The old man is named after a Greek king of Egypt, father of Cleopatra, but none of his neighbors take him seriously. He worked as a postal worker and ice cream truck driver, and suffers from dementia in which memory is lost in the form of nightmares and hallucinations. However, his name and personal journey contain a legacy that was destined for his people, black people, and is in danger: The last days of Ptolemy Graythe Apple TV + series based on a novel by Walter Mosley, thus stages a drama that takes the viewer from the present day to the heart of a long-running historical conflict.
Ptolemy Grey, an enormous interpretation of Samuel L. Jackson, lives in a house full of junk, dirt and rubbish, a labyrinth from which he begins to emerge due to a call from the past: Coyote, the man who raised him as a child in the rural environment of Mississippi, urges him to fulfill the promise he made to use a treasure “to save all black people.” But the old man is in an accelerated deterioration in which he is unable to remember even the most immediate.
The treasure in question was stolen from a white man whose family grew rich for generations by exploiting black workers. It is about making a restitution, then, an act of reparation for death and suffering, because it also has a high price: the sacrifice of Coyote, lynched by the whites, and now that of Ptolemy himself, who undergoes treatment doctor in trial stage to recover the memory and fulfill the mandate of the past. In this step, the meeting with Robyn Barnet (played by Dominique Fishback), an orphaned teenager who comes from the street and from a home marked by prostitution and drugs, is decisive.
The search for the treasure and its redistribution is integrated with other plot lines: the story of Ptolemy and Sensia Howard, the woman he loved, and the investigation that he carries out in his own way for the murder of Reggie Lloyd, the great-nephew who loved him. cared. “In a world where people don’t care if we are born or die,” and particularly where the crime of a Negro is not a matter that the police care to clarify, Ptolemy thus proposes another act of reparation: “How could let people forget your name? What kind of man would he be if he didn’t recognize the injustice of his death?” he wonders as he pays tribute to Reggie before his family.
The last days of Ptolemy Gray It takes place in six chapters and premiered on the platform on March 11, coinciding with the reissue in Spanish of two novels by Easy Rawlins, Mosley’s black detective: The devil dressed in bluefirst installment of the saga, and dangerous blonde, the eleventh. An opportunity to explore the universe of a writer not yet recognized in its magnitude, at least in our language.
The chronology of the Easy Rawlins novels takes place so far between 1948 and 1969 and in the city of Los Angeles (where Mosley was born, in 1952, to a black father and a mother of Jewish origin). Unemployed and with a mortgage on her house, in The devil dressed in blue the protagonist begins as a detective with the search for a woman who disappeared from sight taking thirty thousand dollars and in whose pursuit through gambling dens, nightclubs and seedy bars crimes follow one another.
Mosley’s particularity within the crime genre is not so much in presenting characters and places from the black world, although he does so with remarkable and delightful detail regarding behaviors, values, and forms of sociability, but in the way these references sustain a critical perspective on American society. If the classic authors’ denunciation of capitalism became a stereotype that does not bother anyone, Mosley revives the tradition by focusing on racism and displaying it as a historical factor of exclusion and violence.
Rawlins is the narrator of his stories and his skeptical and scathing point of view is also projected on the community itself, in particular on blacks who are unknown as such and on poor whites who are unaware of their own marginalization. In The devil dressed in blue One of his companions appears, Raymond Alexander, alias Mouse, a childhood friend capable of killing anyone for money. His teacher is Saul Lynx, a Jewish detective who sees no conditions for the job because of his love of reading rather than fists. In later installments, Christmas Black, a Vietnam veteran and as such “a government-trained assassin,” is added, Mosley writes in dangerous blonde.
However, the Rawlins saga dispenses with the prototypes of the detective and his assistant. The character is in action in the larger environment of the black community; he not only disregards the police and justice, but he suffers from their persecution. “The only thing we have are friends”, reflects one of the characters in the denouement of The devil dressed in blue (made into a movie in 1995, directed by Carl Franklin and Denzel Washington as the detective).
