluctant friendship with Burnham is meant to carry.
Moreover, Discovery clearly intends Book to serve as a foil to the long-collapsed Federation and its values, but he doesnât seem much more morally ambiguous than many of the dodgy Starfleet characters we got to know in season two, nor does that contrast reveal much about the Federation. As its final representative, Burnham, teary-eyed as she so often is, speechifies at Book about the Federation being âabout a vision and all those who believe in that vision,â but the series doesnât get terribly specific about what those âwho believeâ actually see.
As symbol of a generalized hope, the Federation becomes an empty signifier in a season opener thatâs capped with whatâs essentially a moment of sentimental nationalism, as our hero casts a solemn gaze at the Federation banner. Thereâs little doubtâparticularly given the authoritarian future Earth we encounter in a later episodeâthat Discoveryâs writers would like us to understand this devastated future in terms of our own current socio-global disintegration. But the implied solution set out by the first episode and picked up as the season arc, a restoration of the political order that preceded and probably precipitated the collapse, plays it ideologically and conceptually safe.
All of which is to say: Instead of unrolling the Federation flag and misremembering it as faultless, perhaps we should be folding and stowing it away, looking toward the future rather than the past. To this Trekkie, thisâand not hope per seâhas been the true guiding spirit and strength of foundational Star Trek shows: their resolute future-orientation. Itâs not just that they were set in the 22nd or 23rd century, but that the characters themselves were boldly heading into their own unwritten future. It was a world where change, most often conceived as progress in Federation society, was possible and desirable. Thereâs a reason Roddenberryâs follow-up to the iconic The Original Series wasnât Star Trek: The Previous Generation.
For nearly two decades, Star Trek has been stuck in its own past (all shows and films but the dreadful Picard and the animated pastiche Lower Decks have been set before The Original Series). The franchise has wallowed in nostalgia for the deified nobility of earlier series, pandering to fans in a way mirrored by Burnhamâs patriotic reverence of the Federation. The stories have suffered as a result, with the prequels transforming Star Trek from a kind of sci-fi anthology about the ethics of encountering difference into an action franchise whose main purpose is producing content to fill in supposed gaps in the established universe.
But it might be argued that season three of Discovery, by hurdling its characters from Star Trekâs past (the first two seasons are set a decade before the 2266-69 timeframe of The Original Series) into its future, at least promises it might overcome the limitations of its prequel status by jettisoning the baggage associated with the original show like a damaged warp core. And itâs true that, despite the premiereâs uninspired ode to the Federation as a deposit of nondescript âvalues,â the following episodes begin to show the potential of a series thatâs once again fascinated more with the unknown than with the previously established.
Spinning relatively self-contained stories out of concepts like parasitic ice and the suppressed memories of a giant slug living inside a precocious teenage engineer, the remaining three episodes made available to press are more satisfying as sci-fi stories than the mindless actioner that opens the season. This shift to a more ensemble-driven, idea-focused format is welcome. Despite a premiere that augurs poorly for its broader narrative arc, Discoveryâs third season at least momentarily succeeds in thinking about undiscovered things to come.
Cast: Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Michelle Yeoh, Wilson Cruz, Emily Coutts, David Ajala, Tig Notaro Network: CBS All Access
Review: The Good Lord Bird Infuses an Abolition Story with Wry, Dark Comedy
The series invigorates its material with the rousing trappings of a semi-comedic western.3
As abolitionist John Brown, a wild-eyed and scraggly bearded Ethan Hawke spends much of Showtimeâs The Good Lord Birdâbased on James McBrideâs National Book Award-winning novel of the same nameâshredding his throat as he bellows for the end of slavery. The manâs fury is biblical in both a metaphorical and textual sense, dribbling spit down the hairs of his chin as he declares slavery an affront to God while fervently quoting the Bible. Brown doesnât want to negotiate, nor does he want to begin an incremental process toward change: Black people must be freed now, or else heâll shootâand often he does.
To a young black boy like Henry Shackleford (Joshua Caleb Johnson), Brownâs actions are baffling. Henry has witnessed white anger before, but he hasnât seen it deployed on his behalf. As such, he regards it with no small degree of skepticism, not least of which because one of Brownâs outbursts gets the boyâs father killed. Newly free but with nowhere to go, Henry travels with Brownâs tiny militia, acquiring the nickname âOnionâ for eating a withered good-luck charm belonging to âthe old man.â Heâs also given a new way to present his gender, courtesy of Brown mishearing Henryâs name as âHenriettaâ and thus taking him for a girl, giving him a dress, and treating him like an adopted daughter. Onion plays along, without making a fuss. After all, itâs hard to dissuade white people once theyâve decided who you are.
