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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.


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Blindspotting: Ripple Effect

With only two episodes left in its season, Blindspotting decides to spend the second to last focusing on the youngest character. After being told that his father is going to be in jail for the next five years, Sean gets to have his very first visit with Miles. Which it’s goes pretty okay, until a prisoner has an outburst and all the inmates have to be removed. It’s a scary thing to witness for a six year old. And it will probably leave a lasting impression on him.

The family spends the rest of the day trying to cheer Sean up by taking him bowling. Everyone pitches in and puts on their best smiles for him, but he’s still less than enthusiastic. Even at one point asking to go home instead of finishing the game. As Sean depressingly bowls, Ashley, Rainey and Janelle bounce around ideas for how Miles and Ashley can remain close while he’s away. Leading to Rainey googling a prison program for family that offer visitation weekends instead of just an or so. It’s not much, but a weekend together every month is better than just an hour and actually would give them time to bond. It’s definitely something Ashley should think on.

Since it’s a family trip of course Trish has come along too, even Jacque is down for trying to cheer Sean up. But the two of them have other things on their minds, like starting a business that they run themselves. So it must be fate that none other than Cuddie the bank loaner shows up at the bowling alley. He’s there to practice with his team but is much more interested in Jacque. And though Trish might have lost him with her proposal he still put her on game of how to start up without him and the bank. They can do it, they just have to go about it in the right way. Starting with quitting the strip club.

With Sean’s complete disinterest in bowling the family decides to go back home. Once there they plan out a whole evening of activities to life Sean’s spirits including home baked treats, games, a dance party, karaoke and twister. But Sean remains upset through them all, until Earl begins to mess with him; poking and providing at Sean until they start to rough house and finally the little boy cracks a smile. Thus his bad mood is finally surpassed and everything starts to feel a little better. Meanwhile Trish and Jacque arrive at the strip club and quit, only for Carl to offer an investment into their business. It catches the girls by surprise but with the amount of money he’s offering they would be hard pressed to say no. So they strike a deal and Trish is lit about it, thoroughly convinced that she and Jacque can run a fetish service out of Rainey’s home. It’s either going to be brilliant or it’s going to be a disaster.

While this episode doesn’t seem as fast past as the previous one, it’s not without its moments of depth and complexity. A particular highlight of the episode is a moment between Ashley and Earl; after cheering up Sean and putting the living room back together he is wrapping up the night by literally collecting his extension cord. But Ashley wants to thank him for making Sean laugh and pulling him out of his mood, she tells Earl that he’s doing really good. Which seemed to be the general consensus. But according to Earl that couldn’t be farther from the truth. He’s been traumatized by his time in jail and that trauma isn’t going anywhere. It’s left him unsure of himself and how he’s supposed to move forward, he doesn’t even know if moving forward is possible. It’s a moment that pulls back down reality and further moves Earl out of the comedic relief zone he started in.

Another moment worth noting is that while bowling Sean momentarily imagined a prison guard bowling down inmates in the place of pins. The events of the morning have already rooted a fear inside him. It’s going to be hard for a six year old to come to terms with his father being taken away like this. A smaller detail that I find not being talked about much is the fact Rainey’s persistent memory problem. It seems as the season goes along she’s having more and more trouble remembering things. And it’s unclear if anyone close to her even notices.

The audience was also treated to a sweet and beautiful scene when Sean asks Ashley to sing him to sleep. It’s always a pleasure getting to hear Jasmine Cephas-Jones sing and here she doesn’t disappoint at all. Hopefully if renewed for a second season Blindspotting will find more reasons for her to heavenly voice to be heard. With the season finale on the way, Blindspotting has a few things to clear up and of course seeds to plant for future development. It would most certainly be a mistake for Starz not to allow the uniqueness of this show to continue to expand.

Blindspotting airs Sunday nights on Starz


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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


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Blindspotting: Girl Time Tripping

If there’s one thing that’s going to bring a group of friends closer it’s doing drugs together. And not the mild stuff like weed, doing psychedelic drugs with a friend promises to be lit and to teach you a thing or two about yourself. In its 5th episode, Blindspotting gives it women characters a chance to expand who they are and who they want to be. Even if by the end of the episode we aren’t too sure of how each one was enlightened, it’s there journey there that mattered.

After skipping out on visitation for fear of judgement from Miles, the cracks in Ashley’s walls are starting to show. She still hasn’t told Sean where his dad is and the pressure of keeping him in the dark is suffocating. But Sean is only six, he’s still innocent and Ashley doesn’t want to be the person to give him his first heartbreak. It’s a complex situation and the clock is ticking. So Janelle suggests that they do some drugs and free their minds so they can grow. Trish and her closest friend Jacque ask to join in, making it a group activity.

Meanwhile Earl’s first blunt of the day is ruined after two hits when his P.O. James calls and tells Earl he’s arranged a job interview for him in an hour. Oh and James himself is going to take him, he’ll be pulling up in thirty minutes. Thus sets off one of Earl’s most stressful days yet. It’s wild how often he’s given the absolute minimal but expected to not fall between the huge gaps.

Since Janelle has been all over the world, of course she knows all kinds of people. Including the woman set to guide their psychedelic journey. They start by introducing themselves and setting their intentions, a moment where Ashley’s mini breakdown as she finally speaks her current situation out loud wrenches at your heart. She doesn’t have much more fight in her but she can’t give up, Sean is depending on her to keep it together. And while Ashley’s intentions might be the most intensely felt, the other three girls aren’t holding back either.

Janelle is struggling as hard as Ashley, just in a different way. She’s been away from home for five years and though her reason for coming back is still unknown she feels completely out of place in this new Oakland. She wants to figure out how to exist in this space now. Jacque hopes to find balance in being a stripper and being an artist, a picture of her boobs garners thousands of likes while a post of her paintings always flops. Finally, Trish acknowledges that she has an anger problem and she is well aware that it’s probably caused by her environment. But she doesn’t have the guidance she needs to change that. All four of them have deep wounds thats they’ve simply been ignoring. The shrooms though, are about to place everything front and center.

For me, Blindspotting’s fifth episodes is its most daring yet. Not because of the shrooms, but because of the issues they highlight. The girls trip comes in stages, each of them being in the spotlight. From Ashley’s tug-of-prison-chains-war to keep Sean from locked up Miles to Janelle’s suitcase full of Earl’s ankle monitor chord; along with Trish and Jacque finding themselves handcuffed to a stripper pole plus each other, the entire high is one of horizons being broadened. Ashley is going to have to face both Miles and Sean, there is no way for her to avoid it which seemed emphasized by her losing the tug of war game. Where I’m normally completely committing to Ashley’s development I think the trip scenes might have benefitted a bit more from expanding on Trish and Jacque’s side of things. Trish especially. Handcuffing her to the stripper pole and the panic attack that it caused her to have is something that gives Trish deep depth, like her mini breakdown when she was forced to dance a few episodes ago. And I worry that by the time we get to the big reveal of why Janelle came home, the investment might not be as big. The series is only eight episodes but we’ve been asking since the first one why she’s home, it’s episode five; time is running out.

While the girls are having their mindsets rearranged, Earl makes it to his job interview. Only to be sat in the waiting room and an hour of his time wasted. However while he waits he seems to calm his nerves by listening to one of Janelle’s meditation lessons. The two of them get more and more cute as the series continues on. Once Earl is finally called back for his interview, it doesn’t go as smoothly as he’d hope and he has to mad dash in the middle of it because the clock in the office is slow by thirty whole minutes. He has a five pm curfew and the panic of him missing it is palpable. While he runs, Earl is given his first spoken word of the season which hits pretty deep for those that are trying to stay out of prison while still under the heavy eye of the system. It’s here that I hope for more development for Earl. Right now he’s mostly seen as the comedic relief but there’s a deeper story in what we already know about him.

One of the biggest reasons I find myself enjoying Blindspotting week after week is the realness of it. Even the spoken word scenes feel as if they’re something you’d see every day. A situation you’d walk by on your way to work. Especially with Earl’s sprint home, his panic of poetry felt like something one would say to themselves in their head as they panicked. Every moment in Blindspotting feels truly real and that’s what sets it apart from the rest.

Blindspotting airs Sunday nights on Starz


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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.