black girl blogs · reviews · tv reviews

Blindspotting: Weddings Bells or Prison Alarms?

For the past eight weeks every Sunday night Blindspotting has plucked it audiences from our couches and invited us into a little slice of Oakland life. It’s been the most creative event of the summer with the way it seamlessly slips spoken word and interpretive dance scenes side by side with real life discussions of hardships and trauma. So it’s not surprising that the season finale is bursting wide open and pulling out every last stop it has to make one final point.

Miles is transferring in a week which means seeing him regularly is going to be tough. It also means the reality that he’s going to be gone for five years is going to hit again. So in an effort to find some way to bring them closer despite the concrete ocean between them, Ashley decides that they’re going to get married. In the visitation block with the safety glass between them and the guards watching their every move. It’s not much and it’s definitely not a dream like wedding but the whole family has agreed, even Trish plus it’s the best comfort Ashley can come up with for herself. She needs this. After a hectic morning of reminding Rainey to find her ID, reassuring that Trish is going to wear actual clothes and Sean running around in his Sunday best; the family sets off to surprise Miles.

Meanwhile Earl starts his first day of work but the trauma of his ankle monitor has a tight grip on him. Not to mention James, his P.O, is still dismissive of his anxiety and seems to only be by his phone when it means telling Earl what time to be home. But once Earl is about to calm his budding panic, via probably the prettiest interpretative dance scene of the season, he finds a state of calmness and freedom we haven’t seen from him before. Until he’s told that there’s another boat coming in he’ll have to help with, which will make him get home late. It all goes downhill from there.

Like many things lately in Ashley’s life, there’s always a hiccup or two. In this case there are several before she even makes it through the metal detector. Including Trish’s grill getting stuck in place, Rainey’s ID being expired so she has to run home to get her passport, longtime family friend “Uncle Rick” refusing to ordain the wedding once he learns that Miles hasn’t actually consented to it and Janelle dropping the bomb that in Bali she was married and a stepmom. It’s a lot, but once she and Miles are finally in front of each other nothing else matters. And he might be shocked and insistent that Ashley doesn’t have to marry him out of guilt but she’s not hearing any of that. She knows him well enough to know that he wants to get married just like her, so they’re going to do the damn thing. If nothing else, the bond and love that two of them share is genuine and pure.

But while everything works out in Ashley’s favor, Earl spirals into turmoil. He’s home late, the light on his monitor is red, it’s over for him. As quickly as his new start began, it’s all going to come crashing down because without a doubt the police are on their way to arrest him. He’s not even going to get to say goodbye. He does manage to leave behind a note for Janelle and the others because by the time they make it home the only thing left behind is his extension chord. And as police sirens ring in the distance Ashely let’s us in on a little secret: everything that’s been going on since the first episode has happened within the span of one month.

“Bride or Die” may not be my favorite episode of the season but it definitely does it’s job as a finale. With so many moments that evoke a variety of emotions it’s hard to decide which was a favorite of the best. From Trish’s laugh out loud perfect comedic timing to the warmth of Janelle’s reveal and the heartbreak of Earl’s unfair downfall, the episode is full to the brim with moments of masterpiece. Even the spoken word poems and dances feel like a step up from previous episodes, despite the past ones not lacking at all. A hard bar to raise that is somehow risen higher.

To me, the best thing about the season finale is the last second reveal that everything we’ve witnessed in the past eight episodes occurs over the time of just one month. Simply because it puts a new perspective on the entire series as a whole, and puts even more focus on how terrible the prison system is and the effect it has on those not even incarcerated. In four weeks life has been ruined, uplifted, ruined and uplifted again. It’s not an exaggeration that there’s something different every single day.

Although the episode is pretty evenly divided, it’s Earl’s half that really leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Sure it sucks that Ashley and Miles had to kiss through a thick sheet of glass and will have to coordinate their sex lives for the next five years but it’s Earl that truly bears the brunt of the chaotic day. It’s fitting that his character is surrounded by dancers and spoken word, because the trauma he’s experiencing isn’t something that can be plainly stated. It has to be felt, and by the end of the episode Earl’s situation and the after effects this will have on him lingers with you. He is by far the most developed and interesting character of the show.

