Review by Sean Boelman
The 2018 film Blindspotting became an unforgettable indie darling thanks to great writing and performances from Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, but for this follow-up series, some of the side characters get to take center stage. A worthy expansion to the world with a style of its own, this half-hour comedy series is one of the most distinctive to discover this season.
This series picks up with Miles (Casal) being arrested and sent to prison, forcing his longtime girlfriend (Jasmine Cephas Jones) and their son to move in with his family. It’s a pretty run-of-the-mill sitcom premise, but fans of the original film will know that the end result is anything but, a genuine and creative exploration of the current ills of society.
As with the movie, there are some really interesting themes here about the injustices of the prison system, but the focus here is more on the family unit. It’s a very interesting dive into what it means to raise a kid in this socially unjust world, and while it isn’t as shockingly urgent as the film, it’s quite poignant.
Taking a side character and making them into a protagonist doesn’t always work, but the writers (and Jones) do a great job of driving this series without its original star. Here, they double down on the relatability factor, hoping to get the audience’s sympathy for the protagonist as a struggling mother, and it works very well.
Jones gives an astonishing performance in the lead role, especially when she is given the chance to rap, which happens a few times each episode. The supporting cast also features some destined-to-be-breakout turns, especially from Benjamin Earl Turner who is wonderfully lovable as the comedic relief.
On a technical level, the series is pretty intricate. There are a lot of surreal dream sequences, and those are impressively done, especially for a series that doesn’t have hundreds of millions of dollars behind it. And the series’s directors really know how to capture and utilize the poeticism of Diggs and Casal’s writing.
The thing that ultimately drags down this series is the half-hour format. In trying to create episode arcs, the writers mix together the different subplots in a way as to bring the total runtime of each episode to the correct amount, rather than making them fit naturally with one another. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of linear television, but an unavoidable one at that.
Blindspotting is a reinvention of common television tropes with a unique style, and that allows it to work very well. Those who are fans of the film will definitely appreciate this continuation of the story that manages to go its own way.
Blindspotting debuts on Starz on June 13. Six out of eight episodes reviewed.