When they see us Review Part 2

 (Episode 3 and 4)

I was watching it in the office, a co-worker lent me her Netflix account, I kept torturing myself and trying to find ways for them to not be convicted. I studied several arguments and I realised that the other kids whom were at The Central Park that day, actually had an alibi, the fact that they were beating up people was already a crime, therefore police wouldn’t have to look for ways to incriminate more black kids, and I assume that their victims were their witnesses.

After two hours of constantly going to the toilet to cry privately, watching that magical scene at the end of episode two where Kevin is playing the trumpet and hearing their families pain, I thought I was done. Following the conviction, I predicted they were just going to show their lives after prison and how they coped with everything. I was wrong, what is coming is worse than rape.

Antron is the first to get out, his mother like always is by his side. While in prison, she constantly went to see him and tried to cheer him up in any way possible. There is this scene that I can’t forget because of how they used it in the trailer, Antron telling his mother about having dreams hearing footsteps and she tells him that it’s her coming to get him. What you call the people who make trailers? Let’s call them trailers makers lol. In the trailer they edited that scene adding Trisha’s footsteps, walking in the court room with her vengeful blue dress. Wow! Is there a nomination for best trailer?

Antron’s mother looks the most supportive of all the others, at least that’s how they portrayed her but his dad is out of the picture. During the trials, his dad didn’t show up to half or the entire trail, he said that he knew why his dad was leaving him but I couldn’t understand. It looked like something that it shouldn't be said because the audience got it but I didn’t. Was his dad ashamed?

Antron is back home and after moving out of the house his dad is also back and seriously sick. His dad looks very weak and old, like he aged twenty years but still he tries to win Antron over. Antron’s mother tries to teach him about forgiveness but he is trapped in his bitterness. He gets a job and lives his life privately, not telling people where he is from, so that they won’t find out who he is. He starts dating a co-worker of his, things seem to be in order until she starts asking him to take her on expensive dates, good restaurants and so on. The girl, Adele, was so inconsiderate. He refuses because he is saving money for school and he is also helping his mother. The girl overreacts and calls him a rapist. I presume no matter how much money these people got, this word will always haunt them. It was inspiring to see how prison didn’t make him quit on his dreams and gave him common sense. I watched a recent interview and as of today it’s clear that he stills holds a lot of anger and resentment towards his dad. He mentioned several times that his dad was his hero and he gave up on him. I hope Antron finds peace and strength to move on…

People face their demons differently, on one hand there is Antron not able to forgive his dad, on the other hand Kevin didn’t hold anything against his sister. It’s a different situation I must say but she also signed the confession and on one of her visits to Kevin, she even said “I am part of the reason you are here…”. Kevin’s sister was my favourite characters out of all the families’ characters. She constantly went to visit him and taught him that happiness is something to look for. She mentioned about meeting a guy, Kevin seems excited to know that his sister is happy but she then explains that it didn’t go anywhere because she believes that she doesn’t deserve to be happy since he is in that situation. That was sad! You know these thing was not only about five boys being wrongfully convicted, these thing ruined families! Kevin gets out of prison and with the help of his supportive sister he is able to get his life back on track.

Kevin and Yusef were in the same prison but they grew apart, Kevin said that Yusef distanced himself from him because he found solace in his religion – Islam. I understand because you want be away from everything that reminds of the nightmare you are living. You know religion played a big part in this story: Antron’s mother was able to bail him with church money; Korey’s mother found God after her transgender daughter’s death (Spoiler!), and the real demon came forward because he decided to pay for his sins (Another spoiler!). Yusef’s mother encourages his son to find comfort in Islam and on having hope. She doesn’t tell him about the trouble she is facing like losing a job because they found out who she was and not having money to visit him often or call him. While visiting him, he asks for news about Korey since they couldn’t write letters because it could affect their chance of parole. Yusef gets out of prison and within ten months he gets married and lives happily ever after. I concluded that one thing he learned in prison is not to waste any time.

Raymond also didn’t waste any time finding love, he reconnected with Tanya, the girl he was in a relationship with before going to prison. He is staying with his dad and his new family. His stepmom is not his biggest fan and starts making his life horrible, one time she even calls him “rapist”. Does this woman know how they portrayed her? Tired of the stress of living with her and excited to move in with his girlfriend, he starts selling drugs to gather the money. His dad warns him saying “What those people stole from you, you can’t buy back but you don’t have to be what they said you were”. Raymond’s dad had the best lines and storyline. While on prison, his dad kept asking what he ate and it was the cutest thing. You can tell that this man really gave this whole life for his son.

