overnights

The Chi Recap: Keeping the Peace

The Chi

Namaste Muthafucka
Season 1 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating *****

The Chi

Namaste Muthafucka
Season 1 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating *****

Over nine episodes so far, The Chi has made plain its most urgent motives and ambitions. The characters of this series are searching for — and in some instances, have briefly found — salvation from their various miseries. “Namaste Muthafucka” is a testament to the ways that these characters may or may not find peace.

Emmett is still strapped for cash, a predicament which his son’s mother, Tiffany, isn’t too sympathetic toward. The episode begins with Emmett back at his old gig at the chicken spot, after his string of unsuccessful, not-exactly-legal moneymaking endeavors. Meanwhile, Emmett’s mom Jada reveals to Ms. Ethel the real reason that she was fired, and Jada also reveals to Emmett that she has accepted an out-of-state job opportunity. Whether Emmett will relocate with her or stay behind, forced to be a man and father on his own, is unclear.

Elsewhere, Brandon has reconciled with Jerrika, who perplexingly presents him with a shoebox filled with cash to be used toward fixing up his food truck. Why Jerrika, a real-estate agent, has her money stored in a Juicy Couture icy shoebox like she’s a drug dealer or Gucci Mane is beyond me. But presenting the box to Brandon at breakfast is still a nice dramatic flair. The Chi often feels like it’s angling for dramatic moments, for histrionics and panache, at the expense of characters and plot cohesiveness. Later, Brandon reveals to Jerrika that he slept with someone while they were separated. When she says that she also slept with someone else, Brandon is surprised. (Though, remember that Jerrika had a date at the block party a few episodes back, and she had hinted the guy was her boyfriend.)

Until this point, The Chi has generally circled the periphery of Tyler Perry–esque antics: It’s shown us acerbic, damaged black women, all victims of men who did them wrong. Ms. Ethel, herself a gun-toting granny, often spouts religious vagaries that could have come straight from the mouth of Mabel “Madea” Simmons. But this week, the show stopped circling and jumped headfirst into the Perry pool. While attending her meeting for mothers of gun violence, Tracy reveals that she endured a sustained period of sexual abuse, locked in a house by a man for his own perverted purposes. This abuse is what begot her son, Jason. The man who abused her was Quentin. It’s all so much.

As I’ve written week after week in these recaps, the show has revealed very little about its female characters outside of their myriad abuses. When it expands on the women that make up its cast of characters, there’s usually a revelation of some sort of trauma at the hands of a man. Tracey’s story line, specifically the revelation that Quentin is Jason’s father, is one that I predicted last week. One of the season’s most drawn-out plotlines has been the question of who killed Jason, and why Quentin is so invested in finding the shooter. That the respective answers are “Trice” and “Because Quentin is Jason’s father” feels unsatisfying.

Coogie’s mother Laverne actually attends the same grief-counseling session as Tracy. It’s a nice bit of realism, a testament to the smallness and nearness of gun crime in the city. Laverne falters a bit, but ultimately reveals to Tracy that her son was responsible for robbing Jason, even if he didn’t murder him. This is a tender, intimate moment between the two women, and both of their helpless sorrow punctuates the scene. Again, these are characters grasping at salvation that always evades them.

Honestly, revealing Quentin’s past as a sexual abuser feels like a psych-out of the worst sort. He’s been playing the “gangster with moral fiber” act for the entire season, so it was only a matter of time until we discovered his deepest crimes. All of his ideas regarding the ways the characters should conduct themselves in the streets feel hollow, now that he is revealed to be a man of equally dour morals.

In other news, Kevin has reconciled with Papa and Jake. Kevin and Papa are still concerned for their friend, so when Reg offers them a ride to get some food, they accept. Reg stokes his little brother into fighting another child, a melee that results in police intervention. The police presence in The Chi is mostly bothersome, slightly harassing; the confrontations never end in violence or even misconduct. Notably, every cop appearance has been of an interracial duo: This time, the police who break up the youngsters’ fight consist of a hard-nosed black woman and her white, male partner. Reg observes from afar, lording over it all. It seems improbable that the only adult on the scene for a tussle between schoolchildren wouldn’t at least be questioned. Also, as we discover later, Reg has his boss, Trice, bound and gagged in the trunk of his vehicle. Wouldn’t he want to keep a low profile, attracting as little attention as possible? It seems the episode is more invested in Reg’s instigating the fight — and reiterating his diabolical character — than in common sense.

Lastly, Ronnie finally turns himself in to Detective Cruz, who is now an expectant father. Again, the cop subplot feels extraneous, though I am curious to see where Ronnie’s confession will take him in next week’s season finale. Will it bring him the absolution he so badly wants and needs?

The Chi Recap: Keeping the Peace