Saturday, March 23, 2024

Diarra from Detroit, on BET+

The good thing about dating in Detroit is any time someone ghosts you, you can just assume they were the victim of a violent crime and therefore not take it personally. Diarra Brickland’s friends assume she is kidding herself in that manner. Yet, as she starts looking for her non-responsive Tinder hookup, she uncovers evidence of some kind of foul play in creator-star Diarra Kirkpatrick’s Diarra from Detroit, which is now streaming on BET+.

Brickland is going through a rough patch. Due to her contentious divorce to the wealthy, snappy-dressing “Swa” (François), Brickland had to move back to her old, working-class neighborhood. Conveniently, she discovers the burglar she walks in on happens to be a childhood friend. Despite his criminal activity, he will take a lot of grief from Brickland, as will the rest of her long-suffering friends and co-workers.

They will all really give everyone an earful when Chris ghosts her. He was supposed to be a no-stress distraction from Swa, but Brickland thought they really clicked. That is why she is so hurt and confused when he bails on their second date. Believing she is owed an explanation, Brickland starts snooping around Chris’s apartment. What she stumbles across piques her suspicions, including a Russian thug, whom she meets under very unusual circumstances. Soon, she starts to believe Chris is actually Deonte Brooks Jr, who was notoriously abducted as a child in the 1990s and long-presumed dead, which would mean Brickland was ghosted by a ghost.

Admittedly, I am not the target demo for
Diarra from Detroit. There is a lot of sassy and often quite explicit talk about sex and relationships, very definitely coming from a black woman’s perspective. However, in the first three episodes (out of eight) provided for review, Kirkpatrick does a nice job balancing the ribald humor with a fairly sophisticated mystery. Kirkpatrick and company also fully explore the Detroit setting, both the good (the trendy hipster night scene) and the bad (like the crack house Brickland reluctantly visits).

The mysterious Russian turns out to be a surprisingly intriguing (and wildly sleazy) villain, played with great panache by Ilia Volok (who is really a Ukrainian American). Phylicia Rashad is also terrific as Vonda Brooks, Deonte’s mother, who has lived under a cloud of suspicion since her son’s disappearance. She and Volok really help elevate
Diarra from Detroit above garden-variety Lifetime originals.

Kirkpatrick consistently lands her wisecracks and she develops some snappy snarky banter with Claudia Logan, as Moni, another (more estranged) childhood friend who joins Brickland’s investigation, hoping to claim the reward money still on offer for information leading to Deonte Brooks’s whereabouts. However, some of Brickland’s cronies manage to be both loud and cliched (like those portrayed by DomiNque Perry and Bryan Terrell Clark).

Diarra from Detroit
maintains a nice pace and a distinct identity of its own. Maybe it lets Detroit’s political leadership off the hook for decades of poor policy and fiscal mismanagement, but the series is supposed be entertaining rather than spirit-crushingly depressing. Even if you do not totally identify with the title protag, the humor and the amateur gumshoeing are accessible and pretty grabby. Recommended for fans of women-centered thrillers, Diarra from Detroit just started streaming on BET+.