I May Destroy You Episode 5 recap: Arabella puts Zain on blast

Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You Episode 5 - Photograph by Natalie Seery/HBO
Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You Episode 5 - Photograph by Natalie Seery/HBO /

Arabella puts one of her rapists on blast in I May Destroy You Episode 5.

The fifth episode of I May Destroy You is the first not to be overwhelmingly traumatic, yet it still delivers several incredible emotional punches throughout its short runtime.

Arabella’s storyline revolves around her experience with Zain from last week’s episode. If you’ll recall, the two had sex, but in the middle of intercourse, he removed the condom without Bella realizing.

Well, in I May Destroy You Episode 5, Bella gets a call from the police officers handling her case. They found small traces of DNA evidence on her flannel shirt from the night of her initial assault. They also have a potential suspect, but will need to test semen samples against people Bella has recently had consensual sex with to rule them out.

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While at the precinct, she asks one of the officers directly whether taking a condom off during sex unbeknownst to the other person is considered rape. Under U.K. law, it is.

Armed with that knowledge, Bella orchestrates a deserved takedown of Zain in a large public venue.

Initially, she is called upon to do a reading of some of her work by her publisher Susy Henny. Bella asks if Terry can read for her instead. Unfortunately, Terry gets stage fright at the last second leading to Bella taking the stage after all.

Instead of reading her work, she announces that Zain is a rapist, not “rape-adjacent” or “rapey,” but under U.K. law, he is a legitimate rapist for what he did. Everyone whips out their phones, eager to be part of the next “#MeToo” style takedown as they record Zain running out of the auditorium.

It’s undoubtedly a “mic drop” moment for Bella, in addition to her decision to get her hair shaved off. In this episode, it starts to feel like she’s finally regaining her agency and starting to heal. However, the healing process is not an easy one, and I May Destroy You doesn’t shy away from that.

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When Bella calls Biagio to finally tell him about the assault (since he’ll need to hand over some of his DNA), he gives her a victim-blaming tirade that reduces her tears. It’s hard to watch, perhaps because, as a woman, I’ve heard a variation of this chant before.

“If you had watched your drink, you wouldn’t have been raped.”

It’s gross, and hopefully, Bella will be done with Biagio for good. It seems so since by the episode’s end, she appears to be flirting with someone new on social media.

I May Destroy You
Weruche Opia, Michaela Coel, Paapa Essiedu in I May Destroy You Episode 5 – Courtesy of HBO /

I May Destroy You: Kwame tries to report his own assault.

The other main storyline in Episode 5 revolves around poor Kwame. After hearing the police at the precinct tell Bella that condom removal is rape, he starts to investigate the incident he had and see if that constitutes as rape, too.

Realizing that it was definitely some kind of sexual assault, Kwame attempts to go to the station himself and report the incident. Unfortunately, he is not met with the same sort of tenderness that Bella received. He’s faced with an uncomfortable, potentially homophobic cop who clearly doesn’t want to learn the details of Kwame’s assault — nor does he seem to believe it or understand it entirely.

I May Destroy You is commentating on the terrible way male rape victims are treated, particularly by the justice system. Kwame receives no help and eventually decides to leave altogether without reporting anything.

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What did you think of I May Destroy You Season 1, Episode 5? Will Kwame be able to tell someone about his assault? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

I May Destroy You air Monday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO. You can also watch via the HBO Max and HBO apps.