Sunday, January 21, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Chi' - Brandon and Ronnie Meet While Emmett Looks for a New Job in 'Ghosts'

Showtime's The Chi - Episode 1.03 "Ghosts"

Brandon asks Kevin for help. Laverne and Greavy make a life-changing decision. Amir looks to capitalize on Emmett's side gig. Quentin returns to town to launch his own investigation.

"Ghosts" opens with Brandon trying to buy a gun. It closes with a confrontation between Brandon and Ronnie. And yet, that's not the natural progression of events for Brandon. He doesn't buy a gun only to spend the entire episode searching for Coogie's killer only for the hour to end on the cliffhanger of whether or not he pulls the trigger. Instead, Brandon finds himself distracted with other interests. He believes he needs to do what's right for his brother. He needs there to be justice for Coogie's death. But he also realizes that he can't buy a gun. Secret meetings with drug dealers isn't the lifestyle for him. It's not in his being. He has always had a desire and drive to build a life that takes him away from the neighborhood to bigger success. He has found Jerrika who shares those instincts and ambitions. They have a good relationship. But now, the hood is asking him to play things by their rules. He's trapped in a system where it seems like his only appropriate response is to kill Ronnie. That's the way this system has always taken action because the police are too inept to do anything to combat the levels of violence in this neighborhood. And yet, Brandon can't do that. His inability is the reason why so much of this plot continues to spin in motion. His inaction allows Kevin and Ronnie to still be constantly worried and afraid about what might happen to them next. It's not healthy. Nor is it healthy for Brandon because he's still a mess while knowing who his brother's killer is. He's incredibly torn. And that's what effectively builds to that cliffhanger. It's a tense moment that comes naturally while also ensuring that things will never be the same afterwards.

The first confrontation that Brandon has in this episode leaves him beaten on the ground. He loses two hundred dollars even though he doesn't get the gun. It's simply the cost of doing business. It's the cruel reality of this world. Brandon thought he could take that next logical step. But it just isn't who he is. He is not a killer. He can't go through with it. He's at least honest about that with the people in his life. He doesn't come home to Jerrika with a bunch of lies. He tells her the truth even though it has the potential of ruining their relationship. He goes to Laverne and Greavy's place in order to clean up first. He's less forthcoming with them because he doesn't have a solid relationship built on trust with them. This family is mourning Coogie's death in different ways. Laverne has always been positioned as the drunk who is a mess. She's a problem that Brandon simply doesn't want to deal with. And yet, he is forced to interact with her here and allow her to move on with her life. It produces such a beautiful scene between the two of them as well. Laverne has to admit that she was there for Coogie more than she was there for Brandon simply because Coogie needed it more. That's just the sad reality of her life. It was a decision she made. It wasn't out of malice. It was just out of necessity. With Coogie gone, she has to physically remove herself from this world for something new. It may not be anything better. Brandon still doesn't like Greavy. But he has to come to terms with his mother's decision as well.

Meanwhile, Kevin keeps finding himself at the mercy of others. He isn't really allowed to have a life of his own. He is simply reacting to the craziness around him. He saw Ronnie kill Coogie. That forged his new relationship with Brandon. He joined this play because he liked Andrea. He's being stalked by her cousin for weird and potentially abusive reasons. And now, he is being forced to honor his commitments by his mothers. He has to stay in the play - which has managed to rope in his two best friends as well. But most importantly, he keeps having to run away from Ronnie. The two have seen each other and know that the other knows the truth about what happened to Coogie. Kevin has talked about that openly with a lot of people. It was enough to get the truth out there and eventually to Brandon. But it's the truth that is coming back to hurt Kevin. He has lived in fear that Ronnie will kill him for the mere suspicion of ratting him out to the police. Ronnie keeps showing up in his life. Kevin has a choice to make. He believes he needs to stand up to Ronnie and prove that he is no snitch. That's the action that he believes will save his life. It just may cost him a friendship in the process. He wasn't all that keen on being around Brandon a whole lot either. He was furious he hadn't taken action yet. And so that fuels his decision to force this meeting between Ronnie and Brandon.