In addition to these âgunfighters of the Gospelâ who take arms against slave owners and the institutions that enable them, the world of The Good Lord Bird is full of hypocrites and apologists. It also practically oozes with wry, dark comedy. But rather than play Onionâs dilemma as an unsympathetic farce, the series uses gender as an earnest metaphor for how the others see himâor rather, donât. Where he may freely be himself among the black characters, who recognize what Onion calls his âtrue natureâ just fine, the white characters force their own perception upon him even when they have the best of intentions and are ostensibly fighting for him and his people. To them, little Onion sometimes functions like a mascot.
Johnson adeptly modulates the seriesâs tone, with his expressions of confusion and skepticism woven into the heart of the narrative. But the showiest role belongs to Hawke, who goes big and loud in his fanatical conception of Brown, a man who does things like drag out suppertime prayer for hours and is thankful for everything that comes to his mind. He speaks to a turtle, places a pocket change bounty on the president, and generally believes that his battle plan has been handed down by the Lord Himself, even if the details tend to be fuzzy.
Brown, though, is also unambiguously right about what must be done, that the sins of the land must be washed away in blood. His capacity for violence is startling, as in one scene where he and his followers drag a man out of his home to cut off his head due to his complicity. Any blood, it seems, will do, and itâs certainly easy to imagine another context where another person like Brown points his fanaticism and violence in another direction. Heâs prone to speaking for black people, to making decisions on their behalf about what they want or need while blind to the complexities of what it means to be free in a country that considers black freedom a threat. Brownâs moral simplicity is its own kind of privilege.
Reservations about Brown are voiced by Onion, who acknowledges the potential âwhite saviorâ narrative in the first episode, as well as by others like a reluctant, newly freed recruit named Bob (Hubert Point-Du Jour) and even the renowned Frederick Douglass (Daveed Diggs). But The Good Lord Bird doesnât indulge in the easy cynicism that might have posited Brown as merely out for himself; his shortcomings and violence share space with his earnest devotion to the cause, his generosity, his willingness to listen, and his overall kookiness. This is hardly a hagiography, the off-kilter tone allowing for refreshingly complex portraits of not just Brown, but a rather stuffy conception of Douglass, whose apprehensions make sense but whose place within society and all the eyes upon him often restrict his public actions.
Where Onionâs perspective is concerned, the series is a little shakier. With his presence at so many major events, he comes perilously close to a Forrest Gump of the antebellum era, the wheels of the plot contriving to deliver him at meetings with Douglass and Harriet Tubman as well as Brownâs raid on Harpers Ferry. Though his presence is meant to complicate Brownâs actions through how heâs still perceived as a young girl, the seriesâs skepticism gradually melts away, leaving the final episodes to drag a bit as they focus more on constructing their vision of history rather than examining the characters and their ideals. But when it works, especially at the start, The Good Lord Bird invigorates its material with the rousing trappings of a semi-comedic western that gives it a particularly memorable sort of power.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Joshua Caleb Johnson, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Beau Knapp, Nick Eversman, Ellar Coltrane, Jack Alcott, Mo Brings Plenty, Daveed Diggs Network: Showtime
Review: Foxâs Next Is an A.I. Thriller That Lacks Self-Awareness
Despite its timely trappings, the sci-fi series works best as an empty-calorie thriller.2
Foxâs Next opens with a quote from Elon Musk, and the showâs take on the dangers of technology is about as sophisticated as a meme with a Musk quote attached to it. Paul LeBlanc (John Slattery) is an amalgamation of various tech billionaires, from Musk to Steve Jobs to Bill Gates, and the warning about the threat of artificial intelligence that he delivers in a TED-style presentation at the beginning of the first episode is reminiscent of alarms that some of those figures have raised in real life. The series jumps almost immediately from Paulâs dire warnings to the threat itself materializing in grand fashion, as an A.I. program known as Next achieves self-awareness and sets its sights on destroying humanity, beginning with a doctor (John Billingsley) who discovers its true intentions.
