When They See Us is probably the single most depressing show I’ve ever watched. It’s also one of the finest things I’ve ever watched.
The story of The Central Park Five – five innocent boys who were wrongly imprisoned for over a decade for the rape of a jogger in Central Park, When They See Us is a harrowing exploration of racism, injustice, and the power of the human spirit. The miniseries is only four episodes long, but it feels infinitely longer thanks to the terrifying ordeal these poor men faced. The cruelties they faced are relentless, and that makes for a seriously upsetting and often infuriating series.
Creator Ava DuVernay deserves a whole lot of acclaim for what she managed to achieve here; she thoughtfully brings the story to life through meticulous production values and mindblowing performances. I genuinely will not single anybody out because every actor in this miniseries is jaw-droppingly good. This is a perfect example of a stellar cast without a single weak link. Moreover, the music and cinematography do a gorgeous job of enhancing the story. There are no wasted moments – every line and every action progresses the narrative as well as the emotional stakes.
The fascinating thing here is that much like Chernobyl, we know how this story ends. And yet, that doesn’t rob the narrative of its razor-sharp impact. This is a deeply traumatizing but necessary piece of filmmaking in every way.
Poignant performances and an incredibly powerful story make When They See Us truly spectacular.