The Chi Recap: Family Matters

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Photo: Parrish Lewis/SHOWTIME
The Chi

The Chi

Penetrate a Fraud Season 1 Episode 6
Editor's Rating 2 stars

“Penetrate a Fraud” opens with Brandon, still living with his mother and stepfather after being ousted from the home he shared with Jerrika. Brandon’s mother offhandedly reveals that she and her beau Greavy have wed, and though neither of them thought to invite her son to the ceremony, they extend an invitation to the celebratory BBQ later that night. Six episodes in, it feels like The Chi has exhausted all of its “party” credits. Yes, the story takes place over a summer, but the constant use of gatherings or get togethers as the ostensible means to examine the group dynamics of its characters is starting to feel a little gimmicky.

Brandon tells his mother and newly appointed stepfather that he won’t be able to make the party, as he’s already scheduled to work. Brandon’s tensions with Greavy have never quite reached a nadir, or any real resolution. A couple of episodes ago, when Brandon brought the gun home, it was his stepfather who hid it. The older man routinely pokes at him or humiliates him. Brandon, ever the level-headed pacifist, always abandons the conflict, but Greavy’s decision to take the gun forced Brandon into contact with Reg, who would have had no problem killing him. At the very least, it seems that he would have pressed his stepfather about the location of the weapon, or the details of how he disposed of it, since it was used in a crime and now bears Brandon’s fingerprints. But he doesn’t.

Instead, Brandon goes to work, where the sparks with his female boss Sarah seem to be intensifying. He succeeds at catering a large party for the restaurant, and afterward, he and Sarah take the excess food to the engagement celebration. When they make it to the barbeque, Sarah’s game, easygoing nature, punctuated by her drinking a beer, is a polar opposite to Jerrika’s more uptight demeanor. Brandon offers a toast to his mom and her newfound happiness, and it feels like they’ve kind of forgotten about Coogie. There’s no mention of him at the party or elsewhere. It feels insensitive, but I honestly think that the show just has too many characters, too many quickly moving parts, for all of the storylines to be granted ample screen time.

At the halfway point of this season, The Chi often has its characters behave in ways which feel wholly implausible for these people, living in this city and time. Emmett comes across a bounty of expensive, rare sneakers and, along with one of the owners of the corner store, buys them all from a lonely, mini-mansion dwelling housewife. His sneaker sale tactic? He has a truck holding all the sneakers, with the back compartment completely open, parked on a clandestine street. Baby EJ sits in a nearby stroller. He looks like someone waiting to be robbed. Then, inevitably, he is robbed. I understand Emmett’s functions within the meta-narrative of the story, but his naivete is a little implausible, and the predictability of his numerous foibles has grown tiresome.

At least Emmett’s mom, Jada, and Ronnie’s grandmother, Ethel, have a nice moment of sororal bonding when the older woman invites the younger one for a manicure. I still firmly maintain that Jada would not have assisted in patching up Ronnie: It was such a huge career risk, I don’t really think that the character, who has a son, and now a grandson to help care for, would have gotten involved. Anyways, their bonding moment is nice, but I wish that the show had not attributed Jada’s seemingly callous, bitter exterior to her being wronged by a man. After their outing, Jada comes home to an empty house and draws a bath, in which she promptly masturbates, using the shower head for good measure. I appreciate such a show of sexual desire from a woman of this age and background, but again, it highlights what the show is missing in a way that felt bittersweet. The Chi could use more quiet, intimate moments that hint at the female characters’ interiority.

Meanwhile, for three episodes now, Ronnie has been limping about the city, neary debilitated by his gunshot wound. His raspy voice and pained expression, his body occasionally bowled over from pain, is almost unbearable. His arc has stalled as a result and his protracted suffering, intended as retribution for his murder of Coogie, has become a little indulgent. His physical pain is more than a little uncomfortable to watch. Ronnie’s hesitation to be admitted to a hospital is understandable, but it doesn’t seem like he has a choice at this point. With nowhere else to turn, he winds up for a second time running into the black, Muslim character portrayed by Common, the first time being a few episodes back when he was initially shot.

It feels like the show is slowly inching towards a moment of religious or spiritual conversion. Would that be enough to help Ronnie? He has come into possession of Jason’s phone, which he unlocks with the help of Jason’s girlfriend. The girl reveals that Jason’s mother, Tracey, is aware of her and disapproves of the pregnancy. Yet again, Tracey is painted as the malevolent parental figure. It’s also Tracey who tells Detective Cruz that Ronnie has the phone. Ronnie is apprehended, brought in for questioning, and, at episode’s end, ultimately seems to be deciding whether he can trust the cop.

The Chi Recap: Family Matters