Review: Netflix’s “When They See Us” reveals The Central Park Five’s chilling truths

Ava DuVernay's "When They See Us" raises conversation about 1980's Central Park Five.


Courtesy of Netflix

Jharrel Jerome as young Korey Wise.

Abigail Craig, Co Editor-In-Chief

“When They See Us” is an incredibly chilling Netflix Original based on the true stories of Harlem’s 1989 case involving The Central Park Five. 

When a young female jogger went out for her regular late night run through Central Park in 1989 and was mysteriously found fighting for her life in the bushes, chaos ensued. In 2003, 14 years after the attack, Trisha Meili came forward, confessing to being the lady jogger from the infamous case.

Left for dead after being sexually assaulted and beaten, the lady jogger had no recollection of her attack. Luckily for the NYPD, a large group of teenagers had been “wildin’ out” that very same night. 

The detectives and NYPD were determined to find suspects and were sure that the boys out in the park the same night had everything to do with the jogger case. The NYPD eventually identified what they believed to be the five suspects and were determined to win their case. Only, the five boys that they had caught, were not their suspects after all.

Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise are the names of the five wrongfully convicted men once known as The Central Park Five. Today, they are remembered as The Exonerated Five. 

In the Netflix Original Series “When They See Us”, the true stories and personal hardships of the five men are told in their rawest forms. 

The public eye is exposed to the real life injustice that occurred more than 20 years ago. Not only are viewers given an inside look into the lives lead by each man within jail, but what their lives were like prior to the incident.

After recently watching the 2019-2020 Emmy Awards and seeing actor Jharrel Jerome win Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series, my attention was brought back to the Netflix Original. I had to watch it.

The moment “When They See Us” first came out this past July, the media was booming. People of all ages, whether they were alive when the case took place or not, were both surprised and impressed by the show’s honestly and grit. The Exonerated Five had not been forgotten, but remembered almost all too well. 

People were eager to get their hands on the four-episode series in hopes that they too, would find out the secret schemes that took place behind the scenes of this groundbreaking criminal justice scandal. Now, after finally watching and completing the series, I have been exposed to the hardships and struggles each man had gone through as only children and almost feel responsible for what had happened.

“When They See Us” opened my eyes to the hatred spread throughout the world whether it may be influential/well-known people or not and has proved to me that my voice is worth something. Seeing the way in which all five boys had originally reacted to their predicament, refusing to go against what they believed to be true, demonstrated a mindset and brave lifestyle that I would like to live when it comes to speaking my truth and standing up for my beliefs.

The four-part series has been one of the most impactful shows I have ever seen before and not only did I watch the series as a show, but inspected each episode and scene as a piece of art.

The motives behind director Ava DuVernay’s creation was made evident as one watches the actors and situations gradually grew more intense and heart-wrenching. The five men who live today as The Exonerated Five had an important story to tell the world and it was clear that DuVernay took the responsibility of telling the correct story very seriously.

Netflix’s “When They See Us” is a series that is definitely worth the watch. I would recommend this series based off real life events to strictly mature age groups as it covers serious topics. However, the groundbreaking Emmy Award winning production is an important historical case that all should know of.