Hugo Blick made quite an impression with his epic miniseries The Honourable Woman. His follow-up, Black Earth Rising (2018), may be even more outstanding, and further evidence of Blick’s mastery of intricate, powerful political drama. Kate Ashby (Michaela Coel, in an extraordinary performance) is a Rwanda-born British legal investigator, traumatized by her childhood experiences during the Rwandan genocide. Already an emotional powderkeg, Kate is triggered further by the actions of her adopted mother Eve (Harriet Walter), a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Eve agrees to prosecute an important Rwandan general who helped end the genocide, a move Kate finds unconscionable. When Eve’s prosecution fails to materialize, Kate digs further into the case herself, aided in her efforts by her affable boss, American lawyer Michael Ennis (John Goodman), a good man who also seems to possess a secret agenda. As the bodies begin to fall and the conspiracy starts to unravel, Kate gradually learns startling secrets about Rwanda’s past, as well as her own.
Like The Honourable Woman, Black Earth Rising is intense, eloquent, and punishingly complex, a potent and captivating mix of international intrigue and political drama. It’s also a moving, powerful examination of trauma, primarily through Coel’s explosive performance, which serves as a window onto the unspeakable impact of the Rwandan genocide on its citizens. Blick’s script is simultaneously articulate and unforgiving, injecting the mystery with depth, intricacy, and nuanced character moments. Blick also appears as an actor, portraying the profoundly despicable lawyer Blake Gaines, making him a rare four-way hyphenate on the project (he’s also writer, director, and producer on every episode). Blick’s acting contributes to a stellar supporting cast that includes Abena Ayivor, Noma Dumezwemi, Emmanuel Imani, Lucian Msamati, and Tamara Tunie. But the series belongs to Coel and Goodman, whose characters develop a touching rapport and rallying spirit as they face off against the cruel machinations of the world. It’s a stunning production overall, a riveting story and a harrowing look at a nation’s transforming tragedy.