Wednesday, May 10, 2017

REVIEW: 'black-ish' - Dre and Bow Face Uncertain Pregnancy Complications in 'Sprinkles'

ABC's black-ish - Episode 3.24 "Sprinkles"

Initially wary, Dre embraces throwing Bow's baby shower and wants it to be unforgettable. However, his plans are put on hold when Bow stops by the OB/GYN with a headache and discovers she is having complications.

In its first two seasons, black-ish chose to end on these big fantasy episodes. It's a show that is capable of tackling very important and topical subject matter as it relates to this specific family. But the finales have been these over-the-top productions that highlight just how silly and funny this show can be. In Season 1, it was a trip to the 1920s for a musical extravaganza. In Season 2, it was an homage to Good Times. And yet, it's not surprising that the show breaks from its traditional in its third season finale. Bow has been pregnant for an entire season. It hasn't been the sole thing to define her or the family this year. But it has been an important and moving story. Since she didn't give birth in the previous episodes leading up to the finale, it meant she needed to here. That allows the show to go for a more emotional ending that resonates with the entire family. It is successful in doing so as well. The emotion of this finale is very strong even though I was very doubtful that the show would actually kill Bow or baby Devonte. But it was still easy to get swept into the uncertainty of it all. It was personal and intense for the characters. The audience could feel that and engage with it as well as they go through this difficult time.

Of course, "Sprinkles" opens on a send up of baby showers and how they've evolved over the years. It used to be an event for women to celebrate the coming birth. But now, Dre and Bow find themselves surrounded by friends who are throwing non-traditional co-ed parties. It's not surprising that Dre doesn't want to go to it at first. But it is delightful to see him take it much more seriously than Bow. That's a nice twist on a familiar gender role. Dre is the one who feels overwhelmed right now trying to make everything perfect for the baby to arrive. Of course, all of that stress is directed to the baby shower and not the actual delivery of his son. He still sees that as being months away. It's a little weird to learn that Bow is only seven months pregnant. The pacing of her pregnancy has been odd. At times, it felt like it was progressing too slowly. But there were other times where things happened much more quickly. That's a quality that was true right up until the very end.

It's just a simple headache that takes Dre and Bow to the hospital to get a check up. They may just be overly cautious. But they were actually right to go to the hospital. Bow has high blood pressure as a result of pre-eclampsia. It means she needs to be admitted and deliver the baby. It's amusing to see how everyone reacts to this news. Dre worries that he has caused her too much stress lately with the party. Bow worries that her age has affected this pregnancy in a dangerous way. And then, there is Pops, who simply can't keep secrets. That's an amusing recurring story throughout this episode. Dre wants his father to be protective of his children. He doesn't want them to worry because he can't handle the stress of managing them as well as everything going on with Bow. And yet, Pops just doesn't care. He's completely honest with them. On one hand, it's good that the entire family is at the hospital for this. Dre needs his parents in order to keep him strong through this whole experience. Meanwhile, it puts things into new perspective for the kids as they have to do their gifts for Bow now and can no longer put them off until the future. The baby is coming now and everyone needs to prepare for it.

The humor really is secondary throughout this finale. The emotion of the situation is much more important. Dre worries because he doesn't know what's going on. He has to decide if Bow or Devonte should survive should something go wrong during this procedure. Bow's blood pressure is so high that the doctors have to do a C-section instead of simply inducing early. A nurse just bluntly tells Dre about the worst possible situation. That's a worry he doesn't need right now. It forces him to spiral in doubts about being a single father. How can he raise five children without Bow? Fortunately, Ruby is there to help him through this. Yes, the two of them can be too close a lot of the time. But in a moment like this, he needs the love and support of his mother. Someone who will tell it like it is but also comfort him and give him strength. She takes charge of the situation and makes things better for Dre and Bow. It's hilarious when Ruby refers to Bow as "her daughter." She has always actively hated Bow and wished Dre married someone else. They frequently get on each other's nerves. But here, it's heartwarming to watch because Ruby doesn't want Bow to die. She genuinely cares and it shows. She is willing to do whatever it takes so that Bow gets the best treatment possible. She may just get a blanket in the end but it's still a very important gesture that shows how strong this bond really is.

But the finale is still ultimately about Dre and Bow's relationship. When it comes to the procedure, it's just the two of them in the room. Bow needs strength from Dre in order to get through this. She needs his love. She needs to know that he will protect her and this baby. Of course, she also gets high on drugs. That's amusing to see as well because it forces her to suddenly be best friends with Holliday Hannah. She's overly loving to everyone. That's joyous to see despite the circumstances. She's the one seemingly calm under pressure. She's the one fighting for the special drugs. She's the one wanting to make sure everything is fine with the baby despite being born early. She's not being selfish. She's incredibly strong and giving. Dre is in that moment with her. He wants to stay in that moment because it is strong, beautiful and loving. He can't because he needs to be a father to the child who needs it the most. It's a scary time for him but he needs to take that step and be the parent that everyone knows he is capable of being.

Yes, it's a little silly that Dre doesn't want to get too close to Devonte out of fear that he'll die soon after. He deflects until he can no longer do so. It's a reaction that gives this portion of the episode some comedy. But it's just as heartwarming as well when Pops gives Dre the extra push that he needs right now. That moment is special too. Pops may criticize Dre's life most of the time. But he does respect him as a man and a father. Right now, he's acting out of fear instead of love. He needs to choose love. Doing that will ensure that everything ends well. It ultimately does in the end. It's so rewarding to see everyone in the family in Bow's hospital room. The worst is behind them and they can return to being a happy family. This was a precarious and scary situation but they got through it. They are stronger and more united as a result. It quickly becomes the celebration it was suppose to be. It may not be the baby shower Dre was planning. But it's a party nonetheless. There is a new Johnson in the family. One who is loved just as much as everyone else. They celebrate in their own unique but very special way too. That's just a really nice note to end on.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Sprinkles" was written by Laura Gutin Peterson and directed by Eva Longoria Baston.
  • It's surprising that this is the first time that Charlie and Johan have met. That would seem like a fun character pairing immediately. It is too because they understand each other in their own very weird way. It's a moment that doesn't result in much but is very funny. 
  • It's also just completely random that Charlie is at the hospital as well. That's a character who could get annoying if the show overuses him. He is used a lot but it's still so amusing to see him pop up in random places with even more random reactions. Plus, his feud with Diane is an amazing recurring bit. 
  • Bringing things back to the baby showers, it seems like a very bad idea to have a piñata that looks like a baby. Hitting that with a bat just sends a horrible message. Though it is amusing to see Dre get too caught up in being the one to break it.
  • Diane's note to the baby is sweet. It's a heartwarming moment to end the finale on that shows how much this family loves each other. Diane may be the mean one but she does genuinely care. And Jack loves just sticking his name at the end without having to do any of the work. 
  • Technically, the show hasn't been renewed for a fourth season yet. But it's basically a 100% lock that will become official either tomorrow or Friday. A syndication deal for four seasons is already in place while the finale ends with the ABC promo guy saying new episodes return this fall.