Television suffered some tremendous losses last year, with new seasons of Nathan For You and Who Is America? permanently crossed off of any upcoming lineups. In ways that no one else can capture, both shows were known for breaking new ground, pushing social boundaries as far as they could go. While ending a show with the foresight that it has reached its peak is admirable of both series creators, I still couldn’t help but be concerned with one thought: who is going to fill this Nathan Fielder-shaped hole in my heart now?
Since the end of these shows, only one person has risen to the occasion. Not the person I expected, but in hindsight, it makes sense. This may be the only person on earth capable of uniting a Black Lives Matter activist, a white nationalist and Juggalo with the purpose of forming a musical supergroup. The only person who would even think of it, at least — and certainly the only person who would push them up on stage to meet a room of confused concert-goers wondering where Run the Jewels is.
This person is Michael Render, better known as Killer Mike — a rapper, an activist, an agent of anarchy. On January 18, Netflix premiered Trigger Warning with Killer Mike. The premise is simple: Mike links social taboos with his own absurd thoughts and presents them to the public, then basks in the chaos that ensues.
The series is only six episodes long, each clocking in at a little under 30 minutes. What seems like a plus for those who like quick, day —long binges will become a hindrance to the series once the finale’s credits roll. Trigger Warning is the type of show you could sit back and watch for hours on end.
Conceptually, Trigger Warning is a step above the aforementioned shows in its unique fusion of absurdist comedy and educational value. It’s even brought up in the second episode, in which Mike suggests the only way to keep people interested in learning is to teach through entertainment — a genius idea that’s only realized once it dawns on you that you put Trigger Warning on to laugh and wound up taking a masterclass on critical thinking.
Trigger Warning’s premiere follows Mike on a three-day journey to only spend money if it’s spent supporting a black-owned business. Mike trudging around the streets and complaining to El-P serves up enough jokes to keep viewers glued to the screen. But then it hits: they’ve just watched a Grammy award-winning artist worth millions struggle to find food, transportation and a place to sleep at night, left to the mercy of the elements as he gives up and sleeps on a park bench. This show is an exercise in showing, not telling – Mike brings all the heat he does at political rallies and in his lyrics, but this time with evidence to back it up that’s readily available on Netflix.
Still, somehow, a heartwarming quality to this show persists — Mike’s messages of questioning authority and challenging the status quo seem to be done with the hope of bringing people together.
Representative of this is the ambitious final episode, in which Mike brings together as many participants of prior episodes as he can with the intent of founding a new country. Sure, it sounds wildly unreasonable, but a few episodes ago we saw Mike successfully create his own religion, so building a new country from the ground up seems like natural progression. Packaging together every topic he touched upon in Trigger Warning’s first season and tying a ribbon on it, this finale was the perfect way to conclude the series. It only brings forward one issue: if Trigger Warning does not suffer the same fate as its predecessors, what comes next is called into question. In only six episodes, it feels like Killer Mike already managed to do it all.
Yet, this series still has me wrestling with ideas I had never once thought of before; radical thoughts that no one else has ever brought to light on the large scale Mike did. He’s already pulled out countless surprises in Trigger Warning’s first season — I look forward to seeing many more.