Hit-and-miss ‘On My Block’ edgier than most ‘teen-centric’ series
The 10-part series “On My Block” sets itself apart from other “teen-centric” stories by focusing on Latino and African-American kids trying to navigate their drug-and-crime-infested inner-city neighborhood in Los Angeles as they start freshman year.
Unlike high school kids in most teen flicks, the troubles of Cesar Diaz (Diego Tinoco), Monse Finnie (Sierra Capri), Ruben “Ruby” Martinez (Jason Genao) and Jamal Turner (Brett Gray) aren’t the usual coming-of-age issues that can be solved and resolved by an adult’s good advice.
When they aren’t faced with problems about family and romance, Cesar and his pals struggle with urgent life-or-death experiences that put their lives and loved ones at risk.
It’s a situation that underprivileged kids are familiar with—and something that shouldn’t be “romanticized” by mainstream media.
As Brett explains, “If you grew up in an underprivileged neighborhood, you know the blocks you don’t walk down, the neighborhoods you don’t go to without friends, and the bus routes you’re not supposed to take.”
The Netflix series, which launches its second season tomorrow, chronicles how “the other-half” of mainstream US society lives, reinforcing Netflix’s intention of introducing oft-ignored stories that don’t hew closely to Hollywood’s concept of “profitable” entertainment.
The actors’ performances occasionally tend to go either overboard or underdirected, but the unique lifestyle viewers are introduced to is unusually fresh and unconventional.
For creators Lauren Iungerich, Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft, the show doesn’t just examine the aftermath of violence.
They explain the thematic focus of the series’ sophomore season in a joint statement: At a time when authentic representation of minorities is beginning to matter in government and business, the power of representation in media and entertainment might have the most reach in making a direct impact to help create a more inclusive and compassionate society.
This time around, the stakes are higher for “On My Block’s” young protagonists. More complications ensue when Jamal unearths $200,000 from a 37-year-old treasure, heretofore believed to be just part of urban folklore.
Season 2 begins one month after Olivia (Ronni Hawk), the girl Ruby was secretly in love with, was accidentally shot and killed by gang member Latrelle (Jahking Guillory)—who “crashed” her coming-out party to kill Cesar.
Cesar, who’s now homeless and estranged from his family, is forced to come clean with his budding romance with Monse, who has big problems of her own. She gets “reintroduced” to her real mother, Julia (Lisa Marcos)—a fair-skinned Latina who was “uncomfortable” living with her black beau and their “mixed” daughter.
Julia left her husband when Monse was just 3 years old, but now wants her lovely daughter in her life. Does she deserve another shot at motherhood?
While his friends help Ruby work through his trauma, Jamal grows increasingly anxious about the huge money he and his friends can’t use without raising eyebrows. He has grown increasingly close to their kooky friend, Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia), since his brush with death.
Monse’s decision to reconnect with her mom drives a wedge between her and Cesar, who ends up sleeping with his flirtatious coworker, Laura.
But when Latrelle returns to town for his unfinished business with Cesar, the beleaguered foursome, along with their friends and family, must come together to make sure that their perpetually problematic pal gets to live another day.
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