Wednesday, October 24, 2018

REVIEW: 'All American' - Jordan Experiences the Neighborhood Spencer and His Father Come From in 'i'

The CW's All American - Episode 1.03 "i"

Spencer and Jordan spend an unexpected day together back in Crenshaw where Beverly Hills golden boy, Jordan, gets his first taste of real life in South Central LA. Billy struggles with his identity as a father as Olivia and Layla attempt to rekindle their friendship. Coop faces her own truth, coming clean to her parents about being gay.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of The CW's All American.

"i" was written by Nkechi O. Carroll and directed by Rob Hardy

The split between Spencer's two worlds has been a huge driver of story in the early going for All American. He is trying to balance his upbringing in Crenshaw with his new opportunities in Beverly High. However, this episode smartly recognizes that it should be used as an entry point into talking about cultural identity for every individual in this world. Every person is built by their own experiences. Every person has their own unique background and struggles. They are defined by the worlds they grew up in. All of this becomes so apparent during the second half of this hour. That's the storytelling that really makes this show shine. Up until that point, it is still primarily Spencer's story in which football is used to solve any problem. A game is staged between Spencer's two teams to see which one is actually superior. Crenshaw has a legitimate shot at making the playoffs again. Beverly Hills hasn't been that great in years. But Spencer is now playing for the presumedly weaker team just because it's in a better neighborhood. He may be abandoning his culture and turning his back on his friends. Spencer eventually realizes that that will never be the case. Crenshaw will always be his home. It's where his family is. He has deep roots to this community. He cares about what happens to the people there. However, he also realizes that he has to be a part of a team in Beverly Hills. He can't just keep operating as an individual in that environment. He believes he's shunned because of the world he comes from. Instead, he has to open up and be willing to share because there is so much in this world that has the potential to unite everyone. The divisions can be so arbitrary and forced as well. Spencer is made to feel like an outsider because of a viral video of his mistake from the previous game. His teammates continue to bully him. But it's also rousing when they are willing to come together as a team. Hopefully, it will bring more nuance to Asher as a character. But it also gives the show something to build towards with this rematch between the two teams during the playoffs. But again, the more interesting material comes after the game when Spencer and Jordan are pulled over by the cops. This is a part of the everyday experience for Spencer. He grew up in a world where he was always looked at with suspicion. Jordan doesn't know that. He has seemingly never been pulled over or had to deal with the police. That's a blessing in some ways. But it also makes it so terrifying and scary here because he demands to stand up for his rights because he did nothing wrong. He was profiled by abusive cops. That's not right. But it again harkens back to how Billy wanted to escape the life he came from. He made something of his life and was able to create something better for his children. And yet, they may be shielded from the harsh realities of the world - leaving Jordan unsure of how to deal with the police and Olivia susceptible to a drug problem. Elsewhere, it's absolutely heartbreaking to see Coop shunned by her mother after coming out. She believes it's a core part of her identity that should be abundantly clear to anyone who has ever known her. She is baffled by the idea of having to come out. She has never hidden it or run away from it. But she has to get her mother to accept it and she can't. That's so emotional. It's a betrayal that leads her to Spencer's house. She is fortunate to have a friend like that who will take her in during her time of need. And yet, this could also exacerbate her problems with falling into gang life as well.