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The biggest criticism Black-ish faces is that it’s too political. Unfamiliar viewers will watch episodes like “Being Bow-racial” or “Lemons” and assume the show is just week after week of high-stakes discussions on race, culture, and oppression. Yes, Black-ish can be political, but it has to be. It is impossible to exist in this country as a black person and not have your every move, thought, or action politicized. From the way we wear our hair to the music we listen to, the black experience in America is inherently political and Black-ish would suffer if it didn’t analyze that reality. But Black-ish has also become one of the best sitcoms on TV by matching every moment of heightened racial reality with moments of touching sincerity and familial love.

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“Sister, Sister” and “All Groan Up” are two episodes that present the best aspects of Black-ish as a pure family sitcom. Neither episode features the typical Dre historical monologue. Instead, the themes of both episodes look squarely at the Johnson family and how they’ve grown over these three seasons. “Sister, Sister” takes an interesting approach by mostly focusing on Bow’s family. Bow’s sister, Santa Monica (played by the amazing Rashida Jones), visits this week and helps expand our understanding of the weirdo household Bow grew up in. Johan is also back in the picture this week, which really just points to how jarring it’s been to have episodes air out of order this season.

Much like the Johnson kids, Bow, Santa Monica, and Johan are unique individuals. While Bow may have been given the craziest name out of her siblings, she’s chosen the most traditional path. Santa Monica has chosen the fame of reality TV and Johan… was in France or something? While “Sister, Sister” wants to draw a parallel between Bow’s siblings and her children’s relationship, it falls flat simply because we don’t know these characters well enough.

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While it makes sense that Bow’s family would be around as her due date approaches, her sister and mom don’t even mention the pregnancy. Sadly, Rashida Jones really isn’t given much to do except tweet and snapchat. The episode tries to shoehorn in a personality when Bow’s mom mentions that Santa Monica goes to physical therapy with her every week and calls her dad every day, but it’s too little too late. Perhaps we’ll see Bow’s family fleshed out in upcoming episodes, but the taste we get in “Sister, Sister” makes me wish the show gave them more of the spotlight earlier this season.

“All Groan Up” makes up for the shortcomings in “Sister, Sister.” At this point, we’re just waiting for Bow’s never-ending pregnancy to be over. So, it makes sense that this episode takes a closer look at the Johnson’s family dynamics. Black-ish is accepting that a major shift is on the way as the season comes to a close and Zoey’s spin-off comes closer to reality. While Zoey’s departure and a baby feel like a possible reset for the show, “All Groan Up” gives me faith in Junior, Jack, and Diane’s ability to hold down the fort.

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“All Groan Up” uses a semi-clip-show format to demonstrate that the remaining Johnson kids are more than capable of existing outside of Zoey, Bow, and Dre’s storylines. It was jarring to see how much Marcus Scribner has grown since the show premiered. Of course, seeing Junior make out on the porch would’ve had more impact if Megan hadn’t disappeared these past few weeks, but Bow’s reaction got the point across. I’m excited to see Junior grow into the space left by Zoey’s departure, and Scribner can definitely carry the character into new plots and storylines with ease.

While Jack and Diane have had the weakest storylines this season, a lot of work has been done this season to build them as characters. I would absolutely watch an entire episode of Diane recreating Sex And The City moments. Marsai Martin and Miles Brown brought a new level of maturity to their performances this week, but still held on to the innocence that makes their characters so wonderful. It was moving to watch them realize Zoey going to college meant she wouldn’t be there for them anymore.

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Black-ish has truly worn its heart on its sleeve this season. Characters have explored their deepest insecurities while taking on some of the show’s most ambitious political topics. Season three has seen some of the show’s best moments, and it’ll be exciting to see how they stick the landing as the finale approaches.

Stray observations

  • I loved the clips of Zoey’s relationship with Dre versus Bow. Dre and Zoey have always been great together.
  • I wish Charlie had more to do this episode. It was great to see him give suggestions on the slideshow, but I need my Charlie/Diane rivalry back.
  • “But Jack is so small. The other one? He hasn’t been born yet. Junior? I’d rather take up reading.” I loved Dre and his coworkers forgetting about Junior entirely.
  • I’m pretty sure all black moms overuse the black prayer hands emoji, and I love it.
  • That Dre and Jack sneezing scene was disgusting.
  • “Deep-fried racism” versus “ocean breeze racism”
  • Can someone make a fansite with all of Dre’s slideshows? Please?

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