‘When They See Us’ is simply powerful

When They See Us is a Netflix original mini-series about the Central Park jogger case in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Five black and latino teenagers, publically deemed the Central Park 5, were wrongfully convicted of raping and beating a woman jogging through the park. Raymond, Antron, Korey, Kevin and Yusef go through the wringer in every way imaginable.

Selma and 13th director Ava DuVernay led the project that detailed and dramatized the story of the five boys and the coercion and corruption from New York City police. The following incidents directly affected the lives of the young boys forever. The boys were in Central Park the night of the rape and were convicted of committing the act, despite not knowing where the crime scene was located, zero evidence linking any of them to the case, none of them being able to say where the others were and video confessions that were inconsistent, nervous and made under duress.

The first two episodes cover the night of the incident and the trial of the five boys. All of the young actors do a great job, but the standouts are Kevin and Korey. Kevin is played by Asante Blackk. He is the youngest of the five and is beaten by a cop at the park. He endures some of the most aggressive verbal and physical treatment at the hands of the police. Jharrel Jerome plays Korey Wise. A kid who wasn’t even wrangled by the cops. He was only at the precinct to look after his friend Yusef, who was being interrogated. Korey is portrayed in the most authentic way that I initially felt like the boy was not even an actor. He felt so genuinely confused and scared. The final two episodes focus on the boys after they become men. Four of them are released after serving their time. Korey, being 16 at the time of arrest, stays in prison longer. Jharrel Jerome is the only one of the five who plays both the young and old versions of the character. It is so seamless yet convincing that it took me awhile to realize it was the same actor. He does a great job and probably gives the most memorable and moving performance in the series.

Other great performances aside from the five main characters are given in the family members surrounding them. Raymond is the son of a single dad played by John Leguizamo. He remarries in the older episodes and plays a truly tough, but regret-filled father unsure of how to keep his family together. Niecy Nash plays the stern and authoritative mother of Korey Wise. Her character really shows the battle within when you are close to someone who is going through a serious trial and you are uncertain on how to be their rock. Michael Kenneth Williams and Blair Underwood also give great performances in smaller, but crucial roles as the troubled father of Antron and the in-over-his-head lawyer of Yusef. Mickey Joseph, played by Joshua Jackson, is Antron’s lawyer. His character is a strong one during the trial bits of the show. His performance is strong and he delivers lines with such fervor that you feel like he should’ve had this case in the bag. Famke Janssen and Vera Farmiga also play roles in the trails and add to that talented actor pool Netflix so often scoops from.The show’s most disturbing antagonist, though, is Felicity Huffman’s Linda Fairstein. She led the case and directed officers to coerce confessions out of the boys. Huffman’s portrayal caused such a stir that there is now an activate protest and boycott of the real Linda Fairstein and her crime novels. She has since deleted her social media accounts and resigned from her board seat at her Alma Mater.

The show has resulted in worldwide awareness of an important case from decades past. It shines a light on police brutality, discrimination, corruption and racism in law enforcement. It is a powerful piece that will cause you to grow angry with the establishment and even shows the involvement of President Trump in the media crucifixion that the innocent boys went through in the 90’s. When They See Us is an emotional series based on a story that needed to be brought to light in a massive way.

Did you see the series? What were your thoughts on this story?

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