Unprisoned Season 1 series review: Delroy Lindo shines in this heartwarming father-daughter drama
Despite being marketed as a comedy, Unprisoned doesn't seem content with limiting itself as 'light entertainment' because it finds a way to stimulate our brain cells
Getting out of prison and making a new life is hard, especially if you're a black man in America. Hulu's new comedy series Unprisoned, which debuted in India on Disney+ Hotstar, tells the story of a septuagenarian, Edwin (Delroy Lindo), who is out of prison after serving a long sentence. Now here's the awkward part for Edwin: meeting his daughter, Paige (Kerry Washington), a relationship therapist, and her teenage son, Finn (Faly Rakotohavana). For an absent father who went missing multiple times during some of Paige's most formative years, it would take a lot to ease things between father and daughter.
Creator: Tracy McMillan
Cast: Delroy Lindo, Kerry Washington, Faly Rakotohavana, Marque Richardson
Streamer: Disney+ Hotstar
Speaking of the latter, Paige, despite being a counsellor, doesn't seem to have her own life in order. It reminded me of Will Smith's situation from Hitch. You know, the cool dude who has solutions for others' relationship problems but not his own? Paige is even more of a mess than he is. Her 'inner voice' occasionally comes out in the form of her child version -- appearing as another character wearing the same clothes and speaking like an adult, cuss words and everything. When she feels compelled to take Edwin in, her entire life gets flung into disarray. His criminal status notwithstanding, Edwin knows a thing or two about life because he has been around the block a few times. He is often right when trying to make sense of what Paige is going through or the wrong choices she has been making.
My primary compulsion to check out this series was my admiration for Delroy Lindo. He did not disappoint. Though the show isn't exactly what you call 'classic' material, it gets elevated by Lindo, who demonstrates, with much verve and style, the embarrassment, guilt, frustration, and angst of a man who had broken his promises to his daughter too many times. He doesn't intend to let her down again. But what would he do when things get so desperate? Would he get enticed by a life of crime again? The primary conflict of Unprisoned comes from the uncertainty accompanying Edwin as he hops from one job to the next. He gets fired from the first; he quits the second. Later, an attempt to run an ice cream business doesn't take off the way he wanted to. Here's a man trying so hard to make amends and get into the good books of his daughter, but multiple hurdles threaten to derail the bond.
Meanwhile, Paige is caught in a whirlwind of emotions while trying to figure out her relationship issues and ascertain her worth. Is she really the main woman of a middle-aged man on the verge of divorce? Or is she merely his side option? This confusing situation, for which Paige doesn't have a solution, leads to a new romantic liaison with her dad's young correction officer. Is this finally the kind of relationship she has been yearning for? Or would her unresolved issues with her father play spoilsport again? Kerry Washington loads Paige with the right amount of charm and quirks in a way that makes her character annoying and endearing at the same time.
Unprisoned is, evidently, not one of those shows aiming for greatness. One can easily categorise it as light entertainment; however, the show doesn't seem content with limiting itself as 'light entertainment' because it also finds a way to stimulate our brain cells. The characters make themselves relatable by exposing their flaws, vulnerabilities, and insecurities. The aim is to put us at ease, even when these people are experiencing some of their most taxing moments.
The show's overall aesthetic is dominated by bright, albeit not strikingly vibrant, colours -- be it in the production design and costumes. Most visual choices are functional, such as the sitcom-style way of establishing locations. That said, the show doesn't shy away from addressing serious issues such as parenthood, past trauma, race, and identity. Since this season ends with a cliffhanger, I assume a second season is in the works.