The literary and cultural allusions are constant, not as a wink for the knowledgeable reader but as a shared reference for reflection. In dangerous blondeRawlins paraphrases the Phenomenology of the spirit of Hegel to define his own place in a passage of lyrical intonation: “The darkness was my negative freedom. While everyone else feared and avoided the night, I saw it as my release.” Ptolemy Grey, who otherwise occupies a house full of books, reads Theodore Dreiser and Patricia Highsmith in popular editions and a famous Carl Sagan quote (“There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on the beach, and they all come from the same place”) is beautifully redirected towards the intimate history of black people.
Rawlins had his first experiences of death on the front lines of World War II, a “white war” where he was a soldier in General Patton’s Army. From that stage he has the recurring ghosts of the men he killed and a character trait: a voice that speaks to him only in the worst moments “and he gives me the best advice I can receive.” Unfolding as a condition of lucidity.
The resource reappears in the story of Ptolemy Grey. The miniseries takes place between the present (in the city of Atlanta, March 2011), the second half of the 70s (when Ptolemy met Sensia Howard, his great love, an open relationship) and an indefinite past but associated with icons. of segregation and oppression of blacks: work in the cotton fields and the slave regime. Coyote comes from that time and reappears as a voice of warning, of advice, of alert, that Ptolemy listens to in moments of crisis.
It’s not the only significant crossover between the novels and the series. The paradox that “we are born dying”, which Coyote states in a key scene of the series, while sharing an afternoon of fishing with little Ptolemy, refers to a passage from dangerous blonde and it is a key in Mosley’s historical vision of blacks: death is a condition of life and of individual projection in the memory of the people. Past and present are visually associated in the dramatic peaks of the series, such as the lynching scene or the night fire that caused the death of a friend, a loss that prickles the protagonist’s conscience.
Through the saga Rawlins also builds his personal history. In dangerous blonde, a plot about drug trafficking that refers to the war in Asia, goes through a prolonged mourning due to the separation from his partner, Bonnie Shay. Presenting the human face of detectives is also commonplace in the genre, but Mosley skilfully and sensitively exploits the dramatic aspects of sentimental and family relationships.
The counterpoint between Rawlins and his daughter Feather can be associated with those of Ptolemy Gray and Robyn Barnet in terms of the emotional voltage and the rhythm that the dialogues give to the action. The characters played by Samuel L. Jackson (also an executive producer of the series) and Dominique Fishback are different and complementary: the energy of youth collides with the fragility of one who is with one foot in the grave, the roughness and the few fleas of the girl is cut off against the old man’s understanding of the petty pettiness of people who need help, he says, so they can escape those everyday traps. Through the differences both build a common element, decisive for what is at stake in history: the transmission of a legacy, that of which the treasure is finally an image.
The treasure that was hidden in a well dug by slaves is made up of gold coins: a Brasher doubloon (the first gold coin minted in the US after independence) and two copies of the Saint-Gaudens double eagle (produced between 1907 and 1933 ), in reality pieces held by millionaire collectors. The vein is reminiscent of the ancient treasures of pirates, but also because it was the product of the theft of black labor power, and at the same time evokes the open wounds left by slavery and discrimination.
“Family is the most important thing we have,” says Ptolemy. The claim that it could support values that reinforce oppression is the subject of sustained controversy. Ptolemy confronts relatives who steal his retirement money or want to send him to an asylum to keep his things, without giving too much importance to those quarrels and without redemption purposes; In the reverse of these relationships, he finds in Robyn, a stranger, the person with whom he can fulfill the promise made when he was a child and thus establish the strongest love bond of his life.
Mosley’s characters vindicate the speech of the street, the impure forms of popular culture and the education that is transmitted not so much from parents to children as from grandparents to grandchildren, from uncles to nephews or ultimately from elders to minors, since the family fabric is often torn apart by loss and death. In that sense, Coyote’s legacy also consists of the sentences and reflections that Ptolemy unravels at every step of his life. Sometimes loaded with a certain fatalism (you have to “let the river take its course”, keeping in mind that “we are all in that river”, and the river “knows exactly where it is going”), sometimes capable of condensing a wonderful lesson in an image (if we think of the absent and smile, the absent are somewhere), that knowledge is perhaps the most valuable thing it treasures.
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The miniseries with Samuel L. Jackson | “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey” can be seen on Apple TV +
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