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Blindspotting review: TV series expands on the rich source material of 2018 film

·3-min read
As a story about family and friendship, the series is rooted in the real-world issues of a rapidly gentrifying Oakland (Starz Play)
As a story about family and friendship, the series is rooted in the real-world issues of a rapidly gentrifying Oakland (Starz Play)

Blindspotting expands on the same universe that captivated audiences two years ago. Adapted from the same-titled, critically praised 2018 film, which starred Tony Award-winner Daveed Diggs as a parolee desperate to stay out of trouble with no help from his delinquent knucklehead buddy Miles (Rafael Casal), this new eight-episode series is a film-to-TV adaptation done right.

The series, written by Diggs and Casal and arriving on Starz Play today, confidently traces many of the same lines that were so carefully drawn in the film: social commentary and comedy, a theatre-studies feel and glossy production. This time, though, it’s not Diggs but Jasmine Cephas Jones’s Ashley (the girlfriend of Casal’s character) who is our window to this world.

Blindspotting wastes no time setting up its premise. The opening scene takes us Oakland, California, on New Year’s Eve, where fireworks are exploding overhead. Ready to celebrate, Ashley arrives home with two bottles of bubbly only to discover her boyfriend being shoved into the back of a police cruiser. With Miles in prison, Ashley and their young son Sean (Atticus Woodward) move into Miles’s childhood home with his mother Rainey (a believable Helen Hunt in a not-so-believable role) and his trash-talking sister Trish (Jaylen Barron). Drama ensues.

The series returns to the film’s anti-realist techniques, this time around with a greater emphasis on music. Sometimes it is understated: a pair of movers step in sync to jazz while hauling boxes into a van. Other times, camera movements and stylistic lighting frame all-out set pieces. It is impressive then that even these moments feel germane to Blindspotting’s storytelling, not some appendage attached from some other genre.

Even when actors aren’t breaking the fourth wall to deliver performance poetry down the lens, the script feels buoyed along by the rhythms of spoken word. “We are liberated legs, we are well-ventilated coochie,” responds Trish when asked by her mum to put something over her skimpy bodysuit.

Blindspotting also picks up the serious conversations where its feature-length counterpart left them off. As a story about family and friendship, it is rooted in the real-world issues of a rapidly gentrifying Oakland. In episode two, Ashley (who works as a concierge – with a fake British accent – at the upscale Alcatraz hotel) is harangued by a haughty guest who asks her if she knows where to get drugs, telling her she looks like the type of person who would. Afterwards, Ashley goes upstairs to the woman’s hotel suite on a path of destruction, smashing up mirrors with a tennis racket while delivering poetic verses about the injustice of the fact her boyfriend is in prison for the same drugs that this woman can so freely demand in a public space. “I hate the rich,” she snarls.

It’s not easy to create a film-to-TV adaptation that doesn’t feel like a derivative cash-grab, but Blindspotting manages it. Across eight half-hour episodes, the series affords the screen time necessary for more characters, more songs, more dance, more nuance, more drama. When the material is good – as Blindspotting’s consistently is – more time can only ever be a good thing.

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