Raymond’s character looks like someone straight out of Grand Theft Out. He looks completely different, there is a disconnect from the actor playing his young version, he is definitely not the wise kid who hopeless said “What other way they ever do us?”, when Kevin asked “Why they doing us like that?”. Did you get it? The way these good boys found themselves in this mess, shows how easy it is for them to hurt us… Anyways, he gets caught selling drugs and is back on prison. I wonder what makes you act like that after being in the prison. It’s like you accept this kind of life as your fate. There was this scene where he said “Nothing bad ever happened to me before the park…” and it expressed that he didn’t know life could be so bad and he doesn’t know how to face it. That’s how you start, you go to prison for a crime you didn’t commit, then you do an actual crime because your first crime puts in a situation with no option and then it becomes your life. He became the exactly latino stereotype perceived in the American media. I wish he broke the cycle. He calls his dad and instead of telling him “I told you so…”, his dad says “You tried and now you will try again…”. I kept asking myself where was Raymond’s mother but after seeing how his dad never lost faith in him, the mother didn’t matter. These kids had the biggest support system, even though some of them didn’t have a father or a mother, the ones who were present really cared for them.

Korey said in one of his interviews that the case was the central park 4 plus one and I agree. I don’t even know where to start…I kept forgetting what was the crime here because I saw many crimes being committed to one person that I don’t think this was about the central park jogger anymore. Trisha Meili was raped, severely wounded and left to death in April 19th 1989 - one night. Korey Wise was beaten, mistreated, judged, assaulted, exploited, tortured constantly, numerous of times in thirteen years.

Korey is in prison…While accompanying him to his cell, a guard tells him “Let me know if there is something that I can do for you…” and the same way Korey was trying to figure out what he meant I am also here going crazy. The manipulation and mind games continue just like back then when they were being interrogated. He gets beaten up and is taken to the infirmary, while there he tells the lady “So they just can do whatever they want and no one will stop them?!…” Yeah Korey! That’s life! I know the feeling…you feel powerless. I literally cried about every scene, every scene worse than the other. Most of the series/movies you find comfort knowing that this is just fiction but not in this case, this was real life and pretty sure real life was ten times worse than the reality Netflix graced our screens with. His mother comes to see him and you can tell that he needed to see her to go through the days. He asks her for money, in order to buy a few things and give to the guards, so they can protect him and he also protected his mother from knowing what was really happening to him in that shithole. He starts learning how to take care of himself and takes advices from guards, whom tell him that every time he gets injured, instead of going to the infirmary to go to solitary. While there, he starts having conversations with himself and the heat makes him paranoid.

A white guard whom he becomes friends with makes him company, brings him magazines, spends time playing cards with him and at some point even brought him a present (something Korey really wanted). The whole time I was whining about all the horrible things that happened to him but this time I was crying because even in hell there is good… Evil is powerful and but good is calm…I hope this guard really exists and I thank him for being kind to Korey. Korey constantly asks him if there are any letters for him and the guard says no. You ask yourself how is that possible? How come no one wrote to this guy?? His father?? Aunts, cousins, childhood friends, or Yusef? As mentioned above, Yusef also asked about Korey and wanted to contact him but they were advised not to.

Every time his mother comes, Korey’s eyes light up, like that’s the only thing he is living for. His mother was nice to him. He asks his mother why she is not able to come more often and it breaks my heart. She explains that it’s hard for her and he understands saying “It’s all good.”. I don’t understand how this human could still be understanding of anything at this point. He even asked his mother “is anything I can do for you?” what kind of kindness is that? This whole thing looked like a life test, you know when you have a good heart and the universe puts you through something to see if you will change or break but he never did. He did have a few breakdowns, there was this time he tried to touch his mom and the guards stopped him; and when his brother passed way. Marci (Norman) was a transgender woman, their mother didn’t accept her, resulting on her leaving home. From a few clips you can tell that Korey loved his big brother/sister with his all heart, didn’t care what he/she was and didn’t judge him/her. I would like to believe that if she was alive today she would have another ending… I think when Korey got out of prison he saw how much the world changed and how the LGBT community grew, he probably wished his brother was still alive.

The final episode is almost over and I am sitting here trying to understand my life. I thought about everything bad that ever happened to me…sometimes going through the same things over and over again feels like prison. Life is prison…the beatings Korey endured represented all the people who puts you down and did you wrong; the guards were this epidemic thing called depression and your evil thoughts. It felt like the universe decided to make Korey go through “life” in thirteen years and then allow him to rest. Have you ever watched the movie ‘V for vendetta’? V kidnaps and physically tortures his lover Evey and makes her go through enormous change just to make her stronger and ready to face anything in life. There is this scene where she is asking why he put her in prison and he tells her she has been in prison all her life. Deep, right?

Jharrel Jerome’s performance was breath-taking; he was brilliant and that’s why they kept the same actor even though he was the one that should have shown the biggest age difference since Korey spent thirteen years in prison. He was able to show Korey’s awkwardness, inoffensiveness and unique presence. Watching this was a lot of distress, I wonder how did Jharrel survive this intense rollercoaster.

Korey’s fairy godfather (the good guard) gives him a cleaning job, I think the worst thing in prison is to do nothing, so you need to keep yourself busy. While cleaning, Korey finds pleasure in listening to music and singing. One day, an inmate lowers the TV volume, Korey gets mad because he is not able to hear it properly because of his hearing problem. They get into a fight and I ask myself why is this boy getting into trouble because of this?

