Black-ish, Season 1, Episode 11, “Law of Attraction”
Wednesday, January 7, 2015, 9:30 PM (EST), ABC
For an episode exploring the fiery passions ignited by men getting into violent confrontations, “Law of Attraction” lacked energy. It was funny and cute, but hardly memorable. That’s surprising since this marks the first time Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) and Pops (Laurence Fishbourne) have had a shared storyline on the show. We knew going in that they were divorced and avoided each other like the plague, but they are forced together in this episode and briefly rekindle their romance. Their on again off again tumultuous (often violent and literally fiery) relationship took its toll on Andre throughout his childhood, breaking his heart every time they separated. He doesn’t want that same instability for his own kids, so he cautiously watches his parents until he finally blows up at his father in the end.
Most of the episode is about attraction and why women seem to be turned on when their man does something befitting his gender. It turns out that Rainbow and Andre met when some men were bothering her at a casual neighborhood restaurant and Andre beat them up. The show pulled a trick straight out of The Affair and had them remember the incident differently – Bow remembers 2 teenage guys and Dre remembers 6 huge men. When a valet bumps into Rainbow in the present day, Andre chickens out instead of picking a fight, and this seems to turn Rainbow off briefly. As usual, Andre consults his expert panel AKA his coworkers for advice on what to do about the strain with Rainbow. He decides to take Rainbow back to this restaurant where they met and pick a fight with a stranger, but instead of a rough neighborhood with aggressive fighters, he finds an extremely friendly and helpful man and a little girl with an affectionate dog. Rainbow is afraid that even though she considers herself an evolved woman with multiple degrees, that she’s really a cavewoman at heart.
The kids were mostly in the background while the grown-ups romanced each other. Diane is around to act as the incredulous outsider to Junior’s acting aspirations and her grandparents’ bizarre ways of expressing affection. Zoey plays Juliet in her high school production and Junior is an assistant production assistant. When the real Romeo and his many understudies get sick, he becomes the new Romeo to his delight and Zoey’s dismay. She pulls out of the part because the thought of playing opposite her brother was too much to take. Junior’s solution is to play both parts by having half his costume and make up set up for Romeo and then performing Juliet’s final lines from the other side, complete with lipstick and half a dress. It’s quite a bit of effort for such a small joke, but it was a nice way to end the episode.
It’s only been 11 episodes, but most have adhered to a specific formula and this one more than any other felt like an unembellished template. Via voiceover, Andre catches us up on what’s going on with his family at the moment, he makes a fool of himself by overreacting to something he doesn’t fully understand about his kids or his wife, he gets terrible advice from his coworkers, makes a terrible decision, and then all is well again. I hate how Rainbow is always allowed to speak her mind and do what she wants, but by the end of the episode, she acquiesces or loses to Andre in some way. Rainbow is such a bizarre and quirky character that she can’t help but break through and make an impression, but the perspective is always slanted Andre’s way.
So much more could’ve been done with this juicy and hilarious material. Episodes like these feel empty because there’s a heavy emphasis on jokes, but they aren’t as well integrated into plot and character development. This came off as coasting or biding time. It’s disappointing because I know the show is capable of so much more than they’ve let on so far and this midseason return was an opportunity to reinvigorate the show with either edgier race commentary or over the top gags. Right now, it’s a funny show with occasional moments of brilliance that are increasingly few and far between. I just want to see the show push itself a bit more before the season ends, because if it turns out the show produces more episodes like this than the wilder romps, it will lose momentum and fail to have the lasting cultural impact it aspires to.
- The show briefly touches on how Andre treats his old neighborhood differently now that he’s wealthy. He tells Rainbow to hide her ring and he’s overly protective of her. It was a pretty obvious way to show racial prejudice and class differences, but it was so brief and transparent that it can’t really count as commentary.
- Dre finally admits that his coworkers are “the most damaged and unbalanced” people he knows, but this observation would’ve landed better earlier in the season.
- Dre’s flattop and Bow’s braids in the flashback were amazing.
- I love that Ruby is sort of obsessed with setting things on fire, even blowing up boats, but it’s a bit cliché. The crazy ex is always setting things on fire, it seems. She’s such a fascinating character played by such a great comedic talent that she deserves better.
- The show usually ends with a pretty cheesy Andre voiceover summation, but “I don’t need to be a cave man anymore, I’m a cave dad now.” is by far the cheesiest.
For an episode exploring the fiery passions ignited by men getting into violent confrontations, “Law of Attraction” lacked energy.