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Jamal and Ruby at odds during a senior class president debate in ‘On My Block’ season four, now streaming on Netflix (Photo provided via @onmahblock on Twitter).

TV Review: 'On My Block' doesn’t finish strong in its final season

On My Block used to be a great show, at least at the start. The seasons have gone down in quality ever since Ruby (Jason Genao) and Olivia (Ronni Hawk) were shot, maybe that was some sort of warning for the show slowly bleeding out as it continued, which it has. The second and third seasons were fine, never bad — but bordering on it occasionally. The third season also gave the show a solid ending, which it immediately gets to rectify in it’s final ten-episode season. 

The fourth season starts after the two year time skip at the end of season three’s finale; with Cesar (Diego Tinoco), Jamal (Brett Gray), Monse (Sierra Capri), Ruby and Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia) all separated from each other, either by distance or by choice. Ruby and Jasmine are still dating and are running for senior class president. Jamal is a football star for Freeridge and is running against Ruby in the election, seemingly only to get back at him. Cesar is now the leader of the Santos gang, taking his brother’s place. That leaves Monse, who’s away with a new group of friends at Mayfield Academy, a boarding school. 

The series should’ve ended with season three — I’ll stand by that. Leaving those characters apart and as the different people they’d become would’ve been a lot more interesting and bold than what we ended up actually getting: a mess. For a writers room that previously knew how to write compelling endings, though often of the cliffhanger variety, it seems they forgot how to do that this season, or at least didn’t know how to tie things up. 

I would compare the first half of the season to the final season of Parks and Recreation, where all the central characters are separated following a time skip, and it takes a while for them to get back together. The difference between these two final seasons is that Parks and Recreation actually had a satisfying ending that felt final, while On My Block had neither of those things. No spoilers here, but the ending leaves most of the important plotlines open, a puzzling choice considering this is the final season and was seemingly always meant to be. 

If the plan was always to end the series like this, I have no idea how no one ever mentioned how bad of an idea it is. Ending a series with no closure on purpose is a new level of self-sabotage. 

My main issues with the plot come with a vast amount of wasted time and unnecessary new characters. For example, Cesar’s new girlfriend Vero (Nikki Rodriguez) is purely there to be an obstacle for Monse to overcome, serving little other purpose and receiving no real characterization. 

The finale wastes half of its runtime getting the main cast back together, and when it finally does, it leads to nothing more than disappointment. The series also seems to know it’s coming to an anti-climatic close, making several jokes about it. 

Being somewhat self-aware about your shortcomings doesn’t mean that those shortcomings no longer matter. 

Another frustratingly disappointing point is that of the gangs’ power struggle following the events of the season three finale. The show makes a big deal about power over the block being up for grabs and it being open season, but after one event (albeit a large one), that subplot is forgotten entirely, with the gangs never being brought up again.

I’m not saying there needed to be more action or death — that’s not what this show is, but setting that up for half the season and then throwing it away is just an extremely odd choice.

The performances from the main cast are serviceable here, at least for the most part. Brett Gray and Jason Genao are both okay here; they never break past the line of just doing their jobs correctly. Sierra Capri is given a lot less to do this season and that shows in her performance, which is much less emotional than usual. She usually killed it before, but she seems to be on autopilot here. 

Diego Tinoco is the weakest of the main actors, consistently being in one mode as an actor, faking toughness. That’s what his character is doing too, but Tinoco just doesn’t sell it; he comes off more like a caricature of a gang member than a hardened leader. This is especially disappointing because of the show’s continued diversity of characters, actors and storylines. Falling back on stereotypes is never a good look.

Jessica Marie Garcia absolutely steals every scene she’s in, easily being the most entertaining and surprisingly relatable character this season. Jasmine’s trials and tribulations are among the most personal of all the characters. In short, she’s fantastic, and I hope to see her in more projects where she doesn’t have to act literally half her age.

Here’s my advice to anyone on the fence about watching this final season: don’t. It’s a waste of your time. Meandering for over four hours with no real conclusion, this season doesn’t ever find a reason to justify its existence. 

If you’re going to watch it anyway, know that the series will continue with a spin-off that will possibly wrap up this series’ many hanging plotlines. If this spin-off, entitled Freeridge, is the reason for On My Block’s lackluster finale, Netflix should be ashamed of itself. Compromising a series’ last hurrah, no matter how pointless the build-up is, is just gross. 

If Freeridge is what Netflix is saying it is, prepare for even more disappointment as it seems to be the same exact show as On My Block but with a different main cast of teens. Regardless, On My Block’s final season should serve as a lesson on how not to end a series. 

@zachj7800

zj716018@ohio.edu

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