Tired of not seeing his mother frequently, Korey asks to transfer to another prison. Unfortunately, he is transferred to a prison even farther. In the new prison, he gets the same welcome treatment, beatings upon beatings. They said that the reason he was constantly being beaten was because rapists are the worst type of criminal in prison, really? They are just hypocrites! The guards in this prison are even worse, and it makes me even angrier because they are black. One of his thousands beatings, he is so injured that he almost died, just like Trisha. Wasn’t abuse what brought us here?

While recovering in solitary, he becomes hysterical and he was probably asking himself “Why? Is it because I skipped school (they mentioned several times that Kory used to skip school)? Do I deserve this?”  No Korey, you didn’t deserve this! He starts hallucinating and imagining himself on that day when he chooses to follow the guys to the park, instead of staying with his girlfriend. In his dream, he decides to stay with her, they go to an amusement park and enjoy each other’s company. Seeing him happy, the colours, the background music was the climax of freedom. That scene represented everything Korey lost – laughter, love, friendship, youth, happiness…

I don’t know if things got easier in this prison because of what he endured on the previous one or he just got used. He becomes tougher, trying to act like a gangsta, even the way he walked changed. There were two different parole hearings, and in both of them he was denied parole because he couldn’t admit that he did it. He didn’t do it! They kept asking “Are you ready to admit your participation in bla bla…” Same manipulative white people, evil! Race had a strong factor in this magnificent production, don’t you think for one second that it was random. It’s not like in every movie where they put a black person just to look inclusive. I am pretty sure every person that was black or white in this series was definitely the same race in real life. Korey is called for another parole hearing and he chooses not to go. I wonder if the other boys admitted to the crimes and that’s how they got home early. I remember one of them saying “I don’t admit to the crime because I like to stick with the truth”.

Roberts, the good guard, shows up in this prison and reveals (turning on the TV) to the inmates what is happening at the World Trade Center. I appreciate how filmmakers recount history with their craft, and how they use their movies to address and expose racism, corruption, politics (they constantly mentioned Donald Trump in the first episode), etc. Anyways, what the hell is Roberts doing there? And even more surprising and strange, Korey meets that inmate of the “increase the volume” scene. At that point I already knew everything because I watched the documentaries and several interviews, so I knew who the guy was – Reyes. That scene was weird, it looked like Reyes was teasing Korey, asking him “do you still maintain your innocence?”, he was definitely impressed with his will. He challenged his faith asked him if he believed in hope and Korey with his sort of corky way said “yes”.

Reyes comes forward and admits he did it. Yes! Remember the central jogger rape case? You forgot it, right? Because all this time this whole thing became about 'the one who didn’t got way - Korey'. Reyes contacted authorities and went through several hearings/interrogations/meetings whatever you call it to prove he did it. Watching this character explain with details what he did to that woman gave me chills and trust me Reyes in real life was the same, no remorse. Even though Reyes confessed and the DNA result proved it was him, “the big guys” still didn’t want to admit they made a mistake. There is this scene where this lady who is assigned to go through the case again is meeting with Linda at some restaurant trying to convince her that she and her whole prosecutor team made mistake, I am looking at this scene and how comfortable they were, how they had the option to make her sit down at some fancy place, while they kids were questioned in a secret dubious room where no one could hear their beatings. She had the nerve to say that Reyes was the one who got away, meaning it should have been the central park 6. Stupid!!!

On one of Reyes interviews (not in the series) he says that he became a serial rapist and killer because his mother sold him to his dad for 400 dollars and he was sexually abused as a child. I guess that’s an excuse. Kory was bullied in school; his father was not around (either distant or deceased, no information about that); he was collateral damage of a crime he didn’t commit; he was beaten and humiliated for thirteen years…what is the formula for that? A good sacrificed man who today is helping others who were wrongfully convicted. But they indeed had one thing in common…hope. Kory found hope in his mother, in the good guard and listening to music, that’s why he got mad Reyes lowered the volume, music kept him alive. And even a sociopath like Reyes found hope and comfort in music, that’s why he took Trisha’s bloody Walkman.  

Korey is called by a guard and his instant reaction was “who died?”. They tell him his mother is on the phone and she announces to him he is going home. Seeing his reaction was worth every tear and sad feeling this series brought to me. The five of them are exonerated, honoured by the city and receive a settlement of 41 million. Korey awkwardly walking with his sort of rapper baggy clothes going to Kennedy Fried Chicken showed how he is still a kid, those years preserved his purity. Prison actually protected them from this world.

Trisha lost her sense of smell…these five innocent men lost their sense of everything, of what it is right, what is wrong, what is fair, what is unfair… They have been out for almost 20 years but those 5 – 13 years locked still haunts them.

Well done Ava DuVernay :) 

Obs. Nipsey’s song ‘Picture me Rolling’ playing at the end was priceless…R.I.P. 

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