This review is spoiler-free, but does touch on some key narratives and plot points
Netflix’s marquee coming-of-age series remains an accurate, albeit largely entertaining, depiction of the harsh realities of inner-city adolescence. All whilst being set to the backdrop of a colourful soundtrack.
The beginning of Season 2 wastes no time in tying up the loose ends, in the opening scenes we find out that Ruby (Jason Genao) is alive after the shooting that took place at Olivia’s quinceañera in the Season 1 finale, but his family is still mourning another loss (that’s not a spoiler, he opened his eyes in the trailer, you knew he was alive Godammit!). Meanwhile, Cesar (Diego Tinoco) is living homeless on the streets of South Central after being disowned by his brother; Monse (Sierra Capris) is weighing-up whether the potential happiness to be gained from her new life justifies giving up the attachments of her old one; and Jamal (Brett Gray) is trying to wrap his head around having a sh*t tonne of money that he can’t spend.
For the most part, our central characters are the same as when we last saw them, their situations may have changed but their personalities haven’t, all of them with the exception of Ruby. When we first met Ruby, he was a quirky, somewhat overly sensitive 14-year-old, or as his abuelita put it so eloquently “the cryer”. This time around he’s a lot more somber, with his former self only appearing in flashes throughout the season. After experiencing a tragic loss he just isn’t the same… he’s clearly suffering from PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) as a result of his near-death encounter and is triggered by anything from loud bangs to crowded rooms. OMB presents grief in a very REAL way. No two days (or episodes) are the same, some days Ruby seems like he’s completely over what happened to him and other days you would think it just happened yesterday…
This theme of ‘trauma’ is consistent throughout most of the characters in the show, including Cesar’s older brother Oscar (AKA ‘Spooky’), who reaches his breaking point in one episode when trying to explain to Ruby how hard life has been for him (“This shit’s real!/That’s the kind of thing that makes a man SNAP!“). Those growing up in urban environments are not immune to the fragility of the human psyche, but in fact more susceptible – studies show that the PTSD suffered by youth in the inner-city is comparable to that of war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s sad that many of the viewing public will need reminding of these facts but OMB does an amazing job of raising awareness.
Woah that was A LOT to take in…. I swear the show is actually a lot more lighthearted than I just made it sound. I think we could all do with a little bit of a breather, don’t you? Let’s check out some of Jasmine’s funniest moments whilst we recover from my monologue on mental health.
OMB is one of those rare shows where every character has the capability to make you burst out laughing in their own unique way. Whether it be through Abuelita’s dark sense of humour or Jamal’s ever-growing list of eccentricities (e.g. his romantic relationship with a garden gnome), you get the impression that the show always goes the extra mile to make you laugh (and never fails at it either!).
The series benefits so much from the increased presence of Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia) and her further integration into the “core four”. When she steps on to the screen, you already have a smile on your face in anticipation of what she’s going to do next… the term “no filter” might as well have been made for her because she doesn’t know how to hold back! Her crude sex jokes and over-the-top hand gestures are so hilariously distinctive that nothing she does surprises you anymore, you just end up putting it down to ‘Jasmine just being Jasmine’. Her character is a lot more developed this season and we are even given a brief, yet telling, insight into her back-story. If the writers of OMB are reading this, we, the fans (yes, I speak for all of us) would like to see a lot more Jasmine in Season 3. Please and thank you!
A Different Type Of Family. Although this season was billed as the one where we found out more about Monse’s mother, it actually turns out to be more about the continued growth in the relationship between Monse and her father. OMB challenges the stereotype that black fathers in the hood are never present in the household, by showing a strong, single black man who is there for his daughter and works tirelessly to put food on the table. As someone who has grown up in an inner-city environment I know that “family” comes in many shapes and forms, it is true that the single-mother family-unit is unfortunately more prevalent than it should be, but it is NOT the only family-unit that exists. To be honest, the last time I remember seeing the single black father ‘family unit’ outside of Will Smith’s role in ‘The Pursuit Of Happiness’ is in the mid-2000’s sitcom “One in One” (man I used to love that show).
Less To Play For. Something about the stakes in Season 2 just feel a little less pressing, if it wasn’t for them constantly reminding us that Cesar’s life was in danger we probably wouldn’t even remember…. In between his friends’ lack of urgency in trying to clean the “roller-world money” and his brother ‘Spooky’ – who has spent his whole life protecting him like a proud lion protects its cub – not seeming too fussed if he dies, you get the impression that he gon’ be ite.
The second season may suffer from a bit of predictability at times, but that doesn’t take anything away from its overwhelming entertainment value; especially when you consider that it only contains 10 30-minute episodes, you really do get a lot of ‘bang for your buck’ (yeah that was bit cheesy, even for me). With its amazingly talented and ever-improving cast of young actors and actresses, OMB has the potential to keep viewers hooked for many more seasons to come… and if that wasn’t enough, they even threw in a cheeky cliffhanger at the end of the Season!
Do You Think That Season 2 Was As Good As Season 1? What Are You Favourite Moments From The Show So Far? What Do You Think Is Going To Happen Next Season?
As Usual Comments Are Encouraged!
Side Note: The last time that I reviewed a Netflix Original after its second season it got cancelled… so hopefully the same thing doesn’t happen with ‘On My Block’ because I actually really like this show. If it does get cancelled, I’m sorry guys.