Roush Review: Weird Thrills Amid the Satire of ‘The Other

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Matt’s Rating: rating: 4.0 stars

You won’t know whether to laugh or scream — it’s OK to do both — during The Other Black Girl, Hulu‘s sensational comic thriller, adapted from Zakiya Dalila Harris’ buzzy bestseller. A tonal rollercoaster, the series unfolds over 10 blissfully brisk half-hour chapters that keep a binge from feeling like a slog, as the series morphs from a Devil Wears Prada-style workplace satire into an audacious, radically charged twist on The Stepford Wives weirdness.

Just try not to cringe when a mentor tells Nella (the endearingly eager Sinclair Daniel), an ambitious editorial assistant at New York’s very white Wagner Books publishing house, “You just need a little polish.” She has already endured so many patronizing micro-aggressions as Wagner’s sole Black employee, doing the bidding of her unctuous boss (a perfectly cast Bellamy Young, from Scandal) and almost never feeling seen or heard, that you share Nella’s delight when the chipper, hip Hazel (Ashleigh Murray) comes aboard as another Black office ally.

Until she isn’t. When Hazel seemingly undercuts and double-crosses Nella in their handling of a star author (The Office‘s Brian Baumgartner) whose latest character, named Shartricia, reeks of clichéd racial stereotyping, Nella is as confused as we are. Does Hazel have her back, or is she plotting to stab her in it? The company’s founder, Richard Wagner (Will & Grace‘s Eric McCormack, oozing insincere smarm), takes an instant shine to the new hire, which is even more unsettling.

Then an anonymous note, urging Nella to “Leave Wagner Now,” suggests something even more insidious is afoot than a mere All About Eve office rivalry. A backstory emerges involving the novel that put Wagner on the map, a Black literature classic whose author and editor (the only Black face on the company’s wall) both mysteriously went off the grid years ago.

Horror tropes (flickering lights, spectral visions) begin to set Nella on edge as the series edges further into Jordan Peele (Get Out) territory. And the more she investigates with her feisty friend Malaika (Brittany Adebumola, hilarious) and earnest white boyfriend Owen (WeedsHunter Parrish), the crazier things get, building to a literally hair-raising climax.

Rarely has a coworker’s advice, “Don’t let this place suck the life out of you,” felt more apropos.

The Other Black Girl, Series Premiere (10 episodes), Hulu

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