Nextâs overarching goals are a bit vague, and the series strikes an awkward balance between a grounded police drama and a world-ending sci-fi thriller. The dead doctor was an old friend of F.B.I. cybercrimes agent Shea Salazar (Fernanda Andrade), who crosses paths with Paul as she investigates the manâs murder. Slattery imbues Paul with more than a little bit of the snarky entitlement of his character from Mad Men, and Shea initially dismisses Paul as a crank when he tries to convince her that the A.I. program developed by his former company has committed the crime. Though Paul suffers from a rare neurological disorder that causes hallucinations and paranoia and will most likely kill him within a few months, Next never presents him as an unreliable source, and the series sets up tension between him and the skeptical F.B.I. agents in his midst only to have it dissipate almost immediately.
With the exception of a Skynet joke in the second episode, the series takes its subject matter very seriously, even when Nextâs actions are particularly silly, like spreading office gossip or delivering petty insults. The dialogue alternates between incomprehensible technobabble and convenient oversimplifications (Paul calls Nextâs abilities an âintelligence explosionâ), and Next is a poorly defined adversary, doing whatever the plot requires at any time, often without clear motivation. Itâs a seemingly omnipotent and omniscient foe that can take over an Alexa-like device to manipulate Sheaâs young son, open the doors of a prison in Honduras, or turn off a car in the midst of the ownerâs suicide attempt. Nextâs absurd level of power makes the A.I. dramatically ineffective as a villain, and it doesnât have any kind of personality or voice to allow it to develop an antagonistic relationship with the human characters.
In the showâs early episodes, when Next is still theoretically contained on servers at Paulâs former company, it speaks in a placid male voice that sounds a lot like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and once Next escapes into the internet, it sometimes speaks in the voice of an off-brand Alexa or a carâs GPS, but mostly it doesnât speak at all. Itâs an invisible, nebulous kind of enemy, able to rally an entire white supremacist sect over social media seemingly within minutes, but at another time thwarted by âkeeping it on the lineâ during an interaction with Sheaâs son, like itâs a bomber on the phone in a â70s hostage thriller.
Creator Manny Coto is known for his work on the Star Trek franchise and multiple seasons of 24, and Next feels very much in the law enforcement genre, treating the A.I. like a terrorist that Jack Bauer could track down and torture. The pacing also recalls that of 24: The five episodes made available to press take place over the course of just a few days, with the characters never getting a chance to rest in their relentless pursuit of the enemy. Next throws in incongruous moments of emotional bonding amid the chaos, and the forced efforts to create an intimate connection between two of Sheaâs team members are especially awkward. One is a reformed member of a white nationalist group, while the other is a stubborn Latina, and their growing connection is handled as clumsily as the showâs other efforts at social commentary.
Despite its timely trappings, Next works best as an empty-calorie thriller, with plot points that only hold together if you donât think about them too much. âYou can only do this when youâve got evil computers coming after you,â Sheaâs husband, Ty (Gerardo Celasco), solemnly tells their son at one point when theyâre forced to steal a car while on the run from Next. The entire series depicts that kind of obvious absurdity with a straight face. Which is to say that Next the A.I. may be self-aware, but Next the series rarely is.
Cast: John Slattery, Fernanda Andrade, Michael Mosley, Eve Harlow, Elizabeth Cappuccino, Evan Whitten, Gerardo Celasco, Jason Butler Harner Network: Fox
Review: The Third Day Leans Heavily on Mystery at the Expense of Human Drama
Much of the showâs drama pivots around how successful it will be at slowly pulling back the curtain.2.5
The premiere episode of HBOâs limited series The Third Day, in which a man fighting off sadness and potentially madness finds himself on a mysterious island just off the English coast, goes longer on mystery and mood than it does on plot. The feel of the series is richly atmospheric, filled with oversaturated colors and quaint cottages that would make for a nice weekend getaway were it not for the inhospitable, antagonistic, and slightly cult-ish locals. Despite the showâs unsettling backdrop, though, the circular nature of the story keeps any appreciable amount of tension from building over the course of the five episodes were made available for review.
