Sometimes, you just get what you deserve, and in the third episode of Season 2 of Showtime’s The Chi, “Past Due,” some characters get long-awaited breaks while others just luck up.
This episode was also possibly the most beautifully shot one yet — notably, the black and white to color transitions as Ronnie walks out of the store, the shot of Brandon through the truck, the slow-motion shots at the repast and of the detectives working out, and a spicy between Emmett and Tiffany. These scenes all evoke the right emotions in a perfect, not-so-subtle way.
Here’s what else happened on Season 2, Episode 3:
Kevin and Papa get money
Papa is trying to sell the most candy bars at school so that he can win a contest to get a TV. He’s redoing “the Papa Cave,” OK? Plus, there’s only one good TV in the house, and he ain’t trying to watch the gospel channel all day long. He’s getting frustrated because he can’t sell anything, but Kevin is forced to join him after their teacher hears him talking bad about the fundraiser.
They try to sell the candy on the street, but it’s not working, when Papa says he’s hungry because he’s been doing this Daniel Fast at church and it’s the last day. Bells go off! They go to Papa’s church, and when church lets out, they rack up selling the candy to the starving congregation.
But you know who is not getting paid, Kevin’s kinda bully Maisha who’s really not a bully at all. Maisha returns the bike she took from Kevin last season but then blackmails him into bringing her homeworking every night. Turns out, she has a reason. Her mom has been making her stay home and watch her little sisters and brothers while she works. She’s not able to go to school and has a lot of responsibility for a little girl.
What I love most about the scenes with Maisha in this episode is how humanized she is … because she deserves it. It shows how much we truly don’t know what those around us are going through every day. Maisha even gives Kevin cupcakes she baked (and packed some up for Papa) before Kevin leaves and she continues to lovingly dote on her brothers and sisters. She’s not even resentful, which you’d imagine most girls her age to be. Instead, she sees it as a way of life, which is both a relief and heartbreaking at the very same time.
Emmett gets an opportunity to grow up
Emmett has yet to show himself as a true adult — until this episode. When his boss, Sonny, has a stroke, Emmett finally steps up and tries to take care of the restaurant. Is he doing a great job? Of course not. He has no idea what the hell he’s doing. But, he’s trying.
He even (eventually, after first saying no) gives Tiffany, the mother of his son E.J., all of his tip money to take the baby to the dentist. When he shows up at Tiffany’s house to give her the money, they argue for a second before diving into a steamy sex scene that I totally was not ready for.
Toussaint and Cruz get new developments
Both Detectives Toussaint and Cruz deal with some frustrations in their respective cases. Toussaint is having trouble getting anyone in the neighborhood to talk to her about what they may know about Ms. Ethel’s attack — that is until another elderly lady, who says she’s not afraid of anybody, tells her that there’s a white woman getting people to sell their houses.
This interests Toussaint, especially since there are no other leads as to why someone would want to attack an elderly lady. Sure, Ms. Ethel recognizes Reg (from her hospital bed) in the photo lineup as someone who causes some trouble. But he’s not the person who attacked her. Also, she only saw one person — although Toussaint knows there was a second person who came through the back of the house.
And poor Cruz is pissed all over again. Ronnie’s toxicology report from the night he confessed came back showing his blood alcohol level as twice the legal limit with traces of barbiturates and a sedative. So, it gets thrown out.
Toussaint even questions Cruz about why he didn’t wait for Ronnie to sober up before getting his confession so that there would be one less loophole for his lawyer to exploit, but Cruz just gets angrier. This case is personal for him. In Season 1, Cruz bonded with Coogie after realizing he had nothing to do with Jason’s murder. He knew he was a good kid, and Coogie’s death seemed to have affected him more than he realizes.
Cruz is doing everything he can to try to stop Ronnie from getting out of jail. He goes to Coogie’s family’s house to ask his mother to write victim statement about how Coogie’s death has affected them, but their mom is long gone and she can’t handle living in Chicago with her son’s killer out so it looks like she’s not coming back. Cruz encourages Brandon to write one instead.
None of it matters, though. The DA drops the case, and Ronnie is let go.
Brandon and Kevin get support
In one of the most touching scenes I’ve seen on The Chi, Kevin and Brandon continue to bond but are now using that relationship to lean on each other as they both struggle with the news that Ronnie will likely be getting out of jail. Kevin sees Brandon driving the taco truck and he races his bike to catch up with him. He says he’s sorry about Ronnie getting out and wishes there was more he could do.
Brandon offers Kevin a ride and they hang out talking and even pausing to play football with some guys at the park. And afterward, Brandon asks Kevin if he can read his victim statement letter to him. Kevin agrees, and it’s beautiful. It’s also painful, but it’s pain he’s been holding back for a while.
This scene is the total opposite when Kevin, Papa, and Jake are riding with Jake’s brother Reg in the car. There’s not talk about taking advantage of women or fighting. The discussion Brandon has with Kevin is likely one that he would’ve had with Coogie. And Kevin, who doesn’t feel comfortable talking about what’s been happening to him with his big sister, needs someone he can talk candidly with and without judgment.
Kevin really wants to stand up and testify against Ronnie, but a man paid secretly paid by Ronnie’s attorney convinces Kevin’s moms that it would be dangerous for him to do so. And he’s a kid — they have the final say — and based on the discussions the lawyers have with the judge, his testimony wouldn’t have been taken seriously anyway.
But, Brandon finally gets his own break. He gets into a culinary contest he didn’t think he could get into because he owed the school he went to money and contestants must be in good standing with them. He makes a good faith payment and convinces them to let him enter. The school agrees, and hopefully, this means his financial luck may turn around. Brandon has been struggling since the show started. He’s tired of being broke, and as the audience, we’re tired of seeing it.
Ronnie gets freedom
Ronnie may be getting out of prison, but he’s all alone. That’s clear throughout the episode as even his lawyer, who’s working pro bono through her firm, tells him that she’s not on his side.
“You think I like getting murderers and white supremacists off?” she asks. “I’m trying to make partner.”
And with his grandma, Ms. Ethel, still in the hospital, he’s got nobody. And what’s more, his getting out doesn’t even seem to be beneficial to him. He admits that he’s been better in jail because the structure is more similar to what he was used to in the Army. The flashbacks embedded throughout the episode may not go back to his Army days, but they do show the post-deployment life that many veterans face. He can’t find work, he’s having spells of anger, and he fantasizes about killing a man he’s been in an argument with.
Now that he’s out, he’s on his own, and we don’t really know which way he’ll turn from here.
Got thoughts on this episode or season of The Chi? Tweet me at @ArionneNettles and let me know.
Top image: Alex Hibbert as Kevin and Shamon Brown Jr. as Papa. (Elizabeth Sisson/SHOWTIME)