TV: I’m a Virgo (Season 1)

Boots Riley makes a triumphant return to surreal genre fiction with I’m a Virgo, a seven-episode season of strange, magnificent television. It’s the story of Cootie (Jharrel Jerome), an average teenager from Oakland, California—well, except that he’s thirteen feet tall. Cootie leads an isolated, shut-in existence under the auspices of his protective aunt and uncle (Carmen Ejogo and Mike Epps), who want to hide him from a world they’re convinced will take advantage of him. But Cootie, lonely and curious, can’t be contained, and when he finally emerges from hiding he befriends a trio of young locals, Felix (Brett Gray), Scat (Allius Barnes), and Jones (Kara Young). Cootie quickly becomes something of a local celebrity, and catches the eye of an attractive fast-food worker named Flora (Olivia Washington). But it turns out Cootie’s guardians weren’t wrong to shield him from the world, because as Cootie’s notoriety and involvement in the community grows, the more trouble he gets into—eventually finding himself on the radar of The Hero (Walton Goggins), a popular vigilante crime fighter who identifies Cootie as a threat.

Starting from a simple-seeming conceit, I’m a Virgo quickly fleshes out its world to become a robust, multifaceted creation. It’s a sly deconstruction of the superhero genre—using its inventive scenario as a springboard for commentary on race, class, and the inherent injustices of capitalism, with a fearless, anything-goes approach to speculative world-building. As the story expands, it turns out Cootie isn’t the only remarkable person in the world, revealing the metaphor of his exploration of identity. Riley layers serious subtext under the absurdist veneer, all enhanced by brilliant visual flourishes both surprising and funny. It all makes for a breathtakingly unique, heartfelt series unlike any other.

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