The first episode throws a lot at the audience before even getting to the island. Sam (Jude Law) is a raggedy-looking guy who volleys quickly between moods. First thereâs inchoate fury, as he screams into a phone about money being stolen from an office, and then irredeemable and inexplicable sadness, as he collapses by the side of a stream. Snapped out of his chaotic collapse by the sight of a teenage girl, Epona (Jessie Ross), hanging herself from a tree in the woods, he saves her life and drives her home, even as she murmurs, âTheyâll kill me.â
Epona lives in a self-contained island community called Osea thatâs accessible only for a short time each day when the ocean tide uncovers a Roman-era causeway. Once there, Sam is flooded with conflicting sensations. The first is that it all feels somewhat familiar, even though as far as he knows his only connection to Osea is his grandfather being stationed there during World War II. The second is a low kind of foreboding that will be well-known to viewers of many a horror movie about urbanites stuck in remote locations. Sam knows something is amiss about this strange place with its quasi-pagan traditions and its peopleâs alternating suspicion and over-friendliness toward outsiders, but he somehow conveniently keeps missing the short windows of time when he could just drive back to the mainland.
Triangulating a creepy space located somewhere between Ari Asterâs Midsommar, Robin Hardyâs The Wicker Man, and the TV cult classic The Prisoner, The Third Day works hard to not give too much away while still trying to pull viewers in. Itâs a difficult act, given that Samâs manic behavior and the showâs intentional and often fairly clichĂ©d attempts to blur the lines between reality and fantasy make it somewhat difficult to invest in what happens to him.
Generally more engaging are the side characters who start popping in to further confuse an already muddle-headed Sam, including the ever-bickering Martins (Paddy Considine and Emily Watson), the cosmically mismatched pair who run Oseaâs one pub and ricochet from suspicious to trustworthy in an instant. Jess (Katherine Waterston), an American researcher doing work on the islandâs traditions both ancient (Celtic bacchanals, sacrifices, and the like) and newer (a Burning Man-like festival designed to drum up tourism), is ostensibly the standard alluring woman of mystery but has grim secrets of her own that mimic Samâs dark past.
Like the stories that The Third Day appears on its surface to be emulating, much of the drama here will ultimately pivot around just how successful it will be at slowly pulling back the curtain until its final reveal. The series is certainly committed to the slow burn, with too much of its running time given over to Samâs punchy befuddlement as he tries to separate dream from reality. Further slowing down the momentum is the showâs structure: The first three episodes (gathered together as âSummerâ) are separated from a second set of three (âWinterâ), in which another outsider (Naomie Harris) traps herself on Osea by a single linking episode (âAutumnâ), which is planned to screen live from London in early October.
The Third Day works best when itâs not teasing out this or that secret about Osea and its cagey inhabitants. A strong undercurrent in which characters wrestle with their grief keeps wrenching the story away from its somewhat ambling mystery plot. Sam is given one of the showâs most impactful lines when he tries to explain the sadness he carries: âPain doesnât work that way, you canât share itâŠagony is bespoke.â Although Osea is studded with gothic signposts that should be warning characters like Sam away from the place, as the series continues it zeroes in less on the horror elements and more on the more quotidian and human conflicts that keep threatening to tear the island apart. Though viewers may stick with The Third Day to the end to discover what Oseaâs deepest and darkest secrets might be, its human drama is more compelling than any suggestion of the unworldly.
Cast: Jude Law, Katherine Waterston, Paddy Considine, Emily Watson, Naomie Harris, John Dagleish, Nico Parker, Freya Allan Network: HBO
Review: We Are Who We Are Perceptively Homes in on the Malleability of Boundaries
The series concerns itself with boundaries between the different cultural standards of young adulthood.3
With his loud clothes and bleached hair, 14-year-old Fraser Wilson (Jack Dylan Grazer) sticks out on the U.S. Army base where he lives. He spends much of the first episode of director and co-writer Luca Guadagninoâs We Are Who We Are in animal-print shorts long enough to function as pants, being restless and fidgety and a detached nuisance in that post-adolescent sort of way, taking pictures of people inside classrooms or running through the middle of a basketball game between recruits. One of his mothers, Colonel Sarah Wilson (ChloĂ« Sevigny), has been put in charge of a garrison in Italy, so theyâhe, Sarah, and his other mom, Maggie (Alice Braga)âhave relocated from New York, to Fraserâs dismay.
Especially when its yoked to Fraserâs perspective, the series makes the base feel vibrant and alive, given the Altmanesque use of overlapping conversations and diegetic music. Peripheral characters are always conspicuously doing things in the background, like buying food or running drills. The boy seems volatile and strange, in ways perhaps explained by the sensory overload of his POV; heâs an observer and thereâs almost too much to observe, with dialogue and actions often carrying on out of frame. Fraser feels compelled to center himself in his own world, doing things like balancing precariously on a bridge railing or intruding on Italian homeowners sewing outside, though sometimes he allows himself to be guided by new acquaintances, like fellow army brat Britney (Francesca Scorsese).