With a cameo from Utkarsh Ambudkar who told the hilarious Scorpion Bowl story in the original movie as a prisoner with just a one letter difference from Miles, and a phone cameo from Collin himself; the finale is probably the most ambiguous of the episodes. It lays the groundwork for could be an explosive second season, especially if Collin allows himself to return home.

Hopefully a renewal is on the way for Blindspotting as it would be a huge missed opportunity if Starz didn’t.

-Danyi

black girl blogs · reviews · tv reviews

Blindspotting: Honey Brown Child

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

-Danyi

black girl blogs · reviews · tv reviews

Blindspotting: I Need To Smoke

Being a parent is hard. Being poor is hard. Life as an adult is hard. Existing is honestly hard. Certain circumstances and situations press down on each of us differently and our struggles take a variety of forms constantly. So when one has a chance for a break, even a small one, they usually take it. Ashley’s been on the constant go since the night Miles got locked up, with Sean at a sleepover for the night she’s given the perfect opportunity to take the night off and relax. And what a better way to relax than by getting high with your life partners mom?

After spending all day waiting to visit Miles only to be told that visitation is canceled Ashley plans to drown her frustrations in alcohol. But Rainey still wants to find more than just common ground between them, she wants to be close. And she wants to know why Ashley isn’t mad at Miles for the situation he’s put their family in. She has a point but Ashley isn’t ready to share, so Rainey suggests they smoke.

Meanwhile, next door, Earl is upset after learning that he has to get a job as part of a requirement of his probation and his PO stomped on the last of his weed. Janelle spent all day playing the speed dating game and realizing that the Oakland she left five years ago is not the Oakland she has returned to. After interrupting her recording session for a meditation app Janelle offers to help Earl find a job, or at least get his resume together. But after a few snips of snark from Nancy the motivational atmosphere is ruined and the only way to lighten the mood is to lit up. Which results in Janelle and Ashley pulling out an old system of safety pins and the clothes line between the houses to insure a successful session for both households.

Until the weed hits and things get a little real. With Ashley, the younger woman is shocked to learn that it was no secret to Rainey that she and Miles were smoked and “cuddling” as teens in her house all the time. The condoms in Miles room weren’t just magically appearing. Ashley is also surprised to learn that Rainey was just as high as they were, she was just better at hiding it. Plus she had Trish to look after. As Ashley starts to see Rainey in a new light, Janelle recaps the Blindspotting movie for Earl. He’s new, he doesn’t know about Collin pointing a gun at a cop. And he wants to know why Janelle has returned home after five years away but it’s still a sore spot for her and makes her close her up anytime it’s brought, effectively dampening the mood of their cook off. The building anticipation of why exactly she came home continues on. However, Earl has a background of his own, being the son of a chef who owns a super popular restaurant has left Earl with extensive knowledge on how to cook; but working the line under his dad as a teen ruined their relationship. So even though finding a job as a cook would probably be the easiest way to go, it’s not the path he wants right now. It’s complicated, just like most things in life.

While this episode is very laid back in terms of everything that’s been going on since the first, the character development is immaculate. Particularly that of Rainey and Earl, up until now they both have been backgrounds character. Simply there to further the storyline for Ashley or provide comedic relief . It’s great to get a bit of a deeper dive into Rainey, to see that she isn’t the stereotypical chill hippie mom she was made out to be and that she isn’t as naive as Ashley thinks. Rainey sees everything but she doesn’t push, she lets things come to light in their own time. So even though she knows something is off about Miles situation, she doesn’t push Ashley to tell her. Though this might be something she probably should press them about.

It’s also refreshing to see hints of Earl being more than just the one we look to for laughs. He is funny, in an easy and natural sort of way but it makes for a better character for him to have layers. Revealing that he’s a really great cook could lead to a lot of places for Earl, it gives us another perspective of him. His friendship with Janelle, and maybe possible romance, is pleasing to see too because anytime they’re on screen together they light the whole scene up.

Personally I really enjoy episodes like this one. When shows are character driven and give their characters chances to step back, it always makes for a better more cohesive shoe in the long run. Characters bonding over smoking a blunt together seems more intimate than character bonding over fast paced, heart racing events. It all flows better when characters are allowed to take a breather. Especially when the episode is layered with quiet development like this one, it’s fun to get to see the people audiences have grown attached to get their moments of pure normal. Which is what the fourth episode of Blindspotting presented to us, a chance for everyone to have a little bit of peace.

