Gbenga Akinnagbe

Evil (2019) s01e12 – Justice x 2

There’s a lot going on in this episode of “Evil” but the only important thing—the only truly important thing—is it guest stars Gbenga Akinnagbe. It utterly wastes him in a “let’s not examine this too hard” plot about him being a radio comic in nineties Rwanda who encouraged the genocide. Emayatzy Corinealdi plays a Tutsi woman who tracks him down twenty-five years later to exact her revenge. It wouldn’t be so weird if the show didn’t turn it into a commentary on 2019 America, with phrases like “punching up” thrown around. There are optics to it. And to the way the episode does exposition about the Rwandan genocide. It’s not even a lukewarm take because the show’s not actually controversial (just manipulative) and it wastes Akinnagbe and Corinealdi in what ought to be an easy to do, albeit exploitative, tense talking heads standoff. She’s got him taped to a chair in a basement, after all; it’s not like there aren’t movies to guide the writers.

The show’s big addition? Mike Colter tied up in the room too; he went to see Corinealdi because she called the Catholic Church to report… her walls telling her to avenge herself upon Akinnagbe. It’s not a good main plot, but the episode doesn’t really have strong subplots either. Katja Herbers is standing off with Michael Emerson in court, with the bad guy from the pilot back. We get some big reveals on Emerson, but then the show’s got its biggest “reveal” at the end when—spoiler but because one must—Emerson’s having his therapy session with Baphomet. Not a bad Baphomet as far as network TV goes. But if Baphomet’s imaginary, it’s just stupid and if Baphomet’s not imaginary, it’s going to have to get stupider in a different way. Just because Baphomet can look good on TV in 2020 doesn’t mean he should.

Though Emerson fits the sad old posturing incel a lot better than the seventies Bond villain with kinks for religious symbolism and too many sweaters. Will he get less tiresome? Will the family get less tiresome as dad Patrick Brammall, now getting subplots instead of Aasif Mandvi, goes away for a bit then comes back, having now been the real parent when the sick kid needs an emergency procedure to add some child in danger drama and working mom Herbers isn’t taking the call. No. No, they’ll be even more tiresome.

Then there’s Brammall’s whole Buddhist subplot where the show equates him meditating to Herbers getting back with the child rapists at the Church. Religious pluralism, big shrug. He gets some ominous foreshadowing this episode too. Not just with the possibly dying child and Herbers not having told him any information about the possible medical procedures because she’s too hot for Colter to remember.

Also a religious judges are going to be the literal death of us all moment.

It’s amazing with all the stuff “Evil” has got and has had going on they’ve never actually delivered. I’m surprised they wasted Gbenga Akinnagbe, but I really shouldn’t have been.

Home (2013, Jono Oliver)

Home is never inspiring or sentimental. Writer-director Oliver lets sentimentality graze the film graze once–and it’s a film about sympathetic mental patients reintegrating so it’s amazing he was able to get away with a sidewalk picnic without sentimentality–but the realities of the characters quickly reign in any loose tender particles.

The film concerns Gbenga Akinnagbe and his last two week and a half weeks in a New York mental hospital. He’s trying to get an apartment so he can be discharged (hence the title). Even though Akinnagbe has a goal and a set time frame, Oliver takes Home a lot of different places. The script takes its time fully realizing Akinnagbe’s character; the subplots almost seem independent of the narrative’s time limit. They move on deeper layers.

The film’s supporting performances are all stellar. Oliver makes sure all of his cast takes the time to listen–or, at the right time, interrupt–but also to think. Exceptional supporting work from Victor Williams, Frank Harts, Danny Hoch and Judah Bellamy.

Of course, while Oliver’s direction is phenomenal (the composition is quietly stunning and precise) and the film has excellent photography from Sung Rae Cho–Ulysses Guidotti’s editing is singular–none of it would work without Akinnagbe. Home starts with a narrative disruption; Oliver takes a long time to establish the ground situation, which is disorienting. The film relies on Akinnagbe’s character to navigate, even after it reveals Akinnagbe isn’t necessarily the most reliable navigator.

Home’s a striking success.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jono Oliver; director of photography, Sung Rae Cho; edited by Ulysses Guidotti; music by Gingger Shankar; production designer, Eric Oliver; produced by Daniela Barbosa and Ged Dickersin; released by Entertainment One.

Starring Gbenga Akinnagbe (Jack Hall), Danny Hoch (Dundee), Joe Morton (Donald Hall), K.K. Moggie (Denise), Tawny Cypress (Laura), Victor Williams (Hamilton), Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Samuel), Tonya Pinkins (Esmin), Elena Hurst (Melissa), Frank Harts (Smitty), Adrian Martinez (Hector), Eddie R. Brown III (Travis), Alexander Flores (Thomas), Nick Choksi (Max), Deborah Offner (Sondra), Theo Stockman (Charles), Marilyn Torres (Viveca), Venida Evans (Ginnie), Ananias Dixon (Leo), Judah Bellamy (John) and James McDaniel (Dr. Parker).


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