Type keyword(s) to search


Random Acts of Flyness Season 2 Charts a Path for Black Healing

The Peabody winner's second season is even more thought-provoking than its first.
  • Alicia Pilgrim in Random Acts of Flyness: The Parable of the Pirate and the King (Image: HBO)
    Alicia Pilgrim in Random Acts of Flyness: The Parable of the Pirate and the King (Image: HBO)

    HBO’s Peabody Award-winning series Random Acts of Flyness has returned after a four-year break. The genre-bending, eclectic, and visually stunning show premiered in 2018, and is now back for a second season to give audiences even more to ponder: Early promos for the new episodes urged the viewer to think deeper about what it means to be Black. 

    While so much of Season 1 focused on the series’s self-proclaimed objective to “shift consciousness,” it was also concerned with giving white audiences an open invitation to understanding how Black people navigate being Black in America. However, this season the focus is on Black history and challenging Black viewers to think about the ways in which trauma is carried in the body and how it impacts relationships. Season 2 addresses how pain is passed down through generations while evaluating the important question: What is the actual cost of Black trauma and how much do Black people owe it to themselves to end it? 

    When Season 1 premiered, critics rightly noted that it seemed to want to make the show's white audience feel what it means to be Black in America. However, because so much of the first season was centered on what it means to be Black, it left very little room to address the ways in which Black people navigate healing from the scars of a long history of white supremacy. 

    But with Season 2, officially titled The Parable of the Pirate and the King, series creator Terence Nance wants to introduce viewers, specifically Black ones, to a multitude of healing stories replete with emotional depth. The focus for Nance this season is addressing the “generational wounds” that continue to be passed down to us and how said wounds are only exacerbated as we work to ignore them. By taking a page from the ancestors and the ways they used nature, song, dance and art to heal, Nance proposes that Black people can begin to remedy not just their minds, bodies, and spirits, but most importantly, their souls.  
    In The Parable of the Pirate and the King, Najja (Alicia Pilgrim) and Terence (Terence Nance) traverse a multitude of different emotional issues. While Najja is now in a new relationship with a man named Xavier (Austin Smith) and trying to get over the history she has with Terence, she’s also navigating the emotions that come up when being asked to do more at a company full of (faceless) white men. Terence, on the other hand, is dealing with a sense of defeat. He tries to get back on his feet after seeing his reparations app go bust and his relationship with Najja (who's now seemingly happy to have moved on) come to an end. While it seems that Najja and Terence are amicable with one another, it is still very evident that they're carrying baggage that keeps them from being at peace. 

    At the core of this season is Nance’s desire for the audience to know that both Terence and Najja, just like many Black people, have been hurt and left broken — not just by each other, but by life and the oppressive systems they must so often traverse. In several moments throughout the season, Najja and Terence are rendered in pixelated form. There’s any number of ways for this to be interpreted, but it seems that Nance is implying that life for Najja and Terence and many Black people has begun to feel like a game, where they’re controlled and manipulated not by just capitalism, but different types of oppression (including police brutality), which, along with how the characters process it, was mostly the focus of Season 1. 

    One of the more pertinent and forward themes of this season is that in order for Black people to heal from a long history of pain, they must be historically and spiritually rooted. Often, this concept of Black people needing to be “rooted” manifests as Najja and Terence being at one with nature. There are moments when we see them walking and flying through open spaces with a multitude of trees. In what can be considered a “healing ritual,” we see Najja and Terence surrounded by ancestors while dancing with fire figures. As Season 2 progresses, Nance wants the viewer to understand that if Black people are going to fully heal, they must stay connected to the soil that the ancestors worked hard to harvest. 

    Both protagonists spend considerable time with different spiritual figures unpacking specific moments in their lives. In one scene, we see Terence talking to a mythical woman about his feelings, and it’s almost as if Nance is encouraging Black people to go to therapy — something that is still a taboo in the Black community. In another moment, we see Najja on a “spiritual quest” that references her artistic expression and the journey that she has been on to avoid losing herself or her value as a Black woman while trying to show the world how talented she really is. 

    Season 2 highlights the notion that healing for Black people is both radical and uplifting. It also culminates with the idea that while so much of the history of Blackness is underscored by grief, Black people also have a long history of breaking chains, both literally and metaphorically. Though this season can be more eccentric at times (there are several moments when characters turn into cartoons), it reminds us how healing art can truly be. 

    The Season 2 finale of Random Acts of Flyness: The Parable of the Pirate and the King airs December 24 at 12:30 AM ET on HBO. 

    Jonathan P. Higgins is a freelance writer who has been published at sites including Essence, Ebony, and Out Magazine, in addition to winning season 5 of Nailed It. You can follow them online by using the handle @DoctorJonPaul. 

    TOPICS: Random Acts of Flyness, HBO, Random Acts of Flyness: The Parable of the Pirate and the King, Alicia Pilgrim, Terence Nance