“The Chi” continues its trajectory of life in its 3rd season with a continuing sense of identity and reflection. Episode 3 “Buss Down” reflects in story-lines of perception and perspective. The core of the story still focuses on a missing girl in the neighborhood. Even that revolves in perception because of what the mother thinks her teenage daughter is capable of. Several scenes including a support group are diametric but also telling because of how people in similar situations react to their causes and how they are perceived. This is true of a former gangster who is trying to be more a family man. And yet his truth is bathed in masks even though he is trying to be more forthright. That story-line specifically is an bubbling powder keg waiting to happen but exceptionally plotted since it encourages discussion. Even the more baseline elements including a young chef trying to run a business but not understanding how expectation speaks to bigger ideas of ambition and hard work versus result. The cool thing about “The Chi” as it heads further into its season is how it parallels the experiences in certain ways of different generations showing the difference of course but also the subtle similarities that sometimes get glossed over. The older man who was responsible for a death last season is one of the most diametric of the bunch in the notion if his past and what the future is takes on a mirror universe quality to his trajectory. And yet compassion, kindness and the greater good still revolve in his world as themes just simmering below the surface.
By Tim Wassberg
The personification of masks both for professional and personal gain take on a sense of irony in Episode 2 of the 3rd season of “the Chi” entitled “Brewfurd”. Running in the background is the disappearance of a daughter of a couple at the end of the last episode. The interweaving story lines play in an interrelated form jumping in the matter of slice of life. One moves in getting ahead even in a neighborhood that seems focused on cutting through dreams. Another idea that keeps revolving is what necessitates the greater good despite question decisions or perceptions. A would-be businessman has dreams but is fronting a business that he has no talent for beyond the dream of it…but he has the ambition. He tries to recruit talent because he believes that this will make his business thrive and grow. He doesn’t understand that people see through his front. On the other side, his mother is too honest and in being her true self makes him front again when he should learn from her example. This essence of a hypocritical nature shows him on a path of burning brought but maybe losing all of what is behind him including his family.
On the other end is a man who has come back home to save his baby half-brother from what he got away from. What is interestingly unbalanced and well perceived is his own relationship which walks the boundary of identity, love and masks. He sees the line and can’t help what he feels but can’t come to terms with it in a real way beyond the surface. Unlike some of his peers, he is not a violent man but might be pushed to that level. The silent tome running in the background shows a man who is homeless and has a simmering facade compounded with rage that speaks to a darkness that has been seen before. “The Chi” is always effective in creating a pressure cooker situation where the characters are just trying to live their lives. Some of it is just coming of age. Others are matters of life and death. Whereas the last episode was anchored by a funeral, “Brewfurd” is about living life, whatever problems it might throw against the characters. The results are a matter of choice and consequence, sometimes good, sometimes bad.
By Tim Wassberg
The aspect of peace versus a sense of inevitability seems to flow through the heart of the S3 premiere of “The Chi” entitled “Foe ‘Dem”. The idea revolves around a community with so much loss being tested interrelated with a procession of joy. Writer Lena Waithe knows the classical structure of tragedy versus light but placing that idea within this Chicago neighborhood makes it all the more rich when the stakes are revealed. She also integrates the idea of relationship, young and old, straight or gay which gives the story even more universality. In an age still buried in certain toxic traits balance with enlightenment, it is a matter of how each family and each person deals in their own way, through hardships, successes and failures. People are finding their way here while others fall back into a sense of normalcy and habit whatever that may be. The dark criminal drama is unfolding underneath it all but it doesn’t play like dread but instead just a reflection of normalcy and a way of life. The wedding, especially with its unusual family, plays with the right beats although the foreshadowing leads to a bad possibility, but not from the exact direction one would think.
Behavioral tendencies are universal while situations are different. There is a speech during a funeral that is utterly rich because of its stark truth to the lady speaking it but what Waithe does is balance it with the smaller conversations whether it be on the sea wall outside a wedding or with kids hanging out in the afternoon. The scenes are not based in sentimentality but an authentic air. The words, especially in some of the darker scenes, seem a bit stilted but work. The idea speaks to the alphas and the betas but also those characters that filter in between trying to get ahead. Like any city or community, there are joys and heartache but this sector of Chicago and its lives have its fair share of heartache. Many are struggling to get out. Many return to find that this being their home, they need to fight for it and risks need to be taken. As the episode ends the idea of stakes continue despite best intentions for a peaceful resolution because of the essence of human nature.
By Tim Wassberg