Being the only Black person in an aggressively white workspace can be an alienating experience, made less lonely by the welcomed presence of another just like them.
But what happens when you’re unsure if you can trust this would-be ally? That uneasy feeling — and so much more! — is explored in the Hulu thriller The Other Black Girl, which released all 10 episodes of Season 1 on Wednesday.
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The opening sequence offered a glimpse of the terror ahead, with a young Black woman in 1988 slowly losing it on her commute home from work at Wagner Books. Hallucinating white people staring at her and blood on her hands, the woman’s petrified scream served as a transition into present day with a different Black professional on the train.
Here, we met Nella (played by Sinclair Daniel), who works as an editorial assistant at Wagner and was doing some editing on her commute. She then entered the office and stared at a wall filled with pictures of white editors from 1985 to the present before zeroing in on the company’s sole Black editor — Kendra Rae Phillips (Cassi Maddox) in 1988, and the same woman from the horrifying flashback.
Although a rising star at Wagner, Nella’s professional life came with some challenges. She faced daily microaggressions, like one coworker sending an article titled “The Token in the Corporate Machine: Being Black in a White Workplace,” immediately asking if she read it, and sharing how it got her “fired up.”
Nella appeared to be hallucinating when she saw her monitor display a live security feed of her at her desk before flashing back to normal. But then her cubicle mate advised her not to let this place “suck the life out of you,” which felt like ominous foreshadowing. The next day, a mysterious Black woman in a beanie watched her enter the office, and we’re inclined to think Nella had reason to be paranoid.
We were later introduced to Hazel (Riverdale’s Ashleigh Murray), the newest assistant at Wagner. Nella immediately hit it off with her newbie coworker, genuinely excited to have another Black girl in the office. But was Hazel too good to be true? During a coffee break, she shared an autographed copy of Burning Heart by fictional author Diana Gordon, which also happened to be Nella’s favorite.
Things were going so well for Nella at Wagner that her boss Vera (Scandal alum Bellamy Young) revealed she was recommending Nella for promotion to assistant editor. Vera then asked for Nella’s thoughts on an upcoming book release from Colin Franklin (Brian Baumgartner), their top-selling author.
When Nella pointed out that Colin’s book was full of harmful stereotypes, Vera offered empty platitudes like “I hear you” and “I’m listening” before reminding her that Colin keeps the lights on in their office. She also encouraged Nella to lie to Colin and tell him she loved his book when he stopped by the next day for his announcement party.
A frustrated Nella briefed Hazel on the situation involving Colin’s problematic main character, and Hazel encouraged her to trust her gut and be honest. “If she’s dangerous, he’s got to hear that,” she advised. Nella was hesitant to go against Vera’s wishes since she was on the verge of a promotion but relaxed when Hazel promised to have her back if needed.
Things did not go as planned. At the announcement party, Hazel mentioned to Colin that she read a copy of his book. When he asked for her opinion, Hazel deflected and put the spotlight on Nella to share her thoughts. Nella minced her words at first, but after Hazel’s encouraging nod, mustered up the strength to tell Colin that his main character “Shartricia” was dangerous and problematic.
Colin then asked for Hazel’s thoughts, and in a huge surprise, she told him she really liked the book. Richard then asked Hazel to write an editorial letter for Colin after she essentially threw Nella under the bus.
As Nella wrapped up a late night at the office, she found a note in her coat pocket that read, “Leave Wagner now.” On the elevator, she saw Kendra Rae’s reflection staring back at her. Were they destined for the same fate?
What did you think of The Other Black Girl’s series premiere? Will you continue watching? Grade the episode below, and then share your opinions in the comments.
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