Blindspotting airs Sunday nights on Starz.

-Danyi

black girl blogs · reviews · tv reviews

Blindspotting: The Degrees of Discipline

Kids are tough. They’re small people that are more often than not misunderstood. Adults simplify children because it makes taking care of them easier, for the grown ups. In Blindspotting’s third episode “The Rule of Three”, Sean starts spiraling out of control because his father isn’t there to be the disciplinary. So it falls upon Ashley to take him in hand, only she finds herself deeply conflicted on how to do it the right way. Meanwhile it’s Trish’s turn for her day to put its foot on her neck and not ease up, and the more she fights back the worse it gets.

Anyone who cares for children for an extended period of time knows that when things suddenly and drastically change they can start to act out. Sean’s entire world has been flipped upside, so it was only a matter of time before his behavior became less than stellar. Especially since his dad isn’t there to physically snatch him up and he knows his mom isn’t going to. After ruining Ashley and Trish’s morning with swift kicks to the legs, Sean’s put in time at Nancy’s while Ashley tries to figure out what to do about him.

Of course everyone has advice for her, Rainey insists that if she plans it correctly she’ll only ever have to discipline Sean physically three times as he’s growing up. But Ashley hesitates at the physical part. Miles pretty much agrees with his mom, she needs to karate chop Sean back multiple times in different ways. And he even points out that Ashley has her own standing with violence, she used to beat bitches up. Yorkie and Rob offer a bit more toned down solution. A slap or two to the face, which Yorkie quickly explains can be considered a spanking of the face depending on how you look at it. Even Scotty, Ashley’s manager at the hotel, suggests simple pops to the back of Sean’s hand could be enough. But Ashley balks at them all, she doesn’t want to get physical with her baby. She doesn’t want to contribute to the possibility of him growing up to be violent, which she eloquently explains to us in the episodes spoken word break of the fourth wall. It puts her between a rock and a hard place.

Meanwhile, Trish’s day spirals in a different way. Determined to run her own strip club, she makes an appointment with the bank to apply for a loan. But the meeting doesn’t go the way she wants and Trish ends up losing her temper and getting kicked out. It doesn’t phase her until she heads to work where she’s surprised to find that the girls don’t take her side in the situation. They try to explain to Trish that most the time she’s on a level ten when she should be a on five, but she won’t hear it. The night turns worse when Trish is forced to go out on stage and dance despite the agreement she thought she had arranged with the owner. It’s a sobering moment for Trish, but she deals with it my throwing back alcohol; no one wants to be sober when life is shit.

Everything comes to a head when Ashley returns home that night to find that Trish took her work shoes without asking. Drunk and still seething about not getting the loan Trish pokes and prods at Ashley until the older woman snaps. Though she’s not the one who gets to Trish first, Rainey does and it just so happens that Sean is dropped off right as Grandma Rainey spanks Tia Trish’s face. And it strikes a bit of fear into him in the right way, which Ashley uses to her advantage to position herself as the parent Sean been a to listen to. At least while his dad is away.

As someone who cares for kids as a job, this episode was particularly interesting. How to discipline kids is always a heavily debated topic, because no two parents do it the same. And as society tries to constantly move forward in progressive ways, the act of hitting or spanking children is something that firmly divides people. And it’s divided on several different layers. Episode three attempts to unravel a few of those layers and mold itself a solution that works for the scenario. Sean isn’t bad kid, so what works for him might not work for other kids. Or could even just be a temporary fix. There’s the possibility that he could become a bad kid, once he learns that Ashley has been hiding the truth about Miles from him. But that bridge hasn’t been crossed yet.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the episode isn’t the tensions of what to do about Sean, it’s the little details of the other characters that reveal bigger plot points or deeper development of their character. For instance, we learned that Ashley comes from an abusive household, which is what makes her so firmly against physically disciplining Sean. She doesn’t want to repeat the cycle in anyway. We also saw another side of Trish, it was brief and nearly buried by her outburst at Ashley but earlier in the night it was there. After being shouted down by the owner of the strip club Trish had to get ready to go on stage and as she puts her makeup on we witness her break a little. There’s more to Trish than just the wildness and ratchet ways. Though it’s hard to feel sorry for her when it’s obvious she knows what she’s doing when she’s being a bitch. Which is super evident when after Rainey slaps her, Trish whines out the excuse that she’s drunk. As if that somehow makes her treatment of Ashley okay.

