From Stranger Things and 13 Reasons Why to The End of the F***ing World and Sex Education, teen shows and YA adaptations have become Netflix’s strongest catalog. But unfortunately, not all of them get the social media coverage that the aforementioned titles get. There are many underrated teen shows buried underneath the ones we often see in Netflix’s Instagram and Twitter account that also deserve to get some praise. And one of them is On My Block, a teen dramedy created by Lauren Iungerich, Eddie Gonzales, and Jeremy Haft.
First debuted in March 2018, On My Block started off at a rocky note. The first few episodes of season one struggle to seamlessly blend its serious tone with the raunchy humor at the center of the show. There is gang violence, cheesy romance, friendships, and even an over-the-top wild goose chase of a buried treasure. But as the season progresses, and with the help from the charming cast, the show manages to deliver what it wants to explore in the first place, the cost that one must pay if they want to keep their friendship from falling apart. Though the second season shows a sign of sophomore slump, it is not by any stretch bad TV. Thankfully, the third season which premiered last Wednesday, is able to course-correct the flaws that season two has made.
The third season of On My Block picks up thirty seconds after the cliffhanger event of season two. The core four — Monsé (Sierra Capri), Cesar (Diego Tinoco), Jamal (Brett Gray), and Ruby (Jason Genao) — are kidnapped with black hoods over their heads by the fierce and menacing leader of Santos gang, Cuchillo (Ada Luz Pla). The reason? Cuchillo wants them to find Lil’ Ricky, the former leader of the gang who was responsible for hiding the RollerWorld heist money that Jamal found at the end of the first season. Lil’ Ricky’s closest confidant Chivo (Emilio Rivera) told the kids back then that the man Cuchillo wants to find was dead a long time ago. But she has an instinct that he’s still very much alive.
Cuchillo threatens the core four that if they fail the mission, their families will pay the cost and that the RollerWorld money that they’ve found will never get back to them. Ruby, whose family desperately needs the money, decides to take the mission seriously even though Monsé has had enough of it. The pressure that comes from this mission is what eventually fractures the already-volatile relationship of the core four. And it is also the main narrative of season three.
As the tensions and stakes are getting even higher, pushing the core four at the edge of a breakdown, Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia) comes as an anchor that keeps Monsé and the others as one unit. In the two previous seasons, Jasmine is only a side character functioning as the laugh machine between all the grim reality that the core four are facing. But in season three, the show finally embraces another side of her, the parts that make her more complicated than just what we’ve seen so far. She becomes the caretaker for Monsé and Ruby, offering genuine sympathy and infinite support without asking for something back.
This new dimension of Jasmine allows Garcia, who is promoted to series regular in season three, to provide more vulnerability for her character. And she indeed excels at it. Some of the best moments of On My Block season three are when Jasmine has heart-to-heart conversations with Monsé. The two of them are never portrayed in a genuine relationship in the first two seasons. So when in season three they finally get to be friends, it becomes the highlight of the season. Through Jasmine and Monsé’s friendship, On My Block reminds us that we can’t always judge people just from the outside. We have to know them to see who they truly are because by then we’re finally able to develop a genuine understanding of each other.
Still, Garcia’s best quality is her impeccable comedic chop. And in this season, even though she shows more depth, she never jettisons the parts of her that make us laugh out loud. Her rivalry with Jamal is where both Garcia and the writers mine most of the show’s humor. The chemistry between Garcia and Gray is magnetic, demonstrating physical humor and perfect timing of funny reactions anytime something happens to each of them.
On friendship and reality
Though seeing Jasmine’s transformation is rewarding, the main focus of On My Block season three remains the friendship between Monsé, Jamal, Cesar, and Ruby as each of them is trying to make sense of what has happened to them both personally and communally. As we can see in season one and two, the core four constantly break promises and hurt each other. But at the end of the day, they always find a way to get back together and forgive each other. Of course, to see the characters that we’ve grown to love for three years stay together as friends will warm our hearts. But in the real world, friendships don’t always eclipse adversity. People will change, relationships will evolve, those who were once friends do not always stay together. And in the third season, On My Block finally embraces that hard truth.
Monsé is beginning to realize that if she wants to change and have a better future, she has to leave Freeridge and start anew somewhere. But leaving Freeridge means that she will also leave all her friends behind. This is the cost that she’s not ready to pay yet. But as more danger arises, and her relationship with the core four is even more ruptured, she has no choice but to pay that price. The question is, will Jamal, Ruby, and Cesar stay the same even though Monsé, the one person who’s always been the glue of the core four, has left them?
The thing is, even if Monsé did not leave them, the relationship between the core four is already affected by all the challenges that they have to face every day. Jamal is still reluctant to face the reality that in real life, not everything is a treasure hunt. Ruby is still traumatized by what happened to him at season one, and still grieving for the death of the girl whom she loved. Meanwhile, for Cesar, nothing that he or his friends done can break him free from the cycle of gang violence that he’s been exposed to ever since he was a kid. Yes, everyone in On My Block is going through a lot of serious things. Everyone is stuck on a cycle, and no matter how much they try to change their own paths, they will never fully escape from it. On My Block never once shies away from the hard truth that the kids are facing every day in their lives. And it is what makes the show, despite its over-the-top comedic moments, so emotionally grounded.
As we can see at the ending of season three, the possibility of what might happens after Monsé leaves them is not a good picture. But it is a portrait that speaks true to those who have been going through the same thing as the core four — that friendships will not always stay together, and that everyone will change. Some fans definitely will dislike how things wrapped up this season. To me, however, it is a perfect note, a bittersweet tragedy that is both painful and accurate at the same time. Season four, if Netflix decides to give a renewal status for the