With the end of its first season in sight, The Chi races toward closure for its myriad characters. While a number of major story lines get wrapped up, “Ease on Down the Road” serves up a few plot points that are intentionally kept unresolved — sure to be fodder for the show’s second season, which Showtime approved early into its run this year.
At the top of the hour, Reg delivers a bloody Trice to Quentin, after stuffing him into car trunk in last week’s episode. His younger brother Jake is, of course, in tow. Trice seemingly reveals to Quentin that he was the person responsible for shooting Quentin and Tracy’s son, Jason. It’s a confession that costs him his life: Quentin has Reg kill Trice, and then he makes Reg the new man in charge. Later, Quentin runs into Tracy, silent and staring at the mural painted in memory of her dead son. Quentin’s interaction with her, brief as it was, left me queasy. This is a woman he impregnated, by rape, when she was a teenager. Tracy says nothing to him. I took her silence to be that of a woman rendered wordless by the unsuspected interaction with her rapist.
One of The Chi’s most persistent issues has been its cumbersome pacing. The mystery of Jason’s murder could have been resolved long ago. The story line has been teased out for far too many episodes, becoming a bit improbable in its scope and detail as the weeks have progressed. And it’s not even quite finished just yet: Although Trice is apparently the murderer of Jason, later in the episode, Detective Cruz’s partner is revealed as the actual murderer. Trice shot Jason, then, for whatever reason, stalled. The detective stepped in to finish the job.
This scenario invites more questions than it resolves. The detective murdered Jason by stepping on his throat, cutting of Jason’s air supply with his foot. Wouldn’t Jason have sustained injuries that pointed to a cause of death other than his gunshot wounds? Also, why did Trice freeze? It’s not as if he’s spooked by blood or gore — he pummeled Reg a few weeks back. It feels like the show invested in an increasingly baroque plotline, which ultimately became both unnecessarily complicated and a little distracting.
Ronnie turned himself in last week, confessing to Coogie’s murder. Scenes of Ronnie being booked and entering Cook County Prison are spliced throughout the episode. It’s a sharp, necessary look into the nature of incarceration in one of the nation’s most overcrowded prisons, with meticulous shots of Ronnie’s body meant to underscore the dehumanizing reality of incarceration, even though it felt prolonged at moments. The final shot of Ronnie on the other side of a closed prison cell door is one of misery and helplessness. It was a nice way of bringing home the fact that Ronnie was the perpetrator of a violent crime, but this is ultimately a situation in which there are no victors.
Meanwhile, Brandon and Jerrika still land on a rocky foundation after Jerrika revealed that she’d slept with someone else. Again, this a story line that has been really resolved. Jerrika manages to sell Laverne and Brandon’s house, which the family celebrates. But Laverne’s plans for a new life are thwarted when she receives news of her son’s murderer being apprehended. Laverne and her family attend Ronnie’s trial hearing, and afterward, Laverne says that she wants to stay so that she can witness the trial. It’s not the resolution I wanted for Laverne, but hers is a fully human, understandable choice.
Throughout this season, the show’s dominant, guiding structure has been the plotlines of the two boys’ murders. The play — which Jake, Kevin, and Papa had begun participating in — has always been a backstory. So, when this episode jumps to snippets of the play performance, it feels a bit weightless and unnecessary. All three boys have been through so much since this play began. It feels like a narrative element that could have been abandoned. Still, it has its moments: The image of Jake, viewing the play from the audience alongside his older brother, is especially poignant.
Afterward, the boys head to a party where Kevin apologizes to Maisha. It is a nice redemptive moment, which is unfortunately ruined when Papa literally runs, with a curt “Nope!” The joke, yet again, seems to rest on Maisha’s presumed undesirability or unattractiveness. I hope that The Chi won’t lean on this kind of punch line again next season.
As we wind down the season, EJ’s mother shows up to relieve Emmett of his father duties. She has a black eye, which Emmett notices and attempts to address with her. Tiffany shrugs him off, but when he next arrives at the house to collect EJ, she and her beau are involved in an altercation. Emmett breaks down the door to witness Tiffany threatening her lover with a hair dryer. This could have been a moment to showcase the complexities of intimate-partner violence, in which women can be and are abusive to their male partners. It would have been refreshing and even bold for a man like Tiffany’s boyfriend to be portrayed grappling with his girlfriend abusing him. But the scene ends, much like the season itself, largely as a testament to the perverse character and pathos of black mothers.