With only three episodes left in its first season, OWN's David Makes Man keeps getting better and better. As it continues to break new ground with the depictions of Black boyhood on screen, it also elevates the portrayals of friendships, relationships and love between Black boys.
In this week's episode, "Son of Man," David continues to learn just how bad Seren's situation is at home. After David supports Seren by attending church with him for Seren's first choir solo, Seren insists on going with David back to The Ville for the neighborhood Halloween party. It becomes apparent that he would rather spend time with David and his friends and family than to go back home to his abusive parents. As Seren doesn't have a costume, our favorite, non-binary community queen, Mx. Elijah, assists by transforming half of his church suit into something dress-like, a la Victor/Victoria (shout out to DMM's costume designer Fernando Rodriguez!). When Mx. Elijah goes to put a bit of makeup on Seren to perfect the costume, he hesitates but then decides to try it, after Mx. Elijah lovingly gives him space. (Has there ever been a character on screen like Mx. Elijah?! Shout out to the thespian that plays them, Travis Coles!) Seren ends up falling in love with the non-binary look and the costume. Mx. Elijah also slips a tube of concealer into Seren's pocket, intuiting that Seren might need it later. Mx. Elijah is heart-breakingly right; in the episode's final scenes, Seren uses the concealer to treat a wound his abusive parents give him after he has the best night of his life in The Ville.
At the end of the night, as Seren waits for his parents to come and pick him up, he knows that he's going to be in trouble for messing up his suit--perhaps for even more reasons than that. After making a well-intended but offhanded comment about The Ville, Seren is worried that David is mad at him. David assuages his fears and says that he could never be mad at him. When David tells Seren that he's worried about him, Seren tells David that he's worried about him too and that he's like his best friend. David tearfully tells Seren that he's his only friend. Seren then tells David that he's like more than a friend to him--not like that--but better...or something. He tells David that he's going to "miss him sometimes," which sets off an alarm in David's head--is Seren going somewhere? Is he leaving? After all the trauma David's been through--the murder of his mentor Sky, which we graphically see for the first time this episode--David cannot afford to lose another friend.
As Seren's parents arrive, angry from earlier and from what he's done to his suit, David attempts to get Seren to stay with him, but it seems like Seren thinks he only has one way out. He embraces David tightly before grabbing his hand and placing a written note in it, seemingly informing him of what his plans are.
As I wrote in our review of the first trio of episodes, "It’s so important that a narrative showcases friendships as Black male adolescents interacting and behaving in a loving way, which is something that has been afforded to other coming-of-age narratives throughout time. In terms of David Makes Man, Black boys are rarely given the chance to be written with such sensitivity."
However, the show has even exceeded these limits. We don't get to see Black boys acting tender, especially with each other. The love, vulnerability and intimacy between the two are unparalleled. Its no surprise that the only other time we've seen Black adolescent intimacy on screen was in Moonlight, the Oscar-award winning film that was also written by David Makes Man creator Tarell Alvin McCraney.
David and Seren opening up to each other is one of the best television scenes of the year, and not just for its themes, but for the performances of its young actors Akili McDowell and Nathaniel Logan McIntyre. McDowell portrays the multi-faceted David--from Dai to DJ--with ease. McIntyre has perfected the tense anxiousness and uneasiness of Seren. These dueling worlds are hard for David to balance, but regardless, he lets Seren in to see both of them.
Load this one up for the Emmy reel. While OWN series, particularly Queen Sugar, continue to be snubbed by the major award shows, David Makes Man continues to prove that it is deserving of being in the conversation.
You can watch a portion of David and Seren's heart-to-heart below:
David Makes Man airs Wednesdays on OWN.
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