On My Block premieres March 16th on Netflix.
By Ariba Bhuvad
When I began watching this new Netflix show, I wasn’t exactly sure if I’d connect with it. The story takes place in a setting unfamiliar to me, and the characters are so young I was afraid I may not be able to relate to them. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised as I continued to watch this coming of age series.
On My Block is created by Lauren Lungerich, Jeremy Haft, and Eddie Gonzalez and tells the story of four friends: Cesar (Diego Tinoco), Ruben (Jason Genao), Jamal (Brett Gray), Monse (Sierra Capri) and their lives in an inner city neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles. While the series is considered a comedy, I beg to differ in more ways than one. There are many comedic moments infused throughout the ten episodes, but the plot still contains some heavy material and the reality of living in a neighborhood where the sound of gunshots is just a normal part of daily life. The series struggles a bit in the first three episodes with slow execution and character development, but starts to gain momentum about halfway through the ten season.
On My Block focuses on a few storylines; some of which are intriguing, some of which are a complete waste of time. One focal point of the series is Cesar, who must follow in the footsteps of his family gang, despite his plans to make something of himself. The season spends a lot of time on Caesar’s involvement with the gang and his friends’ plan to get him out of it. While aspects of this adventure are endearing, a lot of it also feels a bit boring. However, I did enjoy watching the dynamic between the group as they came together to get Caesar out of this predicament. It reminded me that these protagonists are just 14-year olds trying to navigate through a situation many others their age wouldn’t even fathom dealing with. It was in these subtle moments that the story captured me and brought me into its world.
There is one storyline in the season that was so odd and strange. Jamal finds hidden money from a robbery that took place years ago and gets sucked into a quest to uncover backstory. In fact, it involves a scavenger hunt, gnomes, (yes, gnomes), and lots and lots of digging around the city. I thought it was an oddly placed plot in a show that had a lot more important routes it could have gone down. I’m not sure where they were headed with that, and maybe a season two renewal will clarify why this aspect of the story was necessary.
The strongest part of On My Block is its motley crew of characters that feels like the 2018 version of The Goonies. They carry the series till the very end and provide a myriad of emotions to the story. Perhaps the funniest character is Genao’s character, Ruben aka Ruby, who made me laugh so much with his antics and silly personality. I did appreciate that even though the characters are so young, there was a certain level of relatability to them. I was suddenly taken back in time to those awkward moments as a young teenager when heartbreak was all-encompassing and life felt extremely overwhelming. And while I wasn’t consistently engaged in the story, I found myself invested in the characters and their lives.
What caught me off-guard as I approached the end of the season was a cliffhanger I did not see coming! Not only did it boost the initial grade I was planning on giving On My Block, but it opened my eyes to the epicenter of the entire series – this is a neighborhood and community where anything can happen, and danger lurks at every corner. I have to applaud the writing of the final episode because I certainly did not expect the story to take the turn it did.
All in all, the freshman season of On My Block provides a balance of entertainment and a dash of realism that is enough to keep watching till the last episode. I wasn’t completely convinced while watching but I did connect with the heart of the story, and it was ample enough reason to see where the story went. While one too many subplots exist in the overall storyline, they almost get away with it because the characters are interesting and the story is just engaging enough to excuse the background noise. The cast really breathes life into the series and with their witty, sassy dialogue you will find yourself chuckling at the ridiculous situations they get themselves into.
While On My Block doesn’t rate extremely high on my list of shows for 2018 so far, I think it’s worth a watch if you’re looking for a different, younger perspective into inner city life with a great group of characters in tow.
I give On My Block a C+.