‘Queenie’ Review: Hulu Show Captures The Epic Highs and Lows of Life In Your Twenties

The show makes for a good enough successor to the likes of 'Fleabag' and 'Insecure.'

Dionne Brown as Queenie in Queenie. Latoya Okuneye/Lionsgate

In this post-Girls era of television, mid-20s-to-mid-30s women and their dramedies have really gained a foothold in the TV landscape, and Queenie nestles in quite nicely among these series. With a mildly unlikable female protagonist, plenty of prescient observations about sex and relationships and a hearty sense of doom courtesy of a quarter-life crisis, the show makes for a good enough successor to the likes of Fleabag and Insecure.

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Based on the book of the same name by Candice Carty-Williams (who also did plenty behind the camera to adapt her work for the screen), Queenie follows 25-year-old Queenie Jenkins (Dionne Brown) in the wake of some major life changes: the lifelong Londoner has had a miscarriage, her long-term boyfriend has broken up with her and her social media job at a shallow online newspaper is looking like a dead end. She’s also holding on to the unresolved trauma of being abandoned by her mum when she was young, which has spawned a slew of rejection issues that she’s not quite ready to face. Queenie’s life isn’t all bad, though, thanks to her supportive extended family and friends who are more than willing to help pull her up out of her downward spiral.

Queenie’s internal monologue props up much of the story, serving as one way in which the show points out how Black women (especially those in immigrant families) are expected to hold everything in. It’s a mixed bag of a device; while Brown matches her voiceover and her on-screen performance to make a fully realized—and fairly messy—young adult, it still occasionally comes off as stilted and unnecessary. Sure Queenie has some good zingers in her head, but the voiceover overshadows a few of the more emotional beats. Queenie is very clearly an adaptation of a novel in these moments, choosing wordiness over a more effective subtext on screen.

What Queenie does succeed at is building out the multilayered life of a modern woman in her mid-20s, with special attention on its titular character’s Blackness. Queenie’s the face of some of her company’s DEI efforts but gets condescended to by the girlboss CEO (Sally Phillips). She’s expected to put up with a boyfriend’s grandmother predicting what color their children would be. Her friends range from a micromanaging university mate who claims to know what’s best (Elisha Applebaum) to a lifelong friend who always has shockingly good advice courtesy of TikTok (Bellah), while the less said about her iffy and icky hook-ups, the better.

Bellah and Dionne Brown in Queenie. Latoya Okuneye/Lionsgate

Queenie comes across as a remarkably self-aware character, and therein lies her problem (and one of the series’ greatest strengths): once you know what your issues are, where do you go from there? In an age of endless therapy speak on social media, it’s easy to be able to acknowledge and promptly compartmentalize any mental and emotional concerns. Queenie will freely admit that her abandonment issues are likely the reason for her pursuit of casual, meaningless and occasionally harmful sex, but she won’t dig deeper into it. Her trauma justifies her actions, good and bad, and that’s just how it is. It’s an attitude that’s becoming increasingly common, and the way that the show tackles it is refreshing. Though the series revolves around Queenie, she’s far from the only one with problems—she may just be the only one languishing in them quite so much.

Things do get uneven as more of Queenie’s backstory is revealed, with her mother having left her for her vaguely abusive boyfriend. Queenie gets a handful of murky flashbacks to these memories that trigger panic attacks, and though the weight of her family history is understood, the reality of it ends up muddled. Luckily, Queenie’s Jamaican immigrant grandmother (Llewella Gideon) and grandfather (Joseph Marcell) are always there to pick up the pieces of her broken family puzzle, giving two of the warmest, sweetest performances you’ll see on television this year.

On the whole, Queenie is a show that’s painfully relatable and enjoyably honest about life in your twenties in this day and age. While its more dramatic beats don’t always land, the series is anchored by a confident new leading lady in Dionne Brown. It may not be as revolutionary or successful as its predecessors in the quarter-life crisis dramedy genre, but it has a heartfelt and intelligent point of view about what it really means to grow up and grow into yourself.

‘Queenie’ premieres on Hulu on June 7th. 


‘Queenie’ Review: Hulu Show Captures The Epic Highs and Lows of Life In Your Twenties