With each episode Blindspotting challenges what it means to be thought provoking television. It gives its characters different layers of personality instead of just sprinkling pieces and hoping something sticks. This is no more clearer than when it comes to Ashley and Trish. The show makes space for them both to exist and although they seem pitted against each other on a surface, it’s seems likely that could change soon. Especially since Ashley tried to apologize for her judgement of Trish’s clothes and attitude before the fight. She tried even though it got her nowhere. Which says a lot.

With each episode of Blindspotting I find myself loving it more and more. I was obsessed with the movie when it came out and now I find myself obsessing with the show. It’s an amazing when a show makes you feel like you can be as creative as you want and that’s what Blindspotting is doing. Giving us permission to present creations differently. Hopefully more TV shows will take after it.

Blindspotting airs Sunday nights on Starz

-Danyi

black girl blogs · reviews · tv reviews

Blindspotting: The Roughest Day Ever

With its glowing running start, Blindspotting aced the pilot episode and starts digging in deep right away in the second. As we find out that Miles is sentenced to five years in the opening scene, the events of Ashley’s day following give us an up close look at the particular way women have to be strong no matter what. While it is often thought that the prison system only really affects those incarcerated, in “Smashley Rose” the perspective of those closest is brought into the spotlight. From Rainey’s sidewalk breakdown to Ashley’s hotel meltdown and Trish’s enhanced meanness; we learn learn a little more about these characters and the real life struggles they’re dealing with.

To start, while everyone around her crumbles Ashley forces herself to stay strong. She can’t break down about her life partners sentencing when she has to go work and pretend to be fine. She has to keep her head on straight for Sean. However there is no solace behind the desk of one of the most expensive hotels where the rich flaunt their egos and after unwanted advances plus verbal racial abuse Ashley has her moment. It’s beautiful and poignant to watch as she laments about the unfairness of the way the rich get richer and the poor suffer for it while she destroys the hotel room of the racist guest. It’s a something she honestly deserves. But it’s probably not enough.

Meanwhile Rainey has her own version of a breakdown. Miles is her son after all, and he’s being taken from her for five years. It’s a lot. And Rainey’s solution, after a round of embarrassing vocalization meditation, seems to be turning attention to Sean and how to tell him. Something Ashley is firmly against, but Rainey won’t be deterred and makes a trip to the library to find books that will help. She’s trying her best to be supportive but so far comes off a little tone deaf and overwhelming. Between Ashley’s unwillingness to tell Sean where his dad is and Rainey’s unsure-ness when it comes to where race should be included in which topic, the day is mostly a bust for them both. “It was a rough day,” to quote Mama Rainey.

Despite not seeing much of her in this episode, Trish’s presence is still just as big as it was in the first one. She’s very upset about Miles’s sentencing and though she has comforting hugs for her mom, icy words and deathly glares are all she spares Ashley. Not only has her brother been taken away but now the possibility of Ashley staying with them for five years is very much the elephant in the room. And Trish is not happy about it at all. Though as Janelle points out at the end of the episode, she and Ashley used to be hella mean too.

A bright spot in the drama heavy episode was that of Earl, the neighbor renting the spare room in Nancy’s house. Earl is obviously the comedic relief of the show but there’s something deeper to him as well. He’s nice, polite and friendly even though Janelle mostly snips and snaps at him for being too silent. He’s even got a cheerful attitude as he explains why he’s got foot up foot of extension cords wrapped around one shoulder; to keep the battery on his monitor up when he’s out. He’s fairly chipper about the whole situation so far.

With only thirty minutes, there’s not room for anything that’s not important plot wise and so far every second of Blindspotting has been an improvement to the story and absolutely worth it. Especially things like the deep inner looks at how Ashley’s mind is dealing with Miles’s sentence, by creating an imaginary Miles to be at her side which I hope is handled carefully seeing as how this could easily become the Miles show without meaning too, and the subtle way Janelle is avoiding talking about why she’s back in town suddenly, always changing the subject and brushing it off. Plot details like that mixed together with the seamless dance choreography and breakage of the fourth wall have produced an outcome that is something completely unique. Every detail is breathing life into the bigger picture of this perspective of Oakland life. And telling a captivating story while doing it.

Blindspotting airs Sunday nights on STARZ

-Danyi