A dark and impactful show, John Singleton’s new noir thriller, Rebel explores the precarious relationships that police officers of color have with the departments that they serve and the communities that birthed them.
In the series premiere, “Brother’s Keeper,” we meet Rebecca “Rebel” Knight (Danielle Moné Truitt), a fearsome detective who delights in taking down criminals as much as she enjoys putting her fellow officers in their place. For Rebel, there are no sides to choose from; there is only what is right.
Throughout the first thirty minutes of the pilot, Rebel’s world reveals itself to us slowly. When she’s not wrecking havoc at the police department where she works, she eating Sunday soul food dinners at her father’s (Mykelti Williamson) house. Rebel also finds time to kick it with her bestie Cheena (Angela Ko), and pester her little brother Malik (Mikelen Walker); a musician who seems torn between his work at a conservatory and the respect he garners from the streets. Despite all of this, Rebel’s life is far from perfect, she has flashbacks of her harrowing time serving in the army, and she’s got a twisted relationship with her partner, Mack (Brandon Quinn), who seems to want way more than the casual intimacy she throws his way. Unfortunately, Rebel’s world crumbles when Malik is gunned down by her brothers in blue. Things are further complicated because Rebel shoots Mack in an attempt to save Malik’s life.
Though Rebel opens with a jolt, it quiets, letting the audience become accustomed to the vivacious woman and her devil-may-care attitude. However, after Malik is murdered, it’s as if an adrenaline needle gets thrust into the series, and we take off running. As she tries to fight the pain and the overwhelming loss of her kid brother, Rebel struggles with her PTSD, the media, and the police department who is determined to let her fall on the sword for their indiscretions. In the midst of her downward spiral, a friend in need reaches out to Rebel, and she finds herself captivated with a new way to protect and serve.
Like a modern day female Shaft draped in exquisite clothing, Truitt’s Rebel is the sensational foundation on which this entire series sits. Bold, brash and unapologetic, she wields her weapons and badge like white men in power have done for centuries. Petite and powerful, Truitt’s presence immediately commands attention when she steps into a room. She’s a human tornado determined to seek revenge for her brother’s massacre no matter the cost. Her resolve puts a strain on her relationship with her mentor, Lieutenant Charles Gold (Giancarlo Esposito) who continually tries to get her to see reason.
Still, despite her badass moves and vicious tongue, BET and Singleton do something significantly empowering for Rebel. With her ever-changing natural hairstyles, sultry walk and fiery sex life; she always holds on to her femininity. Black women in gritty roles have often been stripped of their womanliness in the media and entertainment. However, as we see in her interactions with her ex-hubby, TJ (Cliff “Method Man” Smith), Rebel will not meet that same fate in this series.
A slow burn at first, Rebel sets itself ablaze as we watch the woman at the center confront the things that ail her. She transforms herself into a lone wolf to tear down the cops who stole her brother’s life, and to help the people of Oakland, California who are floundering against a system that is riddled with atrocities and misconduct. Rebel is a show about having the courage to put your personal needs to the forefront (particularly for Black women), and the willingness to do whatever it takes to seek the justice that you deserve. After all, as Rebel says, “a badge doesn’t give you a murder pass.”
Rebel premieres on BET March 28th at 9 PM ET.