In Three Words: Family, Cultural, Abundant
This show has been on my list ever since it dropped on Netflix Mid-March 2018.
It took me until they announced early 2019 that a 2nd Season was coming. So I said to myself, "If watching immediately is the best time to watch, watching in anticipation of the 2nd Season is the next best thing." And that's exactly what I did.
So the show follows four teenagers. Cesar, (Diego Tinoco) Monse, (Sierra Capri) Reuben "Ruby", (Jason Genao) & Jamal. (Brett Gray) They're smart, they care about each other and just about to start High School. My first thoughts after watching the first episode is that the writing for this show is sharp and very well done. Big up the creators of this show, Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft & Lauren Iungerich. It is clear from the jump that they know what they wanted this show to be, I'll get more into that throughout the review but simply, they succeeded.
There's a lot of things I can get into with detail but I'll try to keep it short.
A major point of this show is it's location. South Central Los Angeles. Just saying that specific part of LA evokes a lot of thought and most of them are covered in this show. The first scene in fact, has the protagonists peeking in a High School house party (As we know, house parties are the best parties.) and it gets abruptly cut short because a gun goes off. Everybody scatters. But in the moment, as our gang runs, they shout in unison what type of shot it was.
That's something that you'll experience throughout the show. Where they're talking about or doing things that you yourself might not do or even know what to do, but because they're such good characters you don't feel threatened or undermined while watching. I don't know specifically what a .44 is! But because the world-building & character build is so solid, you just strap in & enjoy the ride. That is a pitfall for many shows, but because this is a Dramedy, you know when they're being serious and when they're not.
More on the characters. I love everybody. All of the main & side characters have their purpose and all get their moment, which is what a 1st Season of a show should do. The main quartet are all unique in their own ways. They're all mature in some senses but at the end of the day they're teenagers and most of the time, classic fragile, teenage feelings win out. A good example is the relationship between Cesar & Monse. Where Monse spends the entire series trying to keep their relations under wraps, Cesar wants to go public. This relationship reminds me of Sam & Gabe from "Dear White People". Obviously DWP has an added racial element but on the face they're quite similar.
Ruby, aesthetically is the lesser, but his dedication for certain situations is great, to the point where he actually has good leadership qualities. If only his grandmother wasn't constantly fitting him for dresses and (no pun intended) stump his growth. Jamal's dedication to "Roller World", a mythical treasure originating from the gang Cesar is in, is fun to watch and probably my favourite story arc out of the four. (next to Monse) But in all situations, they all get tangled in each others paths. They all show great qualities but like in all great characters, they have their flaws.
And then the writers of the show throw a spanner in the works. Olivia, (Ronni Hawk) the woman of Ruby's dreams, (She's a "no blood relation" cousin) the friend of Monse's dreams and Cesar being the man of Olivia's dreams. You can see how much they can do with the plot by having Olivia arrive to live with Ruby's family. It's this added dimension that really makes this show pop. Have an outsider come into their tight-knit circle and expose that regardless of how long you've known each other, teenage feelings are their own beast. We've all had those moments...
The theme of maturity is prevalent, but another is community. How everyone knows everyone, it really creates this small pond feel that makes this show even more warm and inviting even though dark themes like gang culture, gang violence, cultural pressures (Racial, teenage & High School) are constantly laced throughout.
There's nothing I don't like about this show. It's a great "Coming-of-Age" Dramedy, with memorable characters, great visuals, great music, great writing and beautiful story progression. (The finale, SO gripping!)
Expect a review of S2 very soon...