When They See Us is the compelling limited-Netflix series directed by Ava DuVernay. The series follows the trials and tribulations of the Central Park 5, a group of Black and brown young men falsely accused and convicted of raping and beating a jogger in Central Park on April 19, 1989. There have been previous documentaries about this case and how the lives of these young men were forever changed, but this is the first time their stories have been cemented in a cinematic way. Through this four part series, we watch how the lives of these four young boys and the people around them are forever changed.
In Part 1 of the series, we meet all of the young men: Korey, Raymond, Yusef, Antron, and Kevin. We see what they are interested in, their likes and dislikes, their friend group, their social life: Kevin plays the trumpet, Yusef is Muslim, Korey has a girlfriend, Antron had aspirations of becoming a professional baseball player. All of these young men are living the life of your average 13 and 14 year old. In the opening part, we see the boys being aggressively coerced into telling a fictitious story of the brutal crime. They are hungry and tired. They have not been to sleep in almost 24 hours. Some of their parents do not know of their whereabouts. The cops and prosecutors involved are making minors sign legal documents and participate in interrogations with attorneys present. As a viewer, you are pissed off at the way these children are being handled, and as a Black viewer, you unfortunately know that this is the way these things go.
During Part 2 of the series, we are presented with the trial. Antron, Yusef, and Raymond's parents all have their own attorney which makes for an interesting deliberation. We slowly but surely see families beginning to fall apart all while the community who supports the boys are firmly standing behind them. One factor that was noticeable from this episode is that Korey, was alone. No family, no attorney.
Part 2 of the series did not end in the favor of the boys or their families. Part 3 shows how the boys are adjusting to life in juvenile detention and how the outside world now views their character since they were convicted. They are now readjusting to the lives that they left as teenage boys. They are losing family members, gaining family members, and reconnecting with one another after being separated for all of those years.
Part 4 of the series mainly focuses on the story of Korey Wise. In the beginning, he was not even a suspect in the crime. But Yusef was, and since Korey and Yusef are friends, Korey did not want Yusef to go to the police station alone, so he went with him. At 16 years old, Korey was the oldest of group, and once they were convicted, he was sent to Rikers Island, instead of juvenile detention like his counterparts. He also severed the most time; a total of 12 years. While in jail, Korey rarely received visits from his family, was severely beaten, and was often isolated due to people's perception of his involvement with the crime. Part 4 gruesomely shows Korey's stints in solitary, him befriending a corrections officer, and the strength that he possessed through it all.
All in all, this series deserves all of the things. Whatever they get nominated for in the next award season cycle, they deserve to win it all. Jharrel Jerome deserves it all, and Laura Fairstein deserves life in prison.
You can now stream When They See Us on Netflix.