The Chi’s last two episodes slowed down the pace in order to focus on select narratives within the show. It was a welcomed shift that built out the universe of The Chi, but also made a few outside characters like Quentin and Reg feel more connected to the central characters. After the pilot and second episode, “The Whistle” is the third episode that features Lena Waithe’s writing credit. Much like those earlier episodes, “The Whistle” broadens its perspective with mixed results. After the progress made in “Today Was A Good Day” and “Penetrate A Fraud,” more works here than not, but there are reminders of the issues The Chi still has to deal with in its last three episodes of the season.
While Brandon is usually the strongest part of any episode, Emmett takes that title this week. Paired with Quentin, Emmett is forced to confront the difference between “hustling” and “running shit.” While Emmett is certainly a hustler, Quentin makes it incredibly clear that he isn’t ready to run shit. Even though he’s willing to work for Quentin, he doesn’t have the confidence or showmanship to confront Trice. Quentin, on the other hand, enters the barbershop in an entirely wordless scene that still manages to convey just how much he runs shit. It’s one of the best directed moments in the show. Even though we only see it from outside, Steven Williams’ performance is powerful as he hands Trice a stack of cash and a cake.
The glimpse into Quentin’s past is also an enlightening moment for Emmett. “Nothing worth having ever comes easy,” is something Quentin and Sonny’s father said. Despite working his entire life, the family was left with only $500 and a whistle after their father died in a workplace accident. His death made it seem as though nothing much came from hard work either, so why not run shit? Either way it could cost you your life.
“The Whistle” ends with EJ’s mother returning and asking for him back, but Emmett doesn’t seem certain that this is what he wants. While I don’t really understand why co-parenting or shared custody aren’t an option, there’s some finality to the moment. Emmett has some major decisions ahead of him and the consequences of those decisions will be far-reaching. At least Emmett knows he’s not the type of guy who runs shit and Quentin seems far more forgiving of that than Reg.
The Chi does a wonderful job of portraying the consequences that connect and propel characters in the show. Emmett’s mother loses her job after stealing medical supplies for Ronnie. Brandon quits his job as fallout from helping a coworker and accepts that he may have truly lost Jerrika. The circumstances that make up this world aren’t just the faults of biased systems and a lack of privilege, The Chi gives these characters agency that’s often overlooked in portrayals of cycles of violence. So, when the episode ends with Sonny likely dead and Quentin under attack from Reg, it’s not a surprise. These are the consequences of Quentin’s rampage last week and Quentin had to have known this was a likely outcome.
“The Whistle” does fail when it comes to handling the events set off by Quentin’s takeover. It makes sense that the police would accept the convenient idea that Reg’s crew turned on each other and got into a gun battle, but there’s no reason why the community should be so quick to believe that. Reg and Trice act as though nameless, unknown soldiers lost their lives, but these are the people that Reg has lived with and been around all season. The show treats the men who died in the trap house as nondescript deaths, which feels at odds with the show’s aim to showcase the humanity behind the murders that happen at the hands of inner-city violence. We don’t see Reg mourn or even express anger over his crew. Instead, we get to see Trice give him a bloody beating.
If there’s any hint at Reg’s inner feelings or rising anxiety over the murders, it might be through Jake. The kids have a classic roller rink trip this episode that’s filled with adolescent crushes and awkwardness. Papa and Kevin hang with their friends and try to impress the girls, but Jake is far too tense to participate. When a boy whose brother has been talking about Reg shows up, Jake is ready to pull out the gun he has strapped on him. It makes sense that Jake would feel particularly anxious and threatened after the mass shooting, but the show doesn’t really draw that connection since Jake makes no mention of it. It seems as though it would be an important moment for Jake to realize what his fate could be if he follows his brother’s footsteps, but he may not even be aware of what happened.
The Chi’s best episodes have all come at the sacrifice of a major character and this week it’s Ronnie. Ronnie spends most of the episode just wandering around before he passes out from his gunshot, but we finally get to see Tracy deal with the loss of her son in Ronnie’s absence. Her scene in the Mothers Against Violence support group is brief, but it’s touching. Hopefully we get to see more of these women and their situations. They bring a much needed perspective to the show’s predominantly male vision.
Sadly, if any character should’ve been cut this episode, it probably should’ve been Brandon. Brandon has been caught up in a number of scavenger hunt-like plots that don’t really go anywhere for him. This week, he tries to help a coworker recover stolen fish and ends up quitting his job over it. It’s not the way I saw Brandon losing his job, but it’s better than him getting caught in an affair. The only good part of this plotline is the discovery that Luis’ gun guy is also his fish guy. With three episodes left, I’m not particularly interested in whether or not Brandon and Jerrika get back together or not. Brandon now seems almost entirely removed from the show’s center. It’ll be interesting to see how or if they bring him back into the main events.
- Detective Cruz is still doing some stuff. The whole “Who killed Jason?” mystery has really lost steam.
- Now I get to hate Ronnie for getting Emmett’s mom fired.
- I don’t think that’s the last we’re going to see of Brandon’s boss or his wife. That chef seemed way too mad at Brandon to not know something is up.
- Kevin’s plot with Myesha and her cousin was adorable and perfect.
- Papa is too great of an actor and character to not have more to do in the show.
- I really hope Sonny isn’t dead.
- So like, you can just drop off cases and cases of guns with the police and they just won’t ask questions? Seems like they’d be allowed to break their usual policy if someone turned in boxes and boxes of guns, but okay.