In case you haven’t noticed, we are officially at war! Well, not you and I exactly, but Unique’s and Raq’s crews continue to retaliate against each other, and all bets are off this time! Episode nine opens up with a vivid visual reminder of what recently occurred. Marvin’s car is riddled with bullet holes. With the status of Lou-Lou’s condition unknown yet, the only thing to do is seek immediate revenge. He and Lil Rob catch Unique at one of his most vulnerable moments, leaving the movies theaters with his son. As expected, because of his lifestyle Unique has his boys protecting him. They function as a separate set of eyes. Prior to putting his son in the car, he does a double check in the front to make sure the coast is clear. Satisfied with what he sees, he gives them the a-okay to get going, but within a split second, Marvin lights up the area with a shitload of bullets. Unique’s backup crew appears out of nowhere, and a shoot-out begins. One of his men gets hit, but he manages to protect him and his son thanks to the swiftness in which he pulled the passenger door shut and the bulletproof windows installed on his 7 Series BMW. Unique, of course, is pissed! He holds his son close with a look of rage on his face. If he tried to burn Lou-Lou’s house in flames simply because he turned down his offer and shot up his friend’s house, imagine what he would be willing to do now that his son’s life was put in danger.
Marvin doesn’t care, though. He made the hit on his own accord, being that he no longer works for Raq. Their brother’s slow recovery impacts both siblings. For Raq, Seeing Lou-Lou unconscious causes her to retreat from any normal human emotions. Instead, she enters a dark place that allows her to go deeper into her gangsta Queenpen mode. And according to Raq, a gangsta can’t be in love, so she rejects Symphony once again. Caught off guard by her heartless comments about the validity of their connection, he attempts to convince her that he loves all of who she is, but as she continues to disrespect him and their short-lived, on-again, off-again relationship, so he matches her energy. Somewhat surprised at his abrasiveness, Raq takes a jab at Symphony’s masculinity. Before he heads out, he leaves her with an important message: “Tell Marvin that Toni can’t be trusted.” Something tells me she will forget this message, and there’s going to be a price to pay. I was rooting for Raq and Symphony. They balanced each other out in a similar way Jukebox and Nicole balanced each other out, but it seems that the relationships that were built on drastic lifestyle differences are, in fact, not sustainable. Even Davina and Kanan’s romance has fizzled away.
With loyalty being more important now than ever, Marvin shoots Lil Rob after the shootout with Unique. He already had an idea that Lil Rob snitched on Kanan, but right before putting a bullet in his head, the rookie gangsta confesses to telling the cops that Kanan cooked the deadly crack.
While on a smoke break at the hospital, Detective Howard peeps a shady exchange between a nurse and two of Unique’s men. The nurse provides the revenge seekers hospital outfits, and while the exchange is taking place, the three of them have no idea Detective Howard is watching the entire ordeal. The detective intercepts by moving Lou-Lou to a different room with on-the-clock supervision before they can make their hit. Saving Lou-Lou’s life, even if it was by accident, makes him not only look like a hero but always loyal to Raq and Kanan. While at the hospital, he puts pressure on her again to tell Kanan he’s his father. They come to what sounds like an understandable arrangement: Raq will tell Kanan that Detective Howard is his real father, Detective Howard will put pressure on Unique’s crew. This will give Raq and her brothers a pass to do whatever they need to get ahead in the game, keep Kanan out of jail for the bad crack he cooked, and in return, the Detective believes things will go smooth when he asks Raq’s permission to let Kanan be his donor. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t always play out the way one imagines.
There’s a reason Raq has worked her way to the top of the chain, surpassing her brothers. There’s a reason she’s able to walk amongst the most notorious drug dealers and killers and not flinch — she’s just as notorious, if not more. While she tells the detective everything he needs and wants to hear, she begins plotting to have him killed by their 15-year-old-son. That is some vicious, conniving mess! And she’s well aware of the damage she’s about to cause. She mentally prepares by attending church to ask the Lord in advance for forgiveness. This move urges her church-going mother to inquire about her well-being. Their relationship is noticeably strained, and they share a moment of tension. Raq asks her mother how she ended up the way she did, you know, a coldhearted murderous criminal. Her mother refuses to engage in the conversation and reassures her that Raquel’s only problem is herself, not her mother. As we witness Raq manipulate her son to kill his biological father without reason, we now have a better understanding as to why Kanan turned out to be the way he is. His mother shaped him to be a more ruthless version of herself. This is why it was so easy for him to kill his own son and his favorite cousin.
