When the Surviving R. Kelly documentary series aired in early 2019 it became one of the most-viewed programs in the history of the Lifetime network. More importantly, it also contributed to R. Kelly's arrest– after three decades of accusations of sexually abusing minors.
One year later, Kelly is behind bars and the Emmy-nominated docuseries returns with The Reckoning; a five-part sequel which began last night. The followup explores the fallout from the original series and investigates new discoveries surrounding Kelly’s abuse. It also focuses on the repercussion and trauma faced by the survivors and participants.
Despite the success of the first series, the creators had reservations about working on the next installment. They told the Hollywood Reporter "We were all pretty nervous about what had just occurred and how much impact the doc had had, and the conversation around it. We didn’t want to jeopardize it."
Nevertheless, critics have praised the sequel for its steadfast focus on the survivors and the extreme consequences of their decision to speak out. This, at times, makes the series difficult to watch, but ultimately even more important than the first.
Check out a selection of reviews below.
It focuses on the survivors
“Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning,” airing over three nights this January, explores the surprising aftermath of the series, which included threats and online attacks aimed at many of the survivors who spoke out.
The New York Times
The new series also spends more time with accusers who appeared in the original series, who describe what has happened to them since. One woman says that Mr. Kelly’s associates threatened to release a compromising video of her with Mr. Kelly and that she had a seizure from the stress.
The show interviews women who spoke out about being abused by Kelly and the extreme consequences of speaking out, even as Kelly supporters claim they’re just doing so for fame and attention.
The first had 54 interviews; the follow-up has almost 70. “It’s not really about R. Kelly. It’s about sexual violence against women in general and how we change that dialogue.”
It goes even deeper
Part II portrays Kelly as an omnidirectional creep: accused of many disparate offenses that are united by a disregard for the humanity of those who he considers to be his playthings... But the larger point is about systems and culture. The first episode, the one featuring Perryman-Dunn and Emrich, might even strike some as strangely sympathetic to Kelly as it details the sexual abuse he himself suffered in childhood. It does so not to exculpate him but rather to show how sexual assault is a problem capable of multiplying itself over generations.
Part II simultaneously gave the audience a glimpse of the singer's childhood and a history of abuse that might have played a significant role in turning R. Kelly into a potential pedophile.
In the big picture, this follow-up docu-series underscores the role its predecessor played in bringing about Kelly's arrest, one of the signature moments of the shifting attitudes reflected by the #MeToo movement.
Don't look away
The second season of the harrowing docuseries may be even more important than the first.
Los Angeles Times
Is it hard to watch? Absolutely. But it’s also riveting and cathartic, especially since Kelly is being prosecuted. “Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning” continues to press for justice and give voice to credible accusers and witnesses. As for Kelly? 2020, though just days old, is not shaping up to be his year.
Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning airs January 2-4 on Lifetime.