Michaela Coel’s “I May Destroy You” Finale Explored The Complexities Of Healing From Trauma

Michaela Coel’s “I May Destroy You” Finale Explored The Complexities Of Healing From Trauma

“The trauma did not need to define me.”

🚨SPOILERS AHEAD🚨

WARNING: This post contains images and discussions of violence and rape.

Last night was the season finale of Michaela Coel’s critically acclaimed series I May Destroy You, and I still haven’t recovered.

In the final episode, Michaela’s character, Arabella, returned to Ego Death, the bar where she was previously drugged and raped. While there, she came face-to-face with her rapist, David (sometimes referred to as Patrick), and his friend who helped facilitate the rape.

With mixed feelings of fear, anger, and bravery, Arabella decided to confront him. Arabella explored the various paths to healing, by showing fans the four different ways she thought about addressing her trauma head-on.

Scenario 1: Drug him and kill him


HBO / Instagram

Arabella decides to give the rapist a taste of his own medicine by drugging him. She then beats him to a bloody pulp on an abandoned sidewalk. She decides to hide his body under her bed until he becomes conscious again, but he ends up bleeding out and dying.

Scenario 2: Empathize with his experience and arrest him


HBO / Instagram

Arabella tricks her rapist by allowing him to think that she’s incoherent. She then confronts him in the bathroom. The plan turns left when David begins to project his own emotional baggage onto Arabella. She invites him back to her place, where she soon begins to empathize with his journey. Ultimately, she follows through with the original plan she created with Terry, and has David arrested.

Scenario 3: Reverse the roles by penetrating him


HBO / Instagram

Arabella explores the dominant role in this scenario, by taking control of the sex they had. It was consensual, but this time she penetrated him.

Scenario 4: Arabella doesn’t return to the bar


HBO / Instagram

Arabella comes to terms that staking out the bar and confronting her rapist might not bring her the internal peace she craves, so she decides to skip the bar and stay home with her roommate, Ben.

And in a recent interview with Vulture, Michaela explained what it was like to write these endings and the series as a whole: “I had to let it go, and realize that I was still alive if I let it go, and the trauma did not need to define me. I could let go of the trauma and I would still be here.”

For me, the finale was extremely emotional. Knowing that this series was inspired by Michaela’s personal experience with rape makes every scene that much more powerful. The finale also proved there isn’t one direct path to easing pain.

The various endings were a perfect metaphor for the complexities of healing. What mends one soul might destroy another.

But I wasn’t the only one completely blown away by the way she covered sexual assault. Here’s what fans on Twitter had to say:

Thinking about the I May Destroy You finale tonight-one of the things that I think is so valuable, and difficult, about the show is the depiction of imperfect survivors, how Arabella unintentionally shuts down & even harms those around her.

Thinking about the I May Destroy You finale tonight-one of the things that I think is so valuable, and difficult, about the show is the depiction of imperfect survivors, how Arabella unintentionally shuts down & even harms those around her.

Can honestly say watching I May Destroy You has been one of the joys of my life. Everybody say thank you Michaela Coel

Can honestly say watching I May Destroy You has been one of the joys of my life. Everybody say thank you Michaela Coel

Tw: SV

No cap. I May Destroy You is the best story about sexual violence I have ever seen in TV or film. The finale is the best episode of TV I have ever seen.

No answers. No “justice.” Just the choice to start healing.

That’s the reality for most survivors.

Tw: SV

No cap. I May Destroy You is the best story about sexual violence I have ever seen in TV or film. The finale is the best episode of TV I have ever seen.

No answers. No “justice.” Just the choice to start healing.

That’s the reality for most survivors.

‘I May Destroy You’ finale literally destroyed me. Damn that was like a roller coaster of emotions. She had me in the first half, not gonna lie

‘I May Destroy You’ finale literally destroyed me. Damn that was like a roller coaster of emotions. She had me in the first half, not gonna lie

I May Destroy You was so good that I'm going to get off Twitter for a while to digest it and make some of my own art. It was a deeply triggering show about my past sexual assault, but ultimately deeply cathartic, allowing me to sort through my own self-reproach and forgive myself

I May Destroy You was so good that I’m going to get off Twitter for a while to digest it and make some of my own art. It was a deeply triggering show about my past sexual assault, but ultimately deeply cathartic, allowing me to sort through my own self-reproach and forgive myself

I think I've been moved to deep emotion every episode of I May Destroy You. Michaela Coel deserves an award that ain't even been invented yet for this. What's the Pulitzer of TV?

I think I’ve been moved to deep emotion every episode of I May Destroy You. Michaela Coel deserves an award that ain’t even been invented yet for this. What’s the Pulitzer of TV?

I don’t know how you make art more emotionally intelligent and powerful than I May Destroy You, I haven’t seen something so affecting in forever

I don’t know how you make art more emotionally intelligent and powerful than I May Destroy You, I haven’t seen something so affecting in forever

The finale of I May Destroy You elicited every possible emotion from me, but once I realized what she was doing I loved it. Wildly confident storytelling.

The finale of I May Destroy You elicited every possible emotion from me, but once I realized what she was doing I loved it. Wildly confident storytelling.

Watched the season finale of I MAY DESTROY YOU this evening. What an incredible, heart-stopping, hallucinatory experience. Won't be able to stop thinking about this one for awhile. 

It opened up my world.

Watched the season finale of I MAY DESTROY YOU this evening. What an incredible, heart-stopping, hallucinatory experience. Won’t be able to stop thinking about this one for awhile.

It opened up my world.

And the praise just goes on and on. Michaela’s I May Destroy You is one of the best things to happen to 2020 and it’s time we give her her flowers!

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