With only a few episodes left in its first season, what The Chi aims to be has largely come into focus: This show is an extended character study, concerned with how these young men will make their way through the city. Because of that — and because of their disparate story lines — I decided to review episode eight, titled “Wallets,” with attention to each of the show’s character groups.
Emmett and Jada
This week, Emmett is adjusting to life without EJ, whose mother returned to retrieve him in last week’s episode. Initially, Emmett relishes in the liberties and free time he has to enjoy now that he’s effectively childless. He languishes about the house, eating cereal in peace; later in the day, he goes on a date with Kiesha. But it is on this date that Emmett’s relief gives way to concern: He decides to track down EJ and his mother, Tiffany. Emmett eventually shows up at Tiffany’s home, and discovers that she has a new man. (Sidenote: I have not seen someone so menacingly eat an apple since The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.) It’s here that The Chi falls back into some of its old rhythms, as Emmett is once again berated and embarrassed by a black woman, who actually has perfectly valid issues regarding his shortcomings as a father. Jada also revealed the truth about her termination to her son, though she withholds the reason she was let go. Later, she makes her way to Ms. Ethel’s place, where she also decides to forego telling Ms. Ethel that her involvement in patching up Ronnie led to her unemployment. She implies to Ms. Ethel that she will continue to be her caretaker, a ruse that can only maintained for so long. The repartee between the two women has evolved to a warm familiarity, and I hope that the show dedicates more screen time to this pairing in the handful of episodes that remain.
Ronnie and Meldrick
If I had to choose the most perplexing, poorly conceived character arc of the season, I would pick Ronnie’s. He sustained a gunshot wound at the hands of Kevin four episodes ago. Since that time, he has done little more than wince and limp about the city, nearly debilitated by his injury. His trepidation at visiting a hospital was initially understandable, but it is exhausting now. I honestly don’t understand what is happening with this character or why. Ronnie’s sustained suffering has become unbearable to watch, and I honestly do hope that this week’s episode ends it. Ronnie begins in the eccentric gun lover Meldrick’s lair. Meldrick beckons a white doctor and demands that he fix Ronnie. The doctor douses Ronnie’s wounds in vodka and salt, somehow healing him. How the doctor healed such a grave injury with vodka is unclear — or even whether Ronnie is truly healed or just feeling a little better for a moment. The doctor then overdoses on what I’m assuming are prescription opiates, the payments rendered by Meldrick for saving Ronnie’s life. Ronnie and Meldrick’s henchman, who expresses concerns about the doctor turning into a zombie, are charged with getting rid of the body. This moment — the zombie concerns, as well as Meldrick arbitrarily having a white doctor stowed away somewhere — inserted a nice bit of comic surrealism into the episode. (It’s a tone that The Chi would benefit from using more often.) Ultimately, Ronnie drives the doctor’s corpse to his home address, taken from an ID inside of his wallet. The body is discovered by the man’s wife, whose piercing screams close the episode.
Reg and Quentin
Last week’s episode ended with with Reg holding Quentin hostage inside of his brother’s chicken spot. Reg had been beaten by Trice, his punishment for the slip up that allowed Quentin to rob his place. Quentin and his brother eventually subdue Reg, and Quentin takes Reg back to his apartment, again gaining Reg’s address from a wallet. Quentin spouts more vagaries about the perceived order and grace of street dealings conflict when he was younger. They essentially hold Reg hostage, demanding to know who killed Jason a few weeks ago, but Quentin’s personal investment in discovering Jason’s murderer is unclear. (I’m going to surmise a guess that he is actually Jason’s father.) Jake enters the apartment and Reg, newly vulnerable in front of his brother, yields to Quentin. Quentin whispers to him, effectively forcing Reg to pledge loyal to him and not Trice, then leaves the apartment.
Kevin, Papa, and Jake
Kevin and Papa are concerned about Jake, after he brought a gun to the roller-rink party in last week’s episode. They stage an intervention under the guise of a game day, but first, Kevin’s mom sends the three boys to the grocery store, oddly enough. They have an entertaining banter about tampons before getting back to the apartment. Jake, understandably, balks at their concern for him. This is also the first that Papa hears of Kevin shooting Ronnie. Jake and Papa both head home, angry at Kevin for separate reasons.
Brandon, Jerrika, and Hannibal
After losing his job last week, Brandon is on the upswing: He is working his way back into Jerrika’s good graces and even convinced his cousin Hannibal to invest in his food truck by purchasing the requisite vehicle. Brandon also signs the papers necessary for his mother to sell their house. It does seem like Brandon and his mother have kind of forgotten that they’re still grieving Coogie, though. He’s mentioned only briefly in the episode, almost as an afterthought. LaVerne has also softened considerably, toward Brandon as well as her husband. She’s not as abusive as she was in the show’s beginning, and is beginning to feel like a real character. Let’s see if, and how, The Chi keeps it up in the season’s final episodes.