Unprisoned examines the complex relationship between a father and daughter. A terrific cast led by Kerry Washington and Delroy Lindo polish this series to a deep, meaningful shine. The series was created by Tracy McMillan, based loosely on her own life.
Unprisoned begins with Edwin (Delroy Lindo) released from a federal penitentiary. His daughter Paige (Kerry Washington) is there – very reluctantly – to pick him up. Paige doesn’t want her dad living with her while he gets settled back in the world, but he ends up there anyway.
The usual story of Black fathers going to prison is turned on its head here. This story tells how a family reacts to a father getting out of prison.
A Burst of Background
The story between Paige and Edwin is revealed slowly throughout the series as Paige’s childhood traumas are explored. But I’m going to give you a big blast of the background all at once.
Paige has a 17 year old son, Finn (Faly Rakotohavana). His father, who is not around, was a white man. Paige only dates white men. Right now she’s crazy over a married man named Bill (Tim Daly).
Her dad is a Black man, ergo, she has issues with Black men.
Paige’s childhood was one trauma after another. He father was in and out of jail. Her mother was an alcoholic. She moved between many foster homes. The last time her dad went to jail, his girlfriend Nadine (Brenda Strong) cared for her for 10 years. Paige hates Nadine. Nadine is still around and happy to see Edwin.
Paige’s best friend is Esti (Jee Young Han), a foster sister from a foster home Paige actually liked.
And finally, the kicker. Paige is a licensed relationship therapist with a big following on Instagram, where she dispenses all sorts of relationship advice. Can you say “ironic?”
Now, back to our story
Kerry Washington is so good as the troubled Paige. She’s a mess, she can’t handle her relationships. Being around her father makes her more anxious and neurotic than ever.
Delroy Lindo as Edwin is determined to do good so as to set things to rights with his family. This role gave Delroy Lindo a chance to do things he’s never done before. He’s kind, vulnerable, soft, wise, loving. It’s a great performance from him and I hope he gets an Emmy nomination out of it.
Mal (Marque Richardson) is Edwin’s parole officer. Mal and Paige hit it off, but can Paige deal with dating a Black man?
Paige has so many issues, so many unresolved traumas, so many problems. Having her father around forces her, with pushing from her son, her friend Esti, her hated foster mother Nadine, and her own father to finally deal with some of them. It’s slow and painful and often funny.
Healing the inner child
I’ve saved the best for last. That is Little Paige, the wounded child still living inside the adult Paige. Little Paige played by Jordyn McIntosh, who is extraordinarily talented and a scene stealer. She tells it like it is and demands attention. Paige’s confrontations with her inner child were full of meaning.
The whole family heads to Alabama, where Edwin was born. He needs a birth certificate so he can get a driver’s license. He needs a driver’s license so he can get a job. He can’t get one without the other. While they deal with this bureaucratic nightmare, Paige and Finn learn a lot about Edwin’s early life and background. We meet Edwin’s own inner child, a boy traumatized and terrorized by growing up in segregated Alabama where white police could do anything they wanted to a Black woman and her children.
Unprisoned is really good. It’s real, it’s touching, it’s funny, and it’s outstandingly performed by the cast. The characters are brilliantly written. I urge you to watch it. Season 1 ends on a note of uncertainty that gives me hope that the story will continue in a second season. This is a Hulu series – come on, Hulu, keep this one going!
Women directors include Shiri Appleby, Nastaran Dibai, and Numa Perrier. There were many women on the writing team and among the producers. Don’t miss this one.
4 responses to “Unprisoned, a father/daughter relationship”
The series sounds interesting. When I rotate Hulu back into my subscriptions, will be sure to watch. Kerry and Delroy are two actors, I enjoy watching. Looking forward to seeing them perform together.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
OMG did i love this show. and i am not a Kerry Washington fan. as a Black man in his 60s, i cannot tell you how exciting it is for me to see stories about Black folks as full human beings, not just cops and crooks. all of these characters worked for me. i sure hope there is a second season.
A great endorsement.