When They See Us season 1, episode 2 recap: Part 2


The story of the Central Park Five continues in When They See Us as the legal system works against them in every way imaginable.

When They See Us is such a jarring show to watch that takes you by shock and surprise, even if you knew of the events beforehand. There’s something about the way Ana DuVernay tackles this story that reels you into it, and it’s hard to detach yourself from the emotions it brings with it.

As the episode begins, viewers are educated a bit on the history of the events in regards to Donald Trump’s involvement. You see, Trump invested about $85,000 into hyping up the death penalty for these five young men, and this was all before any sort of conviction was even made. Personally, I did not know this detail about the case, but it’s intriguing to me how DuVernay is able to tie in past and present political situations in the manner she did here.

The second episode of When They See Us focuses a lot on the pre-trial preparations for both sides. But what’s really startling is seeing how the state plans on handling it. They have no proof, no connecting storylines, and no sensible timeline for that night. Vera Farmiga plays Elizabeth Lederer, the head lawyer in charge for the state. There are glimpses of humanity within her because she’s aware that their case isn’t solid.

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Furthermore, Elizabeth is well aware that so many things are just not matching for their defense. Take, for example, that the DNA sample of the semen found in the victim did not match the DNA of the Central Park Five, not a single one.

At the end of the day, the case is all about how the state looks and the political nature of it all. There seems to be little to no concern for what a guilty verdict would mean for the Central Park Five, as long the blame is put on “who they deem fit”.

I can’t help but wonder if Elizabeth tried to offer a plea deal because she knew how bad this would end for the boys. The state had a mission, and they were going to do whatever they could to put these young men behind bars.

As the trial continued, the state brought out the rape victim, Patricia Meili, on the stand. Let me tell you it’s tough to listen to her minimal memories of the horrible night, especially because the young men being accused had nothing to do with it but had to sit there and listen anyway. And if this wasn’t enough to sway the jury, the state then brings out an eyewitness from the night to attest to how rambunctious and rowdy the Central Park Five and their friends were.

It’s almost as if she’s describing a wild pack of vicious animals that were out for blood. It’s such an inaccurate description of what actually went down, but it’s enough to make the jury question everything. As the episode progresses, the Central Park Five are eventually split into two trials. It’s the only way to try the boys fairly considering their individual circumstances vary.

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Watching the trial on both ends is horrible and horrendous because DuVernay keeps reminding us that, at the time, these guys were just young teens. Helpless young teens that didn’t deserve what happened to them, and it’s a harsh “truth in your face” type moment. Seeing the desperation of each of the kids and how fearful they were is something I have to commend the young cast on, they did such an amazing job in making every moment believable.

As you all may or may not know, the second episode of When They See Us ends with guilty convictions for the boys all around. Once more, a huge shoutout to DuVernay for that amazing camera work on each of the boys as they learned their horrible, saddening fates.