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Kiri: middle-class white privilege, no justice, no ending.


The four-part thriller series Kiri stars award winning BAFTA actress Sarah Lancashire as job loving social worker Miriam. Miriam is caught up in the abduction and murder of Kiri Arkindele, a black 9-year-old girl who is about to be adopted by a white middle-class family. As the investigation into Kiri’s murder endures, Kiri’s biological father (Nate Arkindele) is thrust into the limelight and charged for her murder. However, the truth is much more complicated as we learn that Kiri didn’t want to be adopted into a white family and this leads her soon-to-be adoptive father to cause Kiri’s death. Amongst the emotion and lies, Kiri creates the perfect backdrop for the exploration of white and economic privilege. But its ending was dreadful.

For me, Kiri powerfully touched on white privilege throughout the series. The most striking example is the acceptance of Alice’s blatant lie that she saw an old gold car outside her house when she had not. Alice described Kiri’s drug addict biological father’s car as she had followed Kiri and Miriam the day that Miriam dropped Kiri off at her grandparents and saw Nate Arkindele in his car. At least four people knew enough to prevent an innocent black man from going to jail: Miriam knew Alice followed her, Simon had worked out that his mother had lied in her statement and why she had done so (to protect Simon from suspicion), and Jim knew because he was the one who killed Kiri. However, no-one stepped forward. What’s more DI Mercer accepted Alice’s false statement without question. There were no witnesses to collaborate her story and yet her ‘evidence’ was enough to charge Nate with Kiri’s murder. Nate is adamant that he didn’t kill Kiri and even causes himself physical harm when DI Mercer forces the story of how he murdered Kiri, attempting to break him and confess to the murder. And all of this happens on the account of a string of false words coming from a white woman.

Kiri also perfectly captures the privilege of the middle class. Who loses their job and is struggling for money? Working class social worker Miriam, who is forced to take her mother out of care and bring her to her own home just so that she can get a carer’s allowance to make ends meet. Who is in jail because of Alice’s lie? Working class Nate Akindele. Who offers to give the defence lawyer his home to pay the fees? Working class Tobi Akindele. And who can continue their lives? It’s the middle-class Warner family. Simon is sent to a fancy private boarding school. Alice is sitting in her luxury Range Rover. While the final shot of the series ends with Jim at his dining table in his big detached house eating his lunch. Who murdered Kiri? Jim.

The final shot of Jim occurs moments after one of Nate in his cell. This uncomfortable juxtaposition shows how the middle classes can retreat into their money and how one venomous lie can land an innocent man in jail. This is strikingly similar to the close of The Great Gatsby where Daisy and Tom Buchanan retreat into the world of money after the deaths of Myrtle, Gatsby, and George Wilson, for which Daisy is responsible. The frank and raw discussions on race and economic privilege reflect the harsh reality of Britain’s justice system and how even in 2018 we are deceiving ourselves if we believe Britain really is the melting pot of multiculturalism and tolerance that we’re told to believe. Nearly 100 years on, nothing has really changed. There is still a lot of injustice.

Kiri had great potential, but ultimately faltered at the final episode. Did BAFTA-winning playwright Jack Thorne want a conclusion full of suspense or a cliff-hanger? I certainly don’t think he achieved a riveting ending if that’s what he was aiming for. The ending was more: ‘Oh. Is that it? Ok.’ and compromised a sensation of dullness. Compare the ending to that of Prisoners. The film’s conclusion leaves you clawing for information. You want to know whether Hugh Jackman’s character Keller Dover is found and whether he’s dead or alive. Every neuron in your body is firing, eager to know what happens. With Kiri, I’m not left feeling such powerful emotions, I just feel let down and disappointed.

Perhaps the ending was done to portray the continuation of white and economic privilege and the following injustice if no-one speaks out against it. An endless vicious circle of innocent people terrorised at the hands of the elite. But since it seemed Alice would break when she threw the photographs of Kiri or that Simon would potentially speak the truth after the credits finished, I’m not sure what Thorne was aiming for.

Kiri leaves me with more questions than it did after her heart-breaking murder and these questions are not so much about the topics of race or privilege. Instead, I question the inaccuracies of Kiri’s murderer. The first episode brings attention to Kiri’s long neck and the second episode does the same in that we are told there are strangulation marks on her neck. In the concluding episode, when Nate is interrogated, DI Vanessa Mercer accuses Nate of strangling Kiri but when Jim reveals the ‘accident’ of Kiri’s death to Simon, he says that she merely hit her head on a rock and there is no mention of strangling Kiri. Is this because Jim wanted to pass off the incident as an accident? I don’t know.

Also, I am left with questions regarding Simon’s relationship with his mother particularly after the disturbing and sinister scene where Simon enters the bathroom while his mother is naked in the shower. Simon begins bragging about his sex life, and proceeds to rip the towel off his mother after she conceals her dignity. What we see is some sort of distorted relationship especially after Simon says that this is not the first time he has seen his mother naked. I don’t know what the purpose of this is? Was Throne attempting to put the spotlight on Simon as being the murderer? Or is Simon just a really messed up kid because of his parent’s fractured relationship? Or is there something more behind Simon’s behaviour?

I don’t know. But what I do know is that what was such a powerful and brilliant script, faltered at the end. Ultimately, whatever writer Throne wanted, the conclusion of Kiri was underwhelming.