Boots Riley Delivers Surreal, Heartfelt Hilarity in I’m a Virgo

Boots Riley Delivers Surreal, Heartfelt Hilarity in I’m a Virgo

First things first: Prime Video’s I’m a Virgo is essential viewing. It’s some of the best that’s come out of television this year. Sorry to Bother You filmmaker Boots Riley and Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai co-creator Tze Chun are among the talents behind this giant-sized, modern mythical coming-of-age tale.

I’m a Virgo is a fantastically franken-sci-fied fable that should catch the attention of genre fans and mass audiences alike for its sheer audacity. Emmy-winning actor Jharrel Jerome (When They See Us, Moonlight) stars as Cootie in creator Riley’s ambitious and empathetic tall tale about a tall guy who was born a giant among men. After being hidden away for most of his life, Cootie wants to be where the people are, even if the world, as his parents warn, doesn’t tend to greet Black men — let alone one that stands 3.96 m tall — with open arms. Insistent that they’re wrong, Cootie draws inspiration from his idol the Hero (The Righteous Gemstones’ Walton Goggins), who stars in a comic-book series inspired by his real-life crime fighting, and draws on heroic morality he’s sure will protect him.

With the help of new friends, Cootie ventures out to learn first-hand about his community and the world at large. I’m a Virgo follows his journey with his neighbourhood pals: the leader that befriends him first, Felix (On My Block’s Brett Grey); animation nerd Scat (Allius Barnes); and activist Jones (Kara Young). Cootie even gets to fall in love with a speedster-powered girl, Flora (Olivia Washington), in a meet-cute that’s bonkers and beautiful. The band of misfits just work together; I honestly recognised my own experiences in their slice of life adventures, even with their side of wacky whimsy, and the hard parts of growing up in marginalised communities.

It’s hard to not get emotional at I’m a Virgo’s depiction of the disenfranchised trying to survive in a situation where just one accidental wrong turn on a perfectly normal day could irrevocably change everyone’s lives. Riley and Chun masterfully weave a dreamlike world that processes the generational trauma and evolution of living in late-stage capitalism through the eyes of their protagonist, who can stand above to see how helping the community and being a part of a thriving society seem to be at odds. There’s animation, claymation, abstract settings, performance art, poetic verse, and superhero action at play. Goggin’s satirical “Hero” isn’t just played for scares like a Homelander type from The Boys, or laughs like some Rick and Morty comic-book universe parody; he’s his own perfectly distilled Boots Riley creation — like, what would a Batman-esque buffoon really be? — done expertly by a gifted character actor committing deftly to the bit, and being funny yet real.

I’m a Virgo runs a full gamut of feelings, you’ll laugh so hard you’ll feel like you’re dying and it will break your heart into confetti. The ensemble is endearing and empowering, and the show explores themes that are very timely regarding the state of every industry needing to pay workers living wages. While I hope there’s room for season two, it feels like this seven-episode odyssey is an utter standalone miracle of media. I wish I could Eternal Sunshine seeing it out of my mind in order to watch it all over again.

I’m a Virgo is created, written, and executive produced by Boots Riley, who also directed all the episodes. Riley and Tze Chun are the series co-showrunners; Chun also executive produces, along with Michael Ellenberg and Lindsey, Rebecca Rivo, and Jharrel Jerome. I’m a Virgo premieres on Prime Video today, June 24.