In the final episode, titled “Ego Death”, we come full circle, and a year later, Arabella returns to the bar and sees the man who raped her. Three different versions of events then play out. The first sees her enact brutal vengeance, drugging him in the bathroom and beating him until blood cascades down his face before unceremoniously shoving him under her bed. She then gazes out, hollowed by the brutality. Her eyes briefly meet the camera to confront the audience’s thirst for continued violence. The second, more absurd scenario sees Arabella take enough cocaine to keep her conscious when he drugs her again. He attacks her, but anger gives way to a tearful apology before the police take him into custody. This neat, conventional conclusion ultimately reads just as empty as the first. Coel’s work threw out the rule book and was unconcerned with placating and patronising viewers with simplistic depictions of trauma and closure, so the scene starts a third time.
The bar is now untethered from reality, and the pair are bathed in bright sunlight as they sip gin cocktails. She gently guides him back to her flat, they strip naked, and she enters him from behind. The following morning, they lie in post-coital warmth before she bids him farewell, and both he and the bloodied body from under the bed leave in quiet unison. The three conclusions all exist only in the mind of I May You Destroy You’s complex protagonist, who stares at a wall covered in notes and turns over the different ways her memoir could end but there are meta-textual implications about the writing of the show itself and Coel’s own creative process. In ‘reality’ Arabella stops going to the bar, stops obsessing over what she could have done differently, reconnects with the friends that she’s alienated and makes tentative steps into accepting that she’ll always carry this trauma with her.
Like Coel, Arabella’s creativity is bent but not broken by what she has endured and her long-gestating book is finally published, with her reading the foreword to an enraptured crowd. “Ego Death” leaves us with character and creator in a shared moment of triumph. Not only did both find the courage to turn pain into poetry, but Coel elevated the entire medium of television in the process. – LL
Russell T Davies, James Graham, Jack Rooke, Jonathan Dean, Anita Singh, Scott Bryan, Joel Golby, Diyora Shadijanova, David Levesley, Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, Jack Seale, Alim Kheraj, James Dyer, Boyd Hilton, Stephen Kelly, Michael Hogan, Stuart Heritage, Radhika Seth, Elle Hunt, Emily Maskell, Kemi Alemoru, Emma Fraser, Jude Yawson, Jessie Thompson, Bolu Babalola, Rebecca Nicholson, Lauren O’Neill, Leila Latif, Amelia Benjamin, Matthew Morgan, Emer Kenny, Emily Baker, Mickey Down, Ben Allen, Sam Parker, Olivia Pym, Jack King, Lucy Ford, Ava Davies, Nick Hilton, Charles Bramesco, Amelia Tait.