‘On My Block’ stirs up emotions with season premiere

Dramedy flawlessly navigates both genres


Netflix hit "On My Block" returns for a second heart-wrenching season.

Courtesy Wikipedia

The Netflix dramedy “On My Block” returned for season two on March 29. The previous season left audiences with a cliffhanger. Both Ruby (Jason Genao) and Olivia (Ronni Hawk) were shot in a hit and run meant for Cesar (Diego Tinoco), and viewers do not know lived and who died. Within the first four minutes of season two, the show reveals only Ruby survived. Picking up from such a somber finale, the show maintains its balance of comedy and drama. Through superb writing and acting, “On My Block” manages to send a harrowing message about gang violence and loss while simultaneously making the audience laugh. 

The first episode opens showing various people mourning the loss of loved ones at street side memorials. It is a short scene, but it poignantly depicts the impact senseless gang violence has on individual lives. As the show progresses, “On My Block” reveals how this violence has impacted two of its main characters: Ruby and Cesar. Cesar — the intended target for the bullet that killed Olivia — is riddled with guilt. In addition to the internal struggle he faces dealing with the death of Olivia, Cesar has to see the effect his actions have caused for others. With certain characters blaming him for her death, and others calling him a traitor for not killing Latrelle (Jahking Guillory) — the assailant of Olivia — his character cannot catch a break. 

In contrast to this, there is Ruby, who lost his first love in Olivia. Unlike Cesar, throughout the episode, Ruby suppresses his grief and chooses instead to get high. Unfortunately for him, as soon as the high wears off, his mood goes low. He stands outside the street side memorial for Olivia, doing his best Viola Davis cry — snot and tears included — and says, “I’m not okay.” It is only three short words, but the emotion Ruby puts into them is enough to make anyone feel like they just lost their first love as well. If the message of how gang violence touches individuals did not hit home with the first scene, the parallelism between the scene with Ruby and the opening scene will surely do so. 

In the midst of all the drama and tears, the show somehow manages to deliver its dose of comedy and laughter. The majority of the jokes come from Abuela (Peggy Blow) and Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia). Jasmine is just as crude and blunt as the first season, and Abuela still remains the coolest stoner grandma television never knew it needed. The writers having these characters maintain their humor in such a dark episode is a testament to their talent. 

Not only is the writing team of “On My Block” still capable of writing hilarious jokes, but they also became self-aware. During season one, fans on social media pointed out that Ronni Hawk spoke less than stellar Spanish in the show. In season two, viewers discover Ruby intended to gift her a Spanish-to-English dictionary. In a sea of lackluster half-hour comedies, clever, comedic writing is always welcome.     

“On My Block” knows how to make a viewer cry, whether by pulling at the heartstrings or hitting your funny bone. The show managed to find the perfect middle ground for discussing social issues and delivering punchlines without making viewers feel like they are watching an after-school special. This is a problem another Netflix dramedy — “One Day at a Time” — failed to fix. Both shows had casts predominantly consisting of actors of colors and focused on issues pertaining to people of color, and in the political climate of today, such representation is important. But seeing as “On My Block” has managed to find this balance, this show is here to stay.

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