Proper from the leap, The Different Black Woman desires you to know that the office is a nightmare.
Hulu’s new collection, based mostly on the novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris, opens within the Nineteen Eighties on the workplaces of Wagner Books. The corporate’s first Black editor, Kendra Rae Phillips (Cassi Maddox), is leaving for the day, not with the calm fatigue of somebody able to go residence, however with the frantic fear of somebody being pursued. She throws frightened glances round her subway automobile, scratches her scalp arduous sufficient to attract blood, and screams because the subway’s white passengers bear menacingly down on her.
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It is a traditional hook straight out of a slasher, and because the present cuts to the current — and to current-day Wagner editorial assistant Nella Rogers (Sinclair Daniel) — we get the harrowing sense that historical past is about to repeat itself.
What’s The Different Black Woman about?
Sinclair Daniel in “The Different Black Woman.”
Credit score: Wilford Harwood / Hulu
Whereas Nella isn’t scuffling with no matter horror present Kendra was coping with, she is actually no stranger to the banal horrors of workplace life. Already overworked and underpaid, her life is made infinitely more durable by the truth that she is the one Black worker at Wagner. Microaggressions abound, as do cringe-worthy makes an attempt at allyship from her white co-workers.
Given these further stressors, Nella is overjoyed when Wagner hires Hazel-Might McCall (Ashleigh Murray), one other Black girl, as an editorial assistant. In Hazel, she sees the opportunity of a real office confidant and good friend. However whereas the 2 hit it off initially, their relationship sours as Hazel’s star at Wagner rises, generally on the expense of Nella. What began as camaraderie threatens to devolve into outright competitors. However is that this Hazel-led sabotage? Or is one thing extra sinister afoot?
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Fortunately, the reply to those questions isn’t as reductive as The Different Black Woman pitting two Black ladies towards one another in an remoted face-off. As a substitute, the present interrogates the methods that make Nella really feel as if there can solely be one Black girl in a spot akin to Wagner. Because it does so, it additionally walks the road between office satire and horror thriller, making a enjoyable style mash-up that, whereas not at all times profitable, proves endlessly entertaining.
The Different Black Woman mixes and matches genres, with (principally) efficient outcomes.
Ashleigh Murray in “The Different Black Woman.”
Credit score: Wilford Harwood / Hulu
Regardless of kicking off on a distinctly horror-tinged beat, The Different Black Woman spends a lot of its first few episodes entrenched in its send-up of company America — particularly the publishing business. Wagner Books employees, like head Richard Wagner (Eric McCormack) and editor Vera (Bellamy Younger), declare they wish to assist “numerous” voices, but they belittle and ignore Nella when she tries to place her personal concepts ahead.
Most infuriating is Vera’s devotion to unbearable creator Colin (Brian Baumgartner), whose upcoming novel contains a problematic Black girl character named Shartricia. As Nella tries (unsuccessfully) to warning Vera about these points, we see her calculate in actual time how finest to broach the topic with out overstepping any boundaries which will hinder her already extraordinarily tough upward progress in publishing. Scenes the place Vera talks all the way down to Nella and dismisses her expertise are simply as stomach-churning as any of the horror The Different Black Woman can conjure up — usually much more so. That these issues echo all through the previous, together with in flashbacks involving Kendra Rae and her finest good friend and star creator Diana Gordon (Shakirah DeMesier), reminds us of the enduring presence of racism and misogynoir all through the office.
Nothing can actually be extra horrifying than the real-world systemic racism Nella faces, however The Different Black Woman weaves extra conventional horror parts all through Nella’s publishing struggles nonetheless. The tasteless backdrop of the Wagner workplaces permits for some fairly efficient scares, together with a unending loop of the identical hallway, leap scares triggered by harsh movement sensor lights, and unusual blurry figures seemingly trapped inside Nella’s pc monitor. The surreal workplace imagery and interrogation of office tradition makes The Different Black Woman an interesting companion present to Severance, though that is the place the similarities finish.
Sadly, all these thrills and chills result in a less-than-satisfying reveal in regards to the reality behind Wagner. Because the items fall into place, it does not appear to be The Different Black Woman has earned a twist. Somewhat, it looks like the present felt it had to incorporate one so as to stand out.
Whilst these twists threaten to unravel the plot, The Different Black Woman‘s style playfulness and dedicated forged assist it stick its touchdown. Daniel makes for a superb anchor for the story, nailing Nella’s publishing aspirations and “stick it out” perspective, in addition to her rising suspicions of Hazel, whom Murray performs with a pointed slipperiness. Their scenes collectively seesaw between certainty and doubt. Is Hazel undermining Nella? Or is she lifting her up? The Different Black Woman delights in maintaining you guessing on that entrance all through its first season, and regardless of its third-act flaws, you will enjoyment of guessing together with it.
The Different Black Woman is now streaming on Hulu.