What a sweet episode! This one is an immediate favorite. Dre’s ego is a constant source of frustration, but this week, he’s able to put his own needs aside to take care of his family. In “Daddy Dre-Care,” Dre realizes his helpless-dad routine has made him miss out on important parts of his children’s lives, so he sets out to correct his behavior and gets a little surprise as a reward.
As the episode begins, Ruby gets sick after eating too much “dirty church meat,” as Bow calls it. It’s flu season and Ruby has attended three church events that featured communal eating. Jack falls ill next, after eating the leftovers Ruby brought home. When Junior and Diane mock Jack for getting sick, he tricks Junior into coming to his bed. Jack swabs his mouth, then sticks his finger into Junior’s mouth. Down goes Junior. One by one, the family succumbs to the flu. Dre does his best to avoid both getting sick and having to take care of anyone. When Bow becomes nauseous and feverish, though, she forces Dre to step up.
The kids are a whiny, miserable mess, and they hate everything Dre does to help them. They keep repeating how much they want their mom. They’re rejecting him simply because he’s not Bow. As Dre showers to rinse himself of Jack’s careless sneeze, he realizes how little his kids actually trust him to take care of them. By constantly relying on the myth that moms are superheroes who can do anything, Dre has missed out on a major bonding routine with his children. He knows he can’t be Dr. Mom so he becomes … Dr. Dre.
Yes, Dr. Dre.
As progressive as Black-ish can be, the relationship between Dre and Bow is still pretty traditional, despite Bow’s frequent claims of being a feminist. That’s fine, too: Bow can certainly be a feminist and manage the family’s domestic responsibilities. One of the most important aspects of feminism is that women be given the choice to decide what they want to do. Their roles should not be decided for them. As we saw earlier this season, Dre is supposed to manage the money while Bow takes care of the kid stuff. These rigid gender roles led the kids to believe that Dre is not dependable, and it’s a sign of his maturity that Dre makes a concerted effort to change. Last season, Dre would’ve had a crisis of ego, wondering what it all meant about his manhood. Instead, he leans into his best qualities and becomes what the kids need while maintaining his own identity.
Dre builds a fort in the family room for the kids and distributes medicine by pretending like he’s a bartender, serving up shots of pain reliever and crushing tablets to slip into orange juice. In the meantime, Ruby and Bow, who separated themselves from the kids because of their shared symptoms of nausea, are bonding. When Ruby was much younger, she lived in New York and was a background singer for Bette Midler. It was a short stint that Ruby doesn’t talk about much, perhaps because she kept calling her “Beth.” Ruby was even in the film Beaches — just like Jenifer Lewis! — which leaves Bow wondering about the next chapters in their lives.
Ruby and Bow bonding is a sweet and unexpected development. Ruby doesn’t talk about what she gave up to be a mother, and Bow wonders what might have been if Ruby kept chasing her dreams. I’m not sure if these moments between Bow and Ruby necessarily foreshadow Ruby leaving to sing again, or if they’re just a means to provide more character background. I’m definitely intrigued to learn more about Ruby, especially after she realizes she may have triggered the animosity between her and Bow.
Bow keeps vomiting, despite the fact that Ruby hasn’t been that sick in over a day. Maybe Bow is sicker than everyone else — or maybe, as any frequent television-watcher would know, the fact that a woman of childbearing age is throwing up means she’s pregnant. And … yep. That’s exactly what’s happening with Bow. She tells Dre the news after the two reflect on how well he did with the kids. After Dre admits he wishes he had another chance to be more present during those early rough years, Bow shows him the positive pregnancy test.
Both Dre and Bow are excited about the coming baby. Between tears of joy, Bow jokingly wonders if she’s too old to be pregnant, but Dre dismisses that as he hugs her, his own eyes wet with happy tears. It’s very moving to see them in harmony about this pregnancy, especially since Mr. Stevens confirmed that things are still shaky at the office because of those layoffs. Black-ish has been very upfront about the financial concerns that come with raising a family, even though the Johnsons are well-off. It’ll be interesting to see how the family deals with pending layoffs plus a new baby. We already know that the season finale will be a tribute to Good Times, so it’s worth wondering if things won’t turn out well at Dre’s job.
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that Black-ish has done a good job of anticipating its audience’s reaction. After last week, when Dre’s ego was such a big frustration, Kenya Barris gives us an episode that pushes Dre to move beyond his pride and support his family in new ways. And now that the Johnsons must prepare for a fifth child, those Huxtable comparisons will surely pick up steam. I’m looking forward to next week’s finale, as the Johnsons continue to carve their own distinctive path.