Since it’s first episode Blindspotting hasn’t been afraid to bring up tough, often controversial, conversations. It’s here to entertain us but the show is also here to make us think, to ask us the tough questions that audiences often seek to avoid in the content they consume. So it’s no surprise that Blindspotting did it’s best to cover the topic of what qualifies or disqualifies a brown skinned person as Black. Plus Ashley gets a much needed self care date in which she debates about telling Sean where Miles is. It’s a heavy episode but a much needed one.
One of the biggest issues in the Black community is the constant debate of whether or not someone is “Black enough” to be considered a Black person. It’s always a hot debate what circumstances and situations can either provide someone with a Black card or take their Black card away. Have you seen The Wiz? Do you know Who Let The Dogs Out? Why did Craig get high on Friday? How much sugar do you put in your Kool-Aid? Hot sauce, yes or no? The ways a persons Blackness can be tested is endless. And in episode six of Blindspotting, Mama Nancy tries to test Sean’s Blackness only to be disappointed in his answers and preferences. Which in turn sparks a huge debate between herself, Janelle, Earl and Trish.
Sean’s favorite movies include John Wick 1 & 2 along with Paddington and it’s sequel. Four movies that aren’t exactly ripe with Black people. This revelation appalls Nancy and when she asks Sean what color he is, his response of “honey brown” does even less to soothe her. He can’t even handle a single hot Cheeto. When she brings this to the attention of Janelle and Earl they both have very different view points on Sean and his Blackness. Janelle is firm in her stance that because Sean is mixed he’ll never really have the full Black experience. He may be Black but he is not the same kind of Black that dark skinned Janelle is. Earl, understands this, but he is against the idea that Blackness can be qualified by outside circumstances. Because he himself is dark like Janelle but he grew up in the “nice” part of Oakland, his parents love each other and are still together but yet Earl still ended up in jail on a drug charge. Does his upbringing take away his Black card only for his time in jail to return the card to him?
According to Trish, yes, that’s exactly how Blackness should work for Earl. Because at the end of the day he got his Black card back. To Trish, Blackness comes in all shades and it’s all valid but she very clearly understands that where you grow up, how you live your life and your environment factor into the way outside perspectives on Blackness are created. However where she’s coming from triggers Janelle, because all of her life she has been the dark skinned friend and rarely anything more. In school everyone clamored to hold Ashley’s attention because of how light she is and how much hair she has, though in the same breath that they praised Ashley they critiqued and put down Janelle. Colorism is a huge problem in the Black community and it’s often overlooked for more “important” issues, like what makes some Black. The same way everyone at the table comforted Janelle but went back to talking about the qualifications of Blackness instead of diving deeper into colorism and the way it affects the community as a whole.
By now though, Nancy probably slightly regrets even bringing the situation up because the debate at her dinner table is getting hotter and hotter while going nowhere. So she settles it by telling them that the conversation as a whole is Black privilege because she comes from a time where Black people didn’t have time to argue over what makes a person Black or not, they had bigger problems to solve and today there are bigger problems to solve. But that doesn’t mean the conversations on what makes some Black and what doesn’t should stop happening.
Meanwhile Ashley’s spiraling farther and farther into turmoil over how to tell Sean that Miles is in jail. So she takes herself on a date to a spot she frequently went to with Miles. Though in her head she’s not alone, the imaginary Miles is with her. He’s here to guide her and help her through this. Though that’s a bit hard because this isn’t the real Miles, every response or solution he gives Ashley can’t really be considered his because this version of him is coming from Ashley herself. A complex mess.
