The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey
Based on the novel of the same name by Walter Mosley, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey follows the titular Ptolemy Grey (Samuel L Jackson), an elderly man with severe dementia who lives alone. His nephew, Reggie (Omar Benson Miller), takes care of him, but Ptolemy’s life changes when Reggie is shot dead. The nonagenarian is given a temporary new lease of life by the enigmatic Dr Rubin (Walton Goggins), who provides a treatment that allows him to regain all of his faculties with total recall of everything he has ever seen and known. The treatment only works for a month or so, and Ptolemy decides to use this time to try and solve his nephew’s murder and tie up loose ends, helped by newfound friend and caretaker Robyn (Dominique Fishback).
Mental illness is always a tricky subject, and the central premise of a character being instantly cured could ring some alarm bells, but the miniseries is just careful enough to avoid falling into common narrative pitfalls. The writing has a lot to say about disability, along with explorations of other social issues such as racism and the effects of capitalism, devoting much of its runtime exploring complex themes like the commodification of black bodies and the ways in which society as a whole treats its most vulnerable members. There are a lot of different moving parts for the story to tackle over six episodes, but it’s all intelligently paced, with each narrative element given the oxygen it needs.
While the social commentary is an important part of the show, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey doesn’t neglect its character work, taking the time to thoroughly explore its ensemble cast in several interesting ways. The development of Ptolemy and Robyn’s relationship takes centre-stage, with Jackson and Fishback helping to create a genuinely sweet dynamic with some excellent chemistry, but every character gets their turn in the spotlight, and the series is perfectly paced to facilitate all sorts of great character interactions, ranging from sweet to painful.
Overall, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is a fascinating slice of television, delivering compelling characters along with incisive commentary and tender emotion. With each of its episodes being around an hour, it does ask a lot of its audience, but for those willing to take the plunge there’s a lot to love here.
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is released on Apple TV+ on 11th March 2022.
Watch the trailer for The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey here: