Airtime: Wednesdays at 930PM on ABC
Episode: Season 2, Episode 16 (S02E16)
Tweetable Takeaway: .@black_ishABC has never been better than in this powerhouse episode tackling police brutality. Tweet
Expectations were high going into tonight’s episode of BLACK-ISH. The show has consistently addressed heavy issues with a mixture of humor and heart. It was inevitable that the writers would address police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, and they did not disappoint. It sounds hyperbolic, but this episode should be essential viewing for everyone in America.
Over a montage set to Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues”, Dre explains that the experiences, conversations and images we see have an effect on us. A young Dre watches the 1980s Miami riots, but Pops tells him to turn the TV off when he asks questions. Dre can’t do this with his own children, as the 24-hour news cycle and the Internet makes it impossible to shelter them.
The entire Johnson family watches the news. They are waiting for the results of a grand jury determining whether or not a police officer who tased an unarmed black man 37 times will be indicted. Zoe tries to recall the victim’s name, but in a moment that was all too relatable and heart-breaking, she guesses several other tragedies first.
“Hope” is essentially a bottle episode that takes place in the Johnson’s living room/kitchen. Bow sends the twins to choose take-out menus in the kitchen, but they want to know what it is going on. Dre wants to tell them the truth, because they need to know the dangers of the world they live in as black children. Bow wants to maintain their innocence.
Pops and Junior discuss the details of the case, with Pops getting most of them wrong. The victim, McQuillan did have a gun, but it wasn’t loaded and in the trunk. He was driving 90 mph and he is 17. However, Pops argues that the details don’t really matter. It is the same story told a different way. Junior paraphrases Ta-Nehisi Coates: the violence and police brutality aren’t new, but the cameras are. Dre is annoyed that Junior is getting his wisdom from a book and not him, but Pops point out that he did the same thing with Malcom X’s autobiography.
Jack and Diane overhear Dre say that kids are dying in the streets. Bow wants to wait to see if justice is served before discussing the case with the kids. She still has faith that the system will work. Bow tries to explain that the twins that the cops did something bad, but it doesn’t happen often and when it does, the police are punished. Of course, that doesn’t happen. A decision has been made and the police officer will not be indicted.
Diane finds a statistic that 25% of police shootings in LA County from 2010 to 2014 were of unarmed suspects. Bow tries to play devil’s advocate. She’s anti-police brutality, but not anti-police, leading Dre hilariously asks her “Bow, why must you always advocate for the devil? Satan does not need help with his legal team.” Pops says the only people he’s afraid of are police and thugs. Dre says he’s still terrified of the police, but Bow points out that he calls the ones in his neighborhood regularly. He has a sneaker collection to protect.
Reports of protests turned violent, with small fires and looting in Los Angeles, are on the news. Ruby cancels the family’s Chipotle order and brings government cheese and white rice, as well as bags of “riot cash” (silver nickels and gold charm bracelets from past lovers). Junior wants to go the protest, but Dre won’t let him. In two more all too real moments, the police officer’s lawyer reminds everyone that Mr. McQuillan was “no angel”, prompting Ruby to tell the twins that there are only seven words they can use with the police: “Yes sir. No sir. Thank you, sir.”
Bow agrees. She tells them to “make sure you live to fight your case in court.” Dre counters with the fact that even if they cooperate, they still could die. He then goes into a powerhouse monologue about the hope black people felt when Obama was elected, but how terrified they were when they saw him exit the limo after the inauguration, certain that someone would shoot him and snatch away their hope, like they always do. Anthony Anderson has never been better.
Ruby makes white rice for everyone. Junior asks Zoey to cover for him so he can join the protests. Zoey starts crying. She may have been texting, but she cares and doesn’t want him to get hurt. She’s confused. This is her generation and these are kids her age. No one knows what the answer is. She feels hopeless. Diane and Jack tell her not to give up. The whole family decides to go the protest together, leaving Ruby to hold down the fort with the twins. In a callback to the 1992 LA riots, she spray-paints “Black Owned” on their garage door.
“Hope” was an honest, poignant episode of television. Black-ish didn’t away from naming names and discussing real cases. Tamir Rice, Eric Gardner, Freddy Grant, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and more were referenced. And for all the harsh realities and sad truths addressed, there was a sense of hope, positivity, and the power of family. This is the episode Black-ish has been building to, and they knocked it out of the park.
Jennifer Trofa lives for two things: spreading the “Superstore” gospel and themed “Law & Order: SVU” marathons on USA.
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor