Saturday, June 1, 2019

REVIEW: 'When They See Us' - Raymond, Antron, Yusef and Kevin Face the Brunt of Prison and Parole in 'Part Three'

Netflix's When They See Us - Episode 1.03 "Part Three"

The boys struggle with the difficult reality of life behind bars. Years later, Raymond, Antron, Yusef and Kevin return home as men to a changed world.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's When They See Us.

"Part Three" was written by Ava DuVernay & Robin Swicord and directed by Ava DuVernay

The criminal justice system can often make way for a vicious and demoralizing cycle of abuse and misfortune. Once an individual gets caught up in it, it can be absolutely crushing to their individual life and make it near impossible to ever feel free again. There is always the optimism that the justice system holds up the highest morals and ideals of this country. It's an institution that will always be fair and balanced. That's simply not the case though. The same standards aren't applied in the same criminal situations. Communities of color are often targeted and made to deal with higher punishments. It's so despicable. Even when Kevin, Antron, Yusef, Korey and Raymond maintain their innocence despite being convicted, there is no guarantee that life will return to simplicity or normalcy. They are forever shaped by their experiences in the system. This is such a transformational episode because it features the young teens going into prison and the adults that come out. It's such a phenomenal way of depicting it as well. It doesn't linger on the actual abuses and horrors of the prison system. Instead, it's all about the physical transformations for Kevin, Antron, Yusef and Raymond as it pertains to their connections to family. That's how all of this is viewed here. Their family members are the ones who remain constant in their lives. The media cycle moves on for more scandalous stories. And yet, no one ever truly forgets the boys at the center of this case. They will forever be seen as the Central Park Five. That will be their label and how they are defined by the world even though they aren't allowed to communicate with one another. Just because they are released from prison here doesn't mean that they are suddenly free. They aren't finished paying their debt to society. They return to their childhood homes but the world is no longer the same. There are numerous rules placed on them as some of the conditions for their release. There is unity because the support is still there to proclaim their innocence. And yet, the day-to-day aspects of their lives are incredibly difficult. They have to search for jobs and find a way to survive in a world that immediately looks at them different because of what people believe about them. Some of these stories take the priority here. Yusef mentions that he gets married shortly after getting out of prison. And yet, that's a story that happens completely off camera. But his family is also the one that throws a big party to welcome him home. For Raymond, it's such a strange and alienating experience because he no longer recognizes the space that he used to call home. His father has gotten married to a woman with a ton of cousins who are constantly there. She also doesn't trust Raymond at all. She sees him as a rapist who has to be looked at with suspicion no matter where he goes. That's the mentality that follows Raymond around everywhere he goes. It makes it so he's tempted to start dealing drugs just in order to get out of this world as quickly as possible. And that's how the cycle repeats with him being sent back to prison. He tried his honest best to follow the rules of his parole and try to move forward with his life. And yet, the outside world continued to put this unbearable pressure on him. It's an ongoing struggle just to survive. The sentence doesn't end after being released. Those scars will forever be there. It makes each of them untrustworthy of any potential happiness. They understand fully that it could be taken away at any moment in time. It's a relief when Kevin and Yusef reunite and proudly stand up for themselves. It's empowering that these friendships were built even in the worst of circumstances. And yet, that's only a momentary release from the sheer weight of everything that is currently happening and the fear that the worst could happen all over again at any possible moment.