With Lou-Lou down, Marvin and Raq need each other. They have a heart-to-heart conversation and make up. Marvin admits to Raq that she is better at the drug game than he is but shares with her that to work under her again, he needs to feel heard and feel like a man. Elsewhere in the episode, Marvin takes his toxic masculinity a bit too far. He finds himself in Jukebox’s room looking for updated music that would suit Kanan’s premiere on the block, but instead, he comes across photos of her and Nicole and their mall performance video. Seeing his daughter kissing on a girl and singing her a love song sends him in a rage to the point where he breaks the TV and destroys her room. When Jukebox arrives home to her father sitting in the middle of her dismantled bedroom, she knows what’s up and attempts to walk out. Marvin begins to berate her, spewing homophobic slur after homophobic slur mixing religion and “God’s will” in his rant. The father and daughter duo end up getting into a physical altercation that almost ends Jukebox’s life. Marvin takes it too far by handling his daughter without care. Jukebox refuses to accept disrespect and abuse from her father and fights back, but he, of course, is far stronger than she is. It appears that their relationship is fractured forever, but then again, so was Raquel’s and Marvin’s, and they made amends. I wonder if the rest of the family will ever find out how Marvin mishandled Jukebox and if they do, how will they react? For now, Jukebox loyalty is to Raquel. Raq has proven to be her safe space throughout the season. She lets Raq know that Detective Burke has been asking invasive questions and being extra friendly to her. The thought of befriending a cop sounds insufferable to the teen, but Raq schools her by letting her know “sometimes the police are good friends to have.” Hearing her loud and clear, Jukebox shifts her approach to Burke and begins to open up a bit more, even if, for now, she is acting. It wouldn’t be farfetched to assume that Raq’s advice and her burgeoning friendship with Burke is one of the reasons she becomes a cop in her adult life.
In this episode, Detective Burke shines as both a cop and an actor. We see her in action without her semi-crooked partner, and though not always successful, the professional tactics she uses on Jukebox allow her to humanize herself and appear relatable. When Detective Howard finds out Burke was doing her own investigating and realizes she is on the right track, he picks a fight with her and shares that he no longer wishes to be partners with someone he cannot trust. The irony is that it is him who Burke can’t trust, not the other way around.
Although Detective Howard is smart enough not to trust Raquel and her brothers, he underestimates what she is capable of, i.e., grooming their son to be a murderer. He also romanticizes what his relationship with Kanan, a 15-year-old street kid, would look like, often forgetting that he is a cop. Raq teaches Kanan how to shoot and preps him to make the most significant kill of his life while wearing Unique’s missing jacket. Kanan’s loyalty to his mother and desire to make her proud and become a strong pillar in the family’s business makes it easy for him to execute the job practically seamlessly. As his father calls him “son,” he shoots Detective Howard once in the chest and again for insurance, just like his mother taught him.
• Thank goodness Lou-Lou pulls through. He wakes up, though, with only Jessica by his side. Hopefully, he doesn’t take offense to that since his family was there for him the entire time he was unconscious.
• Nicole’s mother is annoying as hell! And the writing seems to make her annoying in an exaggerated way on purpose. She says all the things some bold rich folks say, and most just think in their head. I guess we can consider her the OG of Karens.
• The writers have done an excellent job connecting the older versions of Kanan and Jukebox to their childhood selves. Watching their development in reverse is pretty cool too. For example, Jukebox learns the value of crooked cops, so she grew up to become one.
• I wish we knew more about Raq’s upbringing. Including what made her despise Detective Howard so much.