And then, Ronnie is just spiraling after the realization that he didn't kill Jason's killer. No one is any closer to answers as to what actually happened to Jason either. Ronnie isn't even trying. He's too busy tying up loose ends with Coogie to put much effort in investigating what happened to his son. Instead, that task has fallen onto Q who mostly just calmly and confidently walks through the neighborhood talking to people demanding answers. Ronnie wants that as well. He has contacts to go to for information as well. Hopefully this time, they actually send him on the right path. But he still has to clean up this mess he has caused. It has destroyed any kind of reconciliation he could have had with Jason's mother. Instead, he's being haunted by Coogie. Yes, it's a lame and awkward plot device to have the ghost of a dead person haunting the person who killed him. But it's a fairly minor plot point here with Ronnie largely recognizing that he needs to cool off on the drugs for a little while. That's the only lesson he takes from all of this. He's hunting down Kevin because he needs answers and clarity. He needs to know that he won't say anything. What he ultimately gets from Kevin is a connection to Brandon. It's a potential way to talk things out about what happened and how to make things right. The action calls attention to the fact that neither Brandon nor Ronnie have guns. So, it's likely just to be talk right now. It's a precarious ending nonetheless though. It's tense because their lives are being forever changed by the other. And now, they have the opportunity to get those feelings out there with their respective reactions going to be very interesting in the following episode.

Finally, Emmett still feels off in his own show at the moment. That's increasingly odd. The other three leads are spending quite a bit of time with each other. Their stories actually connect in specific and important ways. Meanwhile, Emmett still just exists on the periphery. He lives in the same physical space as the rest of these characters. He goes to the same convenience store as everyone else. He knows the same drug dealers. But he hasn't had many meaningful interactions with the rest of the cast. He's just been off trying to sleep with as many women as possible while still trying to take some responsibility for raising his son. He's connected to Q in that he owes him money and wants to pay him back as soon as possible. And yet, Emmett mostly exists as commentary for how difficult it can be to find a job in this world. He is lucky enough to have one with a boss who is concerned about his well-being. And yet, it doesn't pay enough to support his new living situation. Of course, Emmett also notes that he could just stop buying shoes. That requires a significant amount of his income. But that also seems unlikely to change. So, he's struggling to find legitimate work. He finds himself in a similar predicament to Brandon. He has to decide if he wants to be a morally compromised guy who owns a gun and sells drugs. He has to think about it which signals that he isn't right for that life. But he still has financial demands. He gets a promising lead from the son of the owner of the convenience store. But that's also left in cryptic details by the conclusion of the hour. So, that job could ultimately be anything and lead him anywhere else in this world. That's intriguing while still testing the audience's patience a little bit.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Ghosts" was written by Adam Glass & Ayanna Floyd Davis and directed by David Rodriguez.
  • Last week I asked for clarity on Jerrika's job. This week the show confirmed that she works in real estate. That immediately has value and purpose as well. She is able to talk with Laverne about whether or not it's a good idea to sell her house now. But it also brings her into contact with Q, who is interested in a house that needs significant work done to it in a neighborhood that is less than desirable.
  • Q continues to be an interesting wild card throughout all of this. He has mystery and demands attention. That may just be because Steven Williams is playing him. But he's a character who earns the respect so many people give him. He's a man on a mission in this neighborhood. He's putting down roots in his pursuit of what happened to Jason. But are his intentions noble? Or is he a criminal trying to control the optics of a bad situation?
  • Conversely, Cruz is such a lame character in this world. More of his personal life is included this week. He is really struggling with the fact that he told Ronnie that they had a man in custody for Jason's murder. He feels responsible for getting Coogie killed. And yet, he hasn't made any significant progress on either of his cases. Nor is he really trying to prove that Ronnie is responsible for murder.
  • Meanwhile, it's strange how Cruz's semi-partner who is even more annoying keeps bringing up this baseball game. It may just be a tactic in order to control and keep an eye on Cruz. But it's not a subplot that would necessarily demand two episodes worth of buildup. As such, the payoff to that game has to be important. Otherwise, it would just be a waste of time.
  • Brandon borrows a van from a cousin who missed Coogie's funeral because he was in Indonesia. If Laverne really is moving to Tennessee, then it's probably important for Brandon to have a new family connection. Perhaps one that doesn't have as complicated a dynamic. But it's also less meaningful simply because of the amount of time already spent fleshing out Brandon's relationship with his mother.