‘I May Destroy You’ episode nine recap: Arabella reckons with past trauma

I May Destroy You episode 9

In its eight episodes so far, I May Destroy You has proved one of 2020’s best new TV shows. But if you thought the transfixing millennial drama couldn’t get any more action-packed, then think again – I May Destroy You episode 9 is twice as gripping as the rest.

What happens in I May Destroy You episode 9?

Back from a disastrous trip to Italy where former-lover Biagio locked her out of his apartment and then scared her off with a gun when she refused to leave, Arabella is coming face-to-face with her situation and the injustices of the world. Will that help in her battle with trauma or will it only make things worse? Here’s what happens to each of the main characters in ‘Social Media Is a Great Way to Connect’.

Arabella: social media turns sour

Since outing Zain as her rapist, Arabella has become a social media star whose followers feed on her posts about self-care and global injustice. You can tell it’s going west for her early on in ‘Social Media Is A Great Way To Connect’ when she interrupts her doctor’s appointment to film a video for her story, but it’s not until later that things come to a head.

Having put her doctor in his place for “racial ignorance”, Bella and Terry meet up with Kwame for a self-care day with a Halloween twist – costumes with horns, wings and halos. At a POC paint and wine night, Bella breaks Terry’s no phones rule to record a video for her followers, winding up her friends as she does so. After a big argument, she puts down her paintbrush and wanders out into the London streets, going live to talk to her rapidly growing fanbase (and a few haters) about the world’s unconscious misogyny. As the comments ping up on screen with frenetic intensity, Bella begins to look disorientated and lost.

I May Destroy You episode 9
Michaela Coel as Arabella in ‘I May Destroy You’. Credit: Natalie Seery

The next time we see Arabella, she’s entering her therapist’s home, dressed in a remarkable Maleficent-esque outfit. There, the therapist tries to convince her that a break from social media might be helpful, but Bella is resistant to the idea. “It’s important that we speak,” she argues after showing the stacks of DMs confessing the senders’ own painful stories in her inbox. “I have to speak.”

Back in her own house, though, the message seems to get through and one-by-one she deactivates her accounts on every platform. It seems like this is the first step in her coming to terms with what’s happened to her – the next step is to take the investigation bags from her now-closed rape case out from under her bed and to open them, facing up to their contents and reminders of the night of her assault.

After making up with long-term friends Terry and Kwame, she and Terry head out for a late-night stroll and end up returning to the scene of the crime – Ego Death Bar. “What are we doing?” Terry asks as Arabella sits outside, puffing on her vape and baring her golden fangs. The answer, though, is not yet clear.

Kwame: sex under false pretences

I May Destroy You episode 9
Paapa Essiedu as Kwame in ‘I May Destroy You’. Credit: Natalie Seery

Getting caught up in Bella’s newfound internet stardom seems to be making Kwame tense. When they get stopped on the street by someone wanting to tell Bella how brave she is and spill their own tale of abuse, Kwame’s face is practically glowering. He’s tired of her feeding off the social media echo chamber and buying into the hype around her, but he also seems a little resentful that his own experience of assault wasn’t taken anywhere near as seriously as his friend’s was.

While painting and drinking later that night, Kwame tells the girls about his date with Nilüfer, who he didn’t tell he was gay until after he’d had sex with her. On hearing this, Bella takes Nilüfer’s side, laying into Kwame for “having penetrative sex with someone under false pretences”. “She literally pushed me into it,” he argues before tensions boil over and Bella storms out.

Terry: trying to keep the peace

Michaela Coel, Arabella, Weruche Opia, Terry, I May Destroy You
Michaela Coel as Arabella and Weruche Opia as Terry in ‘I May Destroy You’. Credit: Natalie Seery

While her friends come to terms with their individual experiences of assault, Terry is doing all she can to be a good friend to them. In this episode, that means organising Halloween activities and helping them to practise self-care, but it seems like she might need to take her own advice when Bella can’t take a break from either her phone or vape at a ‘paint and wine night’. When things between her and Kwame get out of hand, Terry comes to Kwame’s defence, reminding Bella of how she locked him in her bedroom with Jamal on Terry’s birthday in a misguided attempt at helping Kwame pull.

Some time after she’s stormed out, Terry and Kwame find Bella back at her house and Terry stays with her while she finally sorts through the investigation bags she’s been hiding under her bed – out of sight, out of mind.

Michaela Coel
Michaela Coel is the creator and star of the new series. Credit: BBC / HBO

Why does Arabella go back to Ego Death Bar, the scene of her rape?

At the end of this episode, we see Arabella reckoning with what happened to her after she left Ego Death Bar on that fateful night out with Simon and his friends. Is returning to the bar something she feels is necessary to move on? Is she hoping to see the person who attacked her through the window and finally identify him? Will she find the answers she’s looking for? You’ll have to wait and see.

‘I May Destroy You’ episode 9 is streaming now on BBC iPlayer

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