When the second episode of the series replays many of these same overlapping events from the perspective of Caitlin Harper (Jordan Kristine SeamĂłn), the repetitions donât feel gimmicky so much as a natural result of the showâs densely packed structure. Conversations that were tangential and difficult to follow for the easily distracted Fraser are given clearer focus due to Caitlinâs more confident, pensive demeanor. Sheâs already familiar with the environment, having been at the base long enough to form a friend group that includes other teens like Britney and Caitlinâs high-strung brother, Danny (Spence Moore II). And with the additional perspective, throwaway lines from the first episode take on new meanings. For example, Sarahâs remark to Jenny (Faith Alabi) about respecting faiths other than the baseâs dominant Christian demographic gains a patronizing quality when we learn that Jenny is Dannyâs mother and that heâs experimenting with the Islamic faith that she left behind, seemingly at the behest of her domineering husband, Richard (Scott Mescudi, a.k.a. Kid Cudi).
Of the four episodes made available to critics ahead of We Are Who We Areâs premiere, the other two sync up more traditionally as Caitlin and Fraser begin to spend time with one another. Being the new kid on the base, Fraser lacks any of the preconceptions of Caitlinâs friend group, so he becomes an ideal confidante for her experiments with gender expression. Going by just âHarper,â Caitlin tucks her long hair beneath a hat and hits on Italian girls in town, while subtly rebuffing guys elsewhere with a quick, âI donât speak Italian.â
The series concerns itself with boundaries and the way they blur, namely the differing standards of young adulthood between Italy and the base that technically functions as the United States. In one scene, Britney drags Fraser to the beach because heâs allowed to drink off base. By spotlighting this interplay, the series emphasizes how we create so many of these boundaries ourselves, whether in our own heads, through procedures, or in accordance with society at large, along lines of political affinity, relationships, and sexuality.
The most significant boundary separation in the series, then, is the one between childhood and adulthood, which is hardly a rigid one. Accordingly, the kids sometimes seem wise and mature and accepting beyond their years only to fly off the handle and engage in that distinctly teenage brand of solipsism, where the people around you donât matter nearly as much as you and your own feelings. Theyâre able to be pretentious and profound on entirely their own terms, rather than seeming like mouthpieces for middle-aged screenwriters. They leave atrocious messes in their wake, badger a lot of people, and act downright annoying, which feels true and honest in a broader sense than the occasional small detail that rings false. They have the space to change, while the adults ruminate on the decisionsâthe marriages, the jobs, the beliefsâthat theyâve long since committed to. We Are Who We Are explores a world thatâs opening up to these kids just as it is, in many ways, preparing to snap closed.
Cast: Jack Dylan Grazer, Jordan Kristine SeamĂłn, ChloĂ« Sevigny, Alice Braga, Spence Moore II, Kid Cudi, Faith Alabi, Francesca Scorsese, Ben Taylor, Corey Knight Network: HBO
Review: I May Destroy You Boldly Dissects Notions of Sexual Assault and Consent
The series draws one of the most nuanced portraits of sexual assault ever depicted on TV.4
In âEgo Death,â the final episode of the British comedy-drama I May Destroy You, actress, writer, and series creator Michaela Coel confidently defies convention and, with it, any expectation that the events of the series, like life, can be tied into a tidy knot. Privileging character over plot, I May Destroy You has no need for the kinds of melodramatic reveals on which other cable dramas like Big Little Lies rely, and it proves no less revelatory on that front.
Coel draws one of the most nuanced portraits of sexual assault and its psychological fallout ever depicted on TV, and along the way captures the milieu of black millennial Londoners with precise and vivid detail. For all the lived-in verisimilitude of its world, though, I May Destroy You also smoothly incorporates psychologically subjective and allegorical elements: The bar in which Arabella is assaulted is called Ego Death (a perfect summation of the consequent disintegration of her identity), and the book on sexual assault that sheâs writing throughout the series is likely an in-text reflection of the creation of I May Destroy You itself.
In the first episode, âEyes, Eyes, Eyes, Eyes,â we join the Ghanaian-British Arabella (Coel) as she returns to London from Italy, where sheâs been working on a follow-up to her published collection of social-media musings, Chronicles of a Fed-Up Millennial. Or at least thatâs what sheâs told her literary agent (Adam James) and financier (Natalie Walter), as the trip was actually motivated by a visit to her on-again, off-again beau, Biagio (Marouane Zotti), who remains noncommittal about their relationship as she departs. Back in London, sheâs welcomed by her group of steadfast friends, including Simon (Aml Ameen), who convinces her to suspend her all-night scramble to finish her book draft and join him at the Ego Death.
There, Arabellaâs drink is spiked and, as she later comes to remember and even more slowly comes to accept, raped in a bathroom stall by an unknown assailant. Brief point-of-view flashbacks to the attack that recur throughout the series complement Coelâs larger fascination with the role that memory and its interpretation play in the formation of identity. Longer, structural flashbacks in many episodes challenge our perspective on Arabellaâs present and often serve to undermine our presumptions about victimhood and blame.
Hardly a cowed victim, but shaken and traumatized, Arabella reevaluates and rebuilds her life after her attack. Itâs been said that the world is revealed in breakdownâthat you donât know how a car works until your carburetor fails. Arabellaâs assault forces her and her closest friends, Terry (Weruche Opia) and Kwame (Paapa Essiedu), to examine their own sexual encounters, relationships, and histories, leading them to disconcerting conclusions about the various roles they play in relation to each other and their sexual partners.
Similar to its exploration of the multiple dimensions of a personâs identity, I May Destroy You depicts the different forms that sexual assault can take, not all of it as immediately readable as Arabellaâs violent rape, and not always committed by obvious villains like the man (Lewis Reeves) in Arabellaâs flashbacks. The series delivers an illustration of how someone can be violated even after consent is given: We repeatedly see men use deception to get people in bed, or deploy it once theyâve already starting hooking up. Kwame finds it impossible to process his own sexual assault, personally or legallyâin part because the justice system proves to have even less infrastructure for dealing with the rape of gay menâand diverts his anguish into a distasteful act of sexual mendacity. Terry comes to rethink a threesome she ostensibly opted into, whose circumstances we explore in a flashback to her and Arabellaâs first trip to Italy.
But Coel isnât simply out to demonstrate the many variations of sexual assault in the manner of a sex education video; rather, I May Destroy You examines how sexual, racial, and gender exploitation weave themselves into peopleâs identities and attitudes. Episode three, âDonât Forget the Sea,â crucially plants the seed of the unexamined tension within Arabella and Terryâs friendship. As in almost any long-term close friendship, both have committed inconsiderate slights against the other, but, as two black women in a sexist and racist society, such petty affronts come with high stakes. Allowing her characters to respond imperfectly to each othersâ crises, Coel foregrounds the importance of forgiving individuals within a broken societyâdaringly including among the forgiven characters who have unambiguously crossed a sexual âline spectrum borderâ (the title of the showâs eighth episode).
I May Destroy You doesnât define its characters through moral dichotomies. Episode six, âThe Alliance,â poignantly explores the tangled social hierarchy that gives a measure of institutional power to white girls, but also can allow black boys to assert a form of male privilege, as a flashback to a racially and sexually charged incident that occurred when Arabella was in high school blurs the line between victim and perpetrator. And the tenth episode, âThe Cause the Cure,â presents whatâs probably the showâs most moving representation of the yin-and-yang influence that loved ones can have on the course of our lives, juxtaposing Arabellaâs realization of a truth about her beloved father (Yinka Awoni) with her processing of her and Terryâs own betrayals of each otherâs sisterly trust.
Arabellaâs circuitous route to recovery feels deeply personal, but at the same time, her story touches on more universal aspects of life for someone of her gender, race, and age. At once hyper-local and global in its concerns, I May Destroy You feels eminently contemporary, a necessary artistic distillation of a distinctly modern form of life. With the series, Coel gives voice to a generation of black and brown millennials whose realities donât reflect the fantasy of a post-racial, post-feminist society that many have tried to wish into being.
Cast: Michaela Coel, Weruche Opia, Paapa Essiedu, Aml Ameen, Marouane Zotti, Harriett Webb, Stephen Wight, Natalie Walter, Adam James Network: HBO
Review: HBOâs Lovecraft Country Confronts the Evil Lurking Beneath American Life
The series eclipses its source material in capturing the omnidirectional dread of Lovecraftian horror.3
The horror of Lovecraft Country, Misha Greenâs adaptation of Matt Ruffâs 2016 novel of the same name, is at first all too real. Set in the 1950s, it introduces Korean War veteran Atticus âTicâ Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he returns to his hometown of Chicago after receiving news of his fatherâs (Michael Kenneth Williams) disappearance. Left a note pointing to the manâs possible location in a Massachusetts town called Ardham, Tic journeys across 1950s Jim Crow America with an old friend, Letitia Lewis (Jurnee Smollett), and his uncle, George (Courtney B. Vance), a travel agent who contributes to a guidebook, similar to The Negro Motorist Green Book, of safe places to eat and lodge for Black roadtrippers.
The first episode of the series generates much dread from Tic, Letitia, and George passing through towns as white people turn their heads in eerie unison and police cars seemingly materialize out of nowhere. Close-ups of the white walls of a diner that was previously welcoming of Black customers reveal scorch marks that were barely painted over, telling us all that we need to know about how the locals here felt about integration. Cops pull out their guns the moment they set eyes on Tic and his associates, and conversations between the main characters and white people are marked by eye-averting submissiveness and fear. In fact, when the other shoe finally drops and the monsters we expect to encounter in an H.P. Lovecraft story finally materialize, the additional layer of terror heaped onto the protagonists is somewhat offset by the relief of seeing some of their white tormenters become prey.
As Lovecraftâs influence on horror continues to grow in the decades since his death, artists have attempted to reckon with his racism and xenophobia, namely by recognizing that the pagan cults and corrupted humanoid monsters that make the authorâs work so chilling also provide insights into his pathological hatred of the Other. Lovecraft Country understands that in a world filled with underground occultists who wield strange power, such groups arenât made up of tired and huddled masses, but of folks in the upper echelons of wealth and authority. If anything, the racially and culturally diverse people whom Lovecraft saw as social pollutants would be the most routine victims of these organizationsâsecond-class citizens whose disappearances would never be investigated by the powers that be.
The series has its share of CGI monsters, from many-limbed creatures to undead spirits, but its most compelling visual scares involve the cold framing of remote manors owned by cult leaders like Samuel Braithwhite (Tony Goldwyn) and his daughter, Christina (Abbey Lee). These individuals, with their Aryan features and stiff countenances, never betray any emotion or urgency, for they know that they live in a world where they can have whatever they want. And their sense of superiority informs Lovecraft Countryâs most blackly comedic moment, when Christina objects to Tic comparing their group to the KKK by saying, âMy father and his associates would never fraternize with the Klan. Theyâre too poor.â
The first five episodes of the series made available to press branch out from the central plotline to cover such topics as haunted houses and body transformation, which allows Lovecraft Country to change up its scares as well as broaden its allegorical range. The realistic harassment suffered by the Black residents of a boarding house in a white neighborhood, for example, is thrown into even sharper relief by the mutilated ghosts who stalk its halls. And throughout these episodes, characters encounter gruesome objects connected to the order that hunts them, reflecting the long history of slavery and Manifest Destiny.
Green makes some significant changes to the novel, but her most rewarding come in the form of the extra time she devotes to tracking the emotional fallout of the charactersâ experiences, not only in relation to the horrors they witness, but the everyday degradations they suffer. One can see, for example, how an older man like George is so deeply inculcated in a racist system that, even at the height of his fear, he remains obsequious around whites. Comparatively, thereâs something rousing, and more than a little funny, in seeing Tic and Leti so addled by the unearthly terrors they face that they become less dutiful in abiding by the mores of Jim Crow. Eventually, they begin to lash out at harassing whites, who are so used to the power dynamics of American society that theyâre almost too stunned at the backtalk to be enraged by it.
Early in the first episode, a woman riding next to Tic on a bus to Chicago sees that heâs reading one of Edgar Rice Burroughsâs John Carter novels and expresses her disapproval of such a work with an ex-Confederate for a hero. âStories are like people,â he says. âLoving them doesnât make them perfect. You just try to cherish them and overlook their flaws.â The old woman responds: âYeah, but the flaws are still there.â That exchange could be the thesis of Lovecraft Country, which eclipses even its source material in capturing the all-encompassing dread of Lovecraftâs fiction while at the same time confronting head-on the most problematic aspects of his writing. The author feared America becoming infected with evil that would sink it asunder, while Greenâs series operates from the opposite point of view: that evil was integral to the nationâs creation and that it must be fought, however futilely, to be overcome.
Cast: Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Aunjanue Ellis, Abbey Lee, Jada Harris, Michael Kenneth Williams, Courtney B. Vance, Jordan Patrick Smith Network: HBO
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