But talking to this Miles really does help Ashley think and come to conclusions on how to push forward. She’s known all along that it’s way past time to tell Sean his father is in jail. But just like she’s scared that Miles is starting to see her as disloyal, Ashley is also scared of bursting the innocent child bubble that surrounds Sean. No mother wants to be the reality crusher in their child’s world. But as imaginary Miles points out, it’s gotten to the point where Ashley is acting as if Miles is dead instead of just away for a while. And the longer she puts it off the harder Sean is going to take it. So Ashley puts on her game face and heads home to tell Sean what’s going on with his dad. After correcting his babysitters and letting them know that Sean has in fact seen The Wiz, that’s one part of his Blackness they don’t need to question, Ashley takes him home and the episode ends with an emotional close of her explaining to Sean that Miles is going to be in jail for five years. She even does her best to soften the blow by switching his bedtime story to one of the books Rainey bought earlier in the season. She might be weeks late, but at least now Ashley will be able to move forward and this unbearable weight isn’t pinning her down anymore.
To me, a big reason Blindspotting is so compelling is because of the chemistry between Ashley and Miles. They are in this together, forever. So much that Miles is all Ashley can ever think about. So much that, as it turns out, Miles is in jail for something that Ashley did. At least that’s what’s been insinuated, although Ashley’s non anger at Miles would make all the more sense now. It’s not so much of a plot twists but a reveal that I think many suspected, but that doesn’t make it any less relatable. They are after all whether whatever storm comes their way, even one that means five years of separation.
As much as I love Ashley and Miles, this episode belongs to the supporting characters. The conversation at Nancy’s dinner table easily toppled Ashley’s when to tell Sean struggle. It’s nice when the side and supporting characters have development and content that can exist outside of the protagonist. Not often that Black audiences are treated to open, honest and clear conversations about the inner workings of our community. Even in the new age of television, there are certain topics that many shows skirt around and absolutely avoid. Colorism and the qualifications of Blackness are two of the biggest ones. I’ve been waiting for Janelle to show any kind of resentment towards Ashley because of the way others treated the two of them as a collective. She mentioned it a bit before, in her smoke session with Earl but “Ghost Dad” is the first time we’re really getting to see how Janelle feels about it. Especially her comment about how Ashley’s hair could look however and was considered good but her combed and styled Afro puffs only got Janelle flack and peer pressure to flatiron them out. Tv is full of too many Ashley and Janelle like friendships, the lighter of the two is the center of attention while the darker skinned is regulated to the sassy best friend. Janelle as a character only edges out of that category because we’ve been shown that her world doesn’t revolve around whatever Ashley or Trish have going on. It’s a nice change and a much needed one, but I’m still hoping for even more Janelle.
Another thing I appreciated about this episode was the use of Trish in it. She is the textbook definition of a light skinned Black girl, but Trish seems to be aware of it. Where other shows simply take the easy route and make it seem like everyone hates on the light skins girls because they’re pretty, Blindspotting acknowledges Trish’s beauty but they also spotlight the fact she can be unhinged and mean and no one thinks it’s cute. Trish’s in-depth understanding of circumstances and environments having a direct relationship with how a person behaves makes her more of a relatable character. I had worried a bit at the beginning of the season that she would be nothing more than the wild, unnameable stripper sister in law; it’s great to been shown that couldn’t be farther from the case. Trish is wild, but she’s also intelligent. Even if she did get caught up on being likened to Doja Cat during the serious discussion of Blackness.
Also, we’re getting closer and closer to Janelle and Earl figuring out that they might like each other as more than friends. I find myself having a soft spot for this budding relationship because it seems so wholesome, something that’s being build out of genuine mutual like. Even if they don’t know or haven’t realized that they like each other yet. I’m especially here for a Black love romance that isn’t centered around any kind of trauma or abuse or hardship. Janelle and Earl are sweet, I hope that it’s something they can uphold if/when they do finally get together.
With only two episodes left, Blindspotting is pulling out all the stops and holding nothing back. I can’t help but cherish this episode because I don’t know when another show will come along and discuss these kind of topics this well. Blindspotting has managed to find the perfect blend of drama, comedy and musical theater. As great as the conversation on what qualifies Blackness was, it was equally appealing to watch the prison inmates interpretive dance around Ashley and Sean as she prepared herself to tell him. Whatever formula the creative team cooked up to make this show is, it’s something they should try to see if they can bottle and sell because shows don’t get much better than this.
Blindspotting airs Sunday nights on Starz