In Raq’s world, shit never goes as planned. Let’s start from the end and work our way back to the top.
At the end of the season finale (that leaves us with more questions than answers), Raq stands on the top of Baisley projects smoking a cigarette, seemingly proud of her accomplishments. She has succeeded in manipulating her son to murder his biological father, which he fails at, though she’s unaware of this. Her decision to pop a cop has fractured her relationship with Lou-Lou, who understands that putting a hit out on one of NYC’s finest is too drastic. When he tries to leave the game, she threatens him because, in Raq’s eyes, everything Lou-Lou touches is hers, including his recording studio (it’s actually his record label, but she clearly doesn’t know much about the music industry).
Raq’s vengeance towards Detective Howard even almost gets Marvin shot by the police. Because of the police attack, the streets of Southside flood with cops performing random car searches. Marvin gets arrested with an open warrant, which interferes with his ability to rescue, I mean, pick up Kanan from the bodega, which jeopardizes Raq’s plan to get Kanan out of town. After disrespecting Symphony, Raq needs his assistance, so she calls him to pick up Kanan. Symphony is a good guy who genuinely loves both Raq and Kanan. He comes without hesitation. With Symphony’s help, Kanan makes it out of Queens and is heading down I-95.
For some reason, Kanan has a hard time following directions or, better yet, not fucking up. It really boils down to the fact that he is not as ready as he thinks he is. “Two shots to the body, one to the head” were the directions his mother gave him. Did he follow them or finish the job? Nope! When it came time to look Howard in the eye and shoot him in the head, he choked. Not only did he choke, a witness saw him, causing Kanan to run, trip, fall, scrape his hands, and leave his DNA at the scene of the crime. Out of all people, Scrappy is there to pick him up. The two former enemies, for the first time, see and respect each other.
As his mother tries to get a recap of what occurred in the park, Kanan cannot confirm whether he shot two or three bullets. Even though he is visibly shaken, under pressure, he lies confidently, telling his mother the detective is dead. At this point, NYPD has an army of cop cars and a few helicopters out, making it challenging for anyone to move. As they rush Howard to the same hospital Lou-Lou’s recovering in, Lou-Lou, though not in the best condition, leaves the hospital to find out what the hell is going on. On his way out of the hospital and heading to Baisley, Lou-Lou, Jessica, and Famous hear a familiar song playing out of the stereo of the car next to them. They’re playing Famous’s song. For Lou-Lou, this solidifies that there is more for him than the drug game.
During Lou-Lou’s aforementioned conversation with Raq, he doesn’t hold back his rage towards his sister for making her only son kill a cop. Lou-Lou also says she went too far when she had him kill D-Wiz. Raq threatens her brother’s life as she explains that there is no way out of the game. But Lou-Lou presents a life that is free of drug dealing and violence with legit money by purchasing real estate in the hood. Although Raq understands his vision, she is not ready to leave the game. The entire season, we’ve watched her straddle the line between Drug Queenpen and mother, and now we know that she has and will always choose the drug game — even over her son and brothers.
Like Lou-Lou, Detective Burke, Howard’s partner, is equally eager to find out what is going on. She storms into the hospital only to be greeted by the 117th precinct’s newest captain, Captain Batiste. Apparently, their previous captain wasn’t doing the best job managing South Jamaica, so Batiste, a more strict captain (or “heavy hand,” as he puts it), is sent to maintain order. He informs her that Detective Howard was alone in Baisley Park for a meeting, to which she shares that Howard doesn’t keep her in the loop. Baptiste promises that things will change before revealing Howard’s cancer diagnosis and an unexpected twist: The cancer diagnosis could negate Howard’s Police Officers Survivor Benefits, also known as the Automatic Death Benefit. After being very persistent, Burke convinced her new boss to allow her and Officer Garcia to patrol the streets in search of answers.
While patrolling the streets, Garcia and Burke question Jukebox, who had previously warned Burke about a potential hit on the cops. It was Raq who prepared Jukebox to plant the faux intel to the cops to set Unique up. While speaking with the witty teenager, Garcia notices the cash and change of clothes for Kanan in her backpack, but Burke, a lesbian like Jukebox, doesn’t find it strange that a female teen is carrying male clothing, so they let her go.
Jukebox beats the two officers to Juliana’s bodega and spends time with Kanan hiding in the former stash room. Excited to brag to his favorite cousin/built-in best friend about his accomplishment, Kanan fronts and Jukebox see’s right through it. She knows he’s scared and reminds him how much of a fuck up he is. Kanan is shocked by her honesty, but Jukebox gives him an overall analysis of their life and assesses that this is when they will decide who they will become as adults.
During Jukebox’s “Let me tell you about yourself” moment, they hear the detectives come into the bodega and become nervous that they will get caught. But Burke is more interested in questioning Juliana, who is also playing as an innocent, scared eyewitness. Working for Raq, Juliana follows all directions by making the cops work for the tape that shows Kanan wearing Unique’s jacket. Garcia, however, notices the locked room where Kanan and Jukebox are hiding. Luckily for the teens, the officers inform Juliana they will search the store upon their return.
Meanwhile, Marvin is on the mission to frame Unique for detective Howard’s murder. To do that, he has to return Unique’s Jacket, so he manages to convince the doorman to let him upstairs and replaces the jacket just a few seconds before Unique and his family return home. But Unique catches on that Raq is framing him. Though he manages to get his guys off the street, he doesn’t escape from the NYPD. They raid his apartment, and though he professes his innocence, they treat him like a suspected cop killer. It looks like Raq scores a major point and is leading the war, but not for long. Marvin is also in police custody, and Toni (though she’s not a credible witness) has been helping the cops work a drug-trafficking case against him. Raq tries to get in touch with Marvin for hours, but because she’s so laser-focused on her own shit, it doesn’t dawn on her that he may be in trouble, whether with the cops or the streets.
With a few minutes left in the episode, it is revealed that Detective Howard is alive and kicking. His partner Burke is right by his side when he opens his eyes and asks who shot him, but Howard says nothing. I can’t imagine him snitching on Kanan, but I definitely see him using the attempt on his life against Raq in some way, shape, or form. I was expecting a bit more from the season finale, with past episodes having consistent jaw-dropping endings. The writers, however, do have a lot to work with next season to keep us on our toes. Will Raq and her brothers all go to jail? Will Unique snitch? How long will Kanan stay away? What will Howard say when he finally speaks? Will Raq and Symphony reconnect? Will Lou-Lou turn against Raq and pivot to the music industry? We will have to wait until next season to find out.
• Whether it’s the brutal punishment we’ve witnessed Unique and Raquel give to those who betray them or an attempt on a cop’s life, the writers have done an excellent job weaving in real-life events that occurred in South Jamaica into the script. In 1988 rookie cop Edward Byrne was murdered after an infamous Queens drug dealer declared war between his crew and the NYPD. Byrne’s murder caused the NYPD to swarm Queens like never before.
• Jessica talks too much (I’ve probably said this before). I’m surprised Lou-Lou hasn’t gotten rid of her just yet.
• Raquel has officially gone off the deep end, and there’s no coming back.
• Jukebox is a wise teen. I do wish we were able to see how she and Marvin would interact after he attacked her.