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Flatbush Misdemeanors Season-Finale Recap: Paradise Lost

Flatbush Misdemeanors

memento mori
Season 2 Episode 10
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Flatbush Misdemeanors

memento mori
Season 2 Episode 10
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Showtime

We’ve made it to the close of the season, and I’ve never been more reluctant to hit “Play” on a finale than I was with this one. In part that’s because I have just been having so much fun watching and recapping this show, and in part it’s because I genuinely feared the episode might start with Dan being tossed face first into the Prospect Park Lake. The title of the episode — memento mori,” which translates to “remember death” in Latin — can invoke ominous vibes at first blush. But it’s just as if Blue said to Drew during his impassioned rant detailing Dan’s betrayal and need for revenge, “You cannot just kill white people anymore, bruh. We ain’t there yet.”

The phrase memento mori is not about fearing your impending doom at the hands of another; it is about appreciating the impermanence of life and thus cultivating a lifestyle that accordingly appreciates the precious value of that fleetingness. In Abrahamic dogma, that is primarily in adherence to a lifestyle that would grant you favor and reward in the afterlife. You can see that concept in the framing of this episode and the characters’ closing arcs; part one of the episode is titled “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” a biblical reference to when God reminds Adam and Eve of the fickleness of human existence after paradise is lost to their sinful behavior (Genesis 3:19).

All the characters are trying to find a way to make a small paradise of their own while fighting through the seemingly interminable working-class malaise of their existence. Kevin has been fighting to protect his art fellowship as a safe space that, despite all its failings, exists outside the chaos his personal life introduces. So he is devastated that his quasi-romantic art buddy Arsema has reduced him to nothing more than his worst mistakes all because she saw her dream briefly (hypothetically) flash before her eyes. When the time comes for the coronation of their hard work — a preposterous dog-and-pony show by Nancy that, to Drew’s ears through the speakerphone, sounds like a recording of The Lion King on Broadway — a Jessica Krug–style white woman claims the prize. In the end, it was never about talent or worthiness but optics and trinkets. He realizes he needs to create his own paradise among his community and implores his colleagues to do the same in his parting words: “Y’all are better than what that goofy ass white lady thinks of you.”

Our favorite around-the-way girl, Zayna, is in the middle of a whirlwind: What she has long dreamed of has come true, and her father is home on parole. But the dream quickly collides with the harsh edges of reality: Her father hasn’t been home for a decade and isn’t prepared to immediately fall into trips to Kings Plaza. He wants to find their paradise lost together upstate, where he has a stable job lined up that will keep her out of danger — and Drew, by proxy — and help him afford a coat that will replace his horribly dated eight-ball jacket. At a time when Zayna is supposed to be reveling in her costume-design skills getting highlighted in the school play, her thoughts are consumed by her family getting split up yet again and her Uncle Drew, who has always put her best interest first, making reckless decisions when left to his own devices with nothing left to lose.

Simultaneously, Dan has been frantically trying to figure out his next moves to preserve whatever is left of the rest of his life. His efforts to seek assistance from his therapist are futile; resistant to threatening Kevin’s paradise, Kareem offers him either a flight to Cuba and life as the white Tupac or a trip down to Georgia to be a fugitive with his (step-)cousin, Tremaine, and his chair. Before he can successfully bolt, a newly sober, in-withdrawal, and penitent Sydney arrives to take accountability for her role in adding chaos to his life. It helps Dan realize that he has successfully been able to navigate this crisis without the numbing crutch of Xanax to dull his fears, so he makes one last stop in the bike shop to clear Kareem of any wrongdoing before he makes a clean break. But his efforts are all in vain — Dan and Kevin team up for one last scheme only to end up face-to-face with Drew, his pending legal case, and his debts.

The third part of the episode is called “Death of a Salesman,” a reference to the seminal Arthur Miller play and a fitting title for the final chapter. Miller’s play focuses on the common man’s life and the tragedy of rejecting reality in favor of indulging in a self-constructed fantasy in hopes that you can self-actualize and transform your circumstances only to sink deeper into the clutches of the world you created. It is an ultimate paradox of Drew, who rationalizes his choices as a distributor by saying he is taking care of Zayna, but he has kept drugs around Zayna her entire life. As his brother told him, you don’t get to choose who gets caught up in the consequences of his actions.

Recovering the bag of promethazine from Dan and Kevin results in a moment of truth: Will he keep his commitment to Zayna, and return to a reality in which the life of a middle-aged hustler is unsustainable and short-lived, or will he continue to chase the illusion? The bag may present future earnings, but the looming court case hangs over his head like a guillotine while his family is directly in front of him. Ultimately, he chooses to try to figure out how to chase a new dream in Brooklyn with his brother and niece as they figure out how to rebuild the paradise that had been shattered for them all those years ago; Zayna has a version of her family back, and the illusion is left for the impressionable new generation to fall prey to. The cycle never stops; it merely evolves and shifts.

It has been a joy to recap what has been an outstanding television season. Here’s hoping we’ll all be back for season three!

Flatbush Misdemeanors Season-Finale Recap: Paradise Lost