She's Gotta Have It Review: Spike Lee's Netflix Series Is A Stunner

Nola Darling in her loving bed

Even the most casual TV viewer will know we're in the midst of a TV renaissance. Major film stars and director have recentlyhopped over to the small screen, with streaming services and premium networks creating a home for intriguing and original stories. And Netflix has once again hit it big when the prolific Spike Lee began developing his new series She's Gotta Have It. Adapted from his breakthrough film of the same name, Lee has brought his cast of colorful characters back with a modern feel, and the result is a sensory and emotional feast.

She's Gotta Have it was created by Spike Lee, who also directed all ten episodes of the season. Based off of Spike's Lee's 1986 film, Lee is once again playing with the interpersonal dynamics of the same characters. Both the film and new series follows artist Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise). Darling is a self described "sex-positive, polyamorous pansexual" who lives in Green Point, Brooklyn. Nola unapologetically and thoroughly enjoys her sex life, which is largely comprised of three competing male suitors. Each of these men give Nola something the others do not, and she feels no shame in openly seeing the trio-- while also being honest with them about her issues with monogamy. If these men can have multiple partners, why can't she?

While Nola's story is the main crux of the series, She's Gotta Have It also includes a strong supporting cast. Each of Nola's partners gets a fair amount of screen time, mostly because their dynamic with the protagonist is so different. Undoubtedly the most charming is Mars Blackmon, played by Hamilton alum Anthony Ramos (who plays a recurring character on Will and Grace's new season). Mars was played by Spike Lee himself in the original film, he represents the original history of Fort Green. Nola's other partners are the self-absorbed Greer (Cleo Anthony) and married businessman Jamie (Lyriq Bent). Nola's girl friends also get some screen time, in particular her friend Shemekka (Chyna Layne).

Nola and Mars

Nola is a complicated and layered character that is slowly peeled back throughout the season, and Spike Lee's use of narration is a plot device that helps flesh out she and the other characters. We're also shown her sessions with her therapist, allowing the audience to be privy to the character's history and thought process without using narration ad naseam. And while the audience is very much in Nola's POV for the majority of the episodes, she continues to surprise as the series continues on. For instance, her pansexuality isn't addressed for the first few episodes, up until she reconnects with a former female lover.

Like a typical Spike Lee joint, She's Gotta Have It is full of his signature style, politically charged plot, and use of creative devices to keep the audience on its toes. But it's all done through a far more millennial and modern scope than Lee's many significant film contributions. As important characters are introduced for the first time they're given a title card, complete with their own hashtag. And Nola's moments of narration are more like poems or spoken word than traditional monologues. She delivers these speeches about issues that women of color so often face. Topics of sexuality, assault, gender inequality, gentrification, and the black experience in America are all fleshed out through Nola's speeches, which often punctuate episodes.

The music of She's Gotta Have It is also a character of its own. In addition to lyrics often echoing the message of a scene, Spike Lee makes sure to give credit where credit is due. A song's conclusion during a scene will often prompt a title card, showing the album cover of the song. This is yet another example of Spike Lee's unique sensibility, and what makes the new series such a refreshing and fascinating show.

Nola and her girlfriends

She's Gotta Have It is being produced by Spike Lee and his wife Tonya Lewis Lee. It's perhaps the most feminist piece he's ever worked on, including the original film. The story is firmly planted in what it means to be a woman of color, specifically on the streets of New York. Nola is able to explain her thoughts on inequality and sex to both the men in her life and the audience, and does so in a way that just makes us fall more in love with the character.

She's Gotta Have It is just the latest in a line of fantastic Netflix original shows that revolve around people of color. The streaming service has already be applauded for shows like Dear White People (which has been renewed for a second season), Baz Luhrmann's The Get Down (which has not), and Aziz Ansari's Master of None (which seems to be on hiatus for the time being).

Overall, She's Gotta Have It has the performances, captivating story, and Spike Lee style that results in an utterly fascinating glimpse into its characters' minds. It's unclear if Lee is interesting in staying in the TV world, but if the season is well received enough, perhaps he'll be convinced to stick it out and produce another season.

She's Gotta Have It will release its ten episode season in its entirety on November 23, 2017. In the meantime, check out our cancellation list to see if your favorite show go the chop this year.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.