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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Black-ish kids are growing the fuck up

Illustration for article titled The iBlack-ish/i kids are growing the fuck up
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A thorough and interesting family plot? Dre delicately walking the line between overreacting and moralizing? And a history lesson that’s meaningful without being heavy-handed? “One Angry Man” is Black-ish refocusing after a series of “special moment” episodes. It’s an improvement from last week’s episode that forced Bow and the kids to play second fiddle to Dre’s childhood gang. “One Angry Man” takes a look at Bow’s relationship with her children outside of her relationship with Dre or in relation to her career. The episode also lets Bow and Ruby play off each other in a way that feels new. “One Angry Man” strengthens the theme of family that’s been running concurrent to the show’s focus on politics. The transition from early episodes like “God” and “VIP” to the Johnson family’s current state has been seamless.

As Jack and Diane age out of their roles as the show’s “babies,” it’s necessary for the show to develop them as characters beyond “Diane is some sort of evil genius” and “Jack is cute, kind of dumb, and can dance.” In this episode, we get to see Jack and Diane grow through the eyes of Bow as they take advantage of her “you can swear in the house” rule. Seeing Diane calmly state, “it’s butthole, asshole” gave me the same reaction as Bow. While Jack took a second to figure out just what swearing is, even his eagerness to say “boobies” took me by surprise. We’ve seen these two characters grow and “One Angry Man” allows them to put their newfound maturity on full display.


The same is true for Junior and Zoey. While these two have taken on a lot of responsibilities this season, “One Angry Man” lets us know how grown these two kids really are. Zoey isn’t just getting internships, she’s shoplifting with friends. Junior is sneaking around behind his mom’s back to make out with his girlfriend (these episodes were aired out of order, by the way—we saw Megan break up with Junior in the Valentine’s Day episode). Still, it is jarring to see Junior with lipstick smeared across his face and Zoey gleefully discuss theft. It also opens the door for some exciting future hijinks and I hope we get to see these two interact with the world outside of the household more.

This episode also does wonders for Ruby and Bow’s relationship. Ruby and Bow will never have a loving relationship, but the past few episodes have felt fairly repetitive in terms of their hatred for each other. We get it, Ruby thinks Bow is ugly and dumb. Bow can’t wait for Ruby to die. But here, we actually see them work together to get the kids to open up to them. While there’s still antagonism between them, it’s nice to see them actually bond over the shared horror of Jack’s profanity-laden boobie line. Even though they decide it’s for the best to stop the experiment, they do realize the kids actually respect them and all teenagers deserve some privacy. Also, Diane is in a fight club. It feels like the show is letting the connection between Ruby and Bow happen organically, and I think this will pay off. I’m sure Bow’s eventual birth will result in some beautiful moments between the two.

Finally, there’s this week’s history lesson. I thought it was a great twist to have Junior dole out this knowledge at the top of the episode instead of Dre. The show was smart to play off Junior’s enthusiasm as another fad inspired by documentaries. While Dre often feels preachy when he shares similar messages, Junior’s knowledge feels more accessible. It’s great that the show doubles down on this by having Dre repeat Junior’s facts to his peers and it’s met with groans. While we do get a typical office scene this episode, it’s also nice to see Dre’s boss make fun of the show’s repeated use of history lessons to drive home a point. Black-ish does cover important topics (and the judicial system’s history of racism is definitely important), but it’s not necessary for all of these topics to be addressed with sadness or a serious tone. Dre’s monologues don’t constantly require tears or white guilt as a response; they often work best when someone sighs and says, “here we go again.”

Stray observations

  • Who do you think lied on their employment application? (It’s Charlie, we know it’s Charlie)
  • I love that the jurors were willing to listen when a white woman believed the defendant was innocent. That is a very real thing. Dre is dismissed because everyone thinks he’s just doing it for black solidarity, but a white woman is believed to have actual good intentions.
  • “I wish I could kill you, but that would just send some other poor bastard to jury duty.”
  • I love when Black-ish plays in the realm of absurdity, and having Ruby read Church Hat Magazine was a wonderful touch.
  • “Let the kid watch one more Scandal”—I don’t know, honestly, that might be a punishment at this point.
  • I’d love to see this episode with all of the swear words unbleeped. Particularly the scenes with Jack and Diane.
  • I’m going to start punching high fives away when I’m angry.

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