The Chi: Building Relationships From Trauma

Ever since The Chi hit the ground running in their Season Two premiere they haven’t stopped. With each episode, we dig deeper into character arcs, plot lines and cliffhanger like twists that keep The Chi at the top of the list for one of the best shows on tv. This week between Brandon’s constant struggle to stay above water, to Ronnie’s internal demons that still have a hold on him; The Chi is giving the authentic representation Black people have been asking for. And being beautifully shot while doing it.

Brandon absolutely cannot catch a break, no matter what he does there is always someone else he owes, another broken part on the truck or here recently the impending fear that his brothers killer is going to get out of jail. Life is hard on Brandon and every day is a struggle, with his Taco Truck being shooed away from nearly every street corner he tries he doesn’t know what to do or who to turn to. He just has to keep taking it one day at a time. Which is why he doubts himself when he gets a flyer about his old culinary school holding a competition. He knows his food is as good if not better than most, but he knows that he’d be in a white space where he would have to be above excellent. And he isn’t sure if he’s got it in him to do that. Despite the encouragement from those around him, Brandon stays weary. He’s got bigger things to worry about anyways since Ronnie is trying to get out of jail.

And Ronnie’s reasoning is sound, his grandma was attacked and almost killed. She needs him to be there for her, to take care of her. To do that though, he’s got to get his life together and be a better man. While he contemplates over this, Ronnie remembers back to how he got to be like this in the first place. After returning from the war, his PTSD ran rapid and took control of most of his days. He tried to be there for Tracy, Jason and his grandma but the paranoia and constantly war raging in his head turned Ronnie to drink. He, like most uncared for Veterans, let the alcohol console him. However, it’s in this unfortunate habit of his that his shady lawyer will lay the groundwork for her case. Ronnie was drunk when he confessed to killing Coogi, that alone can blow the evidence stacked against him to pieces. Not to mention the only eye witness is 12-year-old Kevin. Kids are rarely taken seriously.

Kevin’s got his own issues to deal with though. Unsure if he should be fearful of Ronnie, Kevin doesn’t have much time to think about it when he discovers that Maisha has been missing school because her mother needs her to watch her siblings. Maisha asks Kevin if he’ll start bringing her homework to her so she can keep up in school, which he agrees to. He and Maisha aren’t exactly friends but the situation is a common one and Kevin wants to help as best he can.

Meanwhile, Emmett struggles to keep Sonnie’s Chicken Pit running after Sonnie suffers a stroke. He needs this job but knows almost nothing about having to keep a business going. And when Tiff comes into the restaurant demanding that he give her money for EJ’s dentist appointment, Emmett thinks he might have gotten in way over his head. The pressure to do the right thing is weighing on him heavily, but he pushes through. Only to end up at Tiff’s with good intentions that turn into a bad decision. Emmett’s still got a lot he needs to work on.

Each week, The Chi tells a story so great that an hour doesn’t seem long enough. The characters intertwine with each other and clash so well, the feel of the neighborhood never leaves. The plot, in all its sides and extensions, keeps the heaviness of reality but the hope of things getting better as well.

One of the things I appreciate most about the show is the relationship between Brandon and Kevin. They’ve been thrown together by a traumatic situation, they will always have some sort of connection because of what happened and the show is building that up to be something great. In last nights episode, my favorite part was Kevin riding his bike to catch up with Brandon’s taco truck. The two end up spending some time together, watching a few guys play football and just talking with each other. Brandon is able to assure Kevin that he’s helping by being willing to speak up at all. And Kevin praises Brandon on the state he writes in the hope that it’ll sway the court to not release Ronnie. I really appreciate the way Brandon and Kevin are able to have emotions, be human and look after each other. Brandon has taken Kevin under his wing, making sure the teen has his number and knows that he can call him for anything. While Kevin finally has a positive male influence to look up to, there is no one better for him to have in his corner than Brandon. It’s an amazing relationship to watch grow on screen. Black men aren’t often given that kind of representation.

In slightly smaller regard, it’s also nice to see that Ronnie’s PTSD isn’t getting swept under the rug. We’re learning about it, we’re getting background for why Ronnie is the way he is. And I really hope that once he’s out of jail, he can get some kind of help. He recognizes that the trauma is there and he recognizes that it’s taken a lot from him. I really want better for Ronnie, and I hope the attack on his grandma, as horrible as it was, is the fuel he needs to get it together. The right way.

I could talk about The Chi and how amazing it is all day. Not only in the way it tells a story but also in the beautiful cinematography of every scene. The representation of not only Black neighborhoods but Black people themselves, and those around us, is truly something to behold in The Chi. It makes it the highlight of my week.


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