For an episode that opens with something as dramatic as the news that one of Dre’s childhood friends died, it was a fairly light and average episode of BLACK-ISH. Dre’s pal Tony died, so he attends the funeral in Compton, reuniting with his childhood crew. Last week’s episode excelled because it found a way to include every member of the Johnson family. This week, Dre’s off in his own world, Junior pops in and out of scenes as he tests out his peer counseling skills, and the other members of the family participate in a slight subplot about Bow’s insecurities over her mom skills.
It’s a bit scattered, but the most frustrating thing about this episode is that it squanders a very talented group of guest actors. Dre’s friends are played by the very funny comedians Faizon Love (Sha), Affion Crockett (T-Will), Chris Spencer (Ronnie) and Ron Funches (Ladarius). They’re all hilarious, but they aren’t given much to do this episode. Instead, Dre takes the passing of his childhood friend and makes it all about him, deciding to be the Kevin Garnett of his group and change their lives by sharing his good fortune with them. It’s typical Dre, but why go through the trouble of assembling such a funny group of people if you aren’t planning on giving them any jokes?
Of course, Dre’s descent from simply wanting to hang with his old crew to haranguing them for not showing the proper amount of appreciation for his generosity is partially brought on by bad advice from his co-workers. The Stevens & Lido crew is mysteriously missing both Melissa and Lucy this week, so I have really no idea what’s going on with the female co-workers/evaluations/lawsuit, but the men encourage Dre to use his wealth to save his friends from the hood. Josh and Mr. Stevens can’t imagine anyone ever wanting to live in Compton—Josh went to a concert at the Forum in Inglewood once and cancelled all his credit cards. Charlie is the MVP of Dre’s co-workers once again, with the show committing to the joke that no one knows how old he really is by having him reminisce on his high school graduation, fifty years ago.
Meanwhile, Bow is insulted that Zoey asked Ruby to bake her a pie for her bake sale rather than come to her. Zoey tells Bow that she’s too busy with her career to focus on things like baking, ironing, or cooking— “Can women have it all? You’re answering. No, they can’t.” Bow decides to prove her wrong by making Diane a costume for Carbohydrate Day at her school, but her take on the baked potato is so bad the kids at school call her “Poo-tato”. Zoey tells Bow that she’s a good mom and she shouldn’t sweat the small things. It’s a sweet message, but we’ve seen Bow’s insecurities about her parenting skills before, most notably in the episode with Gigi, so this whole subplot felt like a bit of a retread.
Dre begins giving away his things to his friends. He gets Ladarius a job as a receptionist and moves in his grandma to his house, as she’s still living in Compton. Things come to a head when Dre gets annoyed that his friends toast Tony instead of him while they’re out to eat. He makes a scene and they leave, later showing up at his house to tell him that they just want to hang out, they don’t want to be saved by him. His grandma asks to go home too. Her house may not be in the nicest neighborhood, but her friends are nearby, she knows all her channels and she’s right by the ATM where her money is at.
Junior, practicing his psychology skills, remarks that Dre has survivor’s remorse. His childhood wasn’t great—we learn in the opening that he saw his first dead body when he was 12—and he’s the only one of his friends to move out of the neighborhood. It’s an interesting idea and one that probably no other show but Black-ish could explore. If only the episode were a bit more focused.
Season 3, Episode 15 (S03E15)
Black-ish airs Wednesdays at 930PM on ABC
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor