Amazon brings us a tale of a black family being tormented in the 1950s.
Black couple Henry and Livia “Lucky” Emory (Ashley Thomas and Deborah Ayorinde) move with their daughters Ruby and Gracie (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Melody Hurd) to the white neighborhood of East Compton in Los Angeles. Immediately, they are set upon by their white neighbors, particularly the local queen bee Betty Wendell (Alison Pill). While at first the Emorys are just tormented by the racism, harassment, and degradation from their fellow East Compton residents, it soon becomes apparent that there is something more unnatural at play. Over ten days, the Emorys are slowly driven to the edge of madness and maybe even beyond.
Does everyone remember Lovecraft Country? How about the movie US? I think before people condemn this show for being a rip-off version of those, it’s important to note that this show was actually put into production before those came out. It’s supposed to be an anthology by season, similar to American Horror Story. Unfortunately, due to the length of production (also Covid), this show came out after US (which it would probably not have been compared to directly aside from the title) and after Lovecraft Country (to which it cannot help but be directly compared due to the subject matter and the time period). Naturally, this show wouldn’t need to worry about that if it was better than either of those properties, but it decidedly is not. While Lovecraft Country ties racism directly into the origins of science-fiction and cosmic horror through the works of noted racist H.P. Lovecraft, this show instead just kind of throws out “people are racist here, so now magic?” ***SPOILER*** It doesn’t help that one of the final reveals kind of suggests that the racism in the neighborhood might be related to an unholy covenant from the 1800s, which means that some of the neighbors’ actions might not have been their fault? That kind of undercuts some of the events. ***SPOILER-END***
The main thing that seems to be mentioned repeatedly in reviews of this show is how over-the-top the violence gets and that’s a fair complaint. While I’m not against violence in television, particularly if it’s done to give the viewer an accurate image of historical violence, this show ends up taking it to a deeply uncomfortable level without it adding anything to the message. I did see some people commenting that the acts done to drive out the Emorys at the beginning of the show seemed too extreme to be believable, to which I would say that no, those are all things that were actually done to drive out black people from white neighborhoods and I think making sure people understand that is important. It’s the supernatural violence and the exploitative way the later episodes handled it that neither entertain nor keep the story going.
The performances in the show are well done, particularly Deborah Ayorinde as Lucky, a woman who has just lost one child and is now thrust into a situation that threatens her other children. She has to play a person who is constantly being pushed more than someone can handle and yet knows that if she shows it she’ll be condemned even more. Alison Pill, on the other hand, plays a character who doesn’t do most of the violent acts in the show but is still almost certainly the most despicable.
Overall, the show was good at the beginning but really starts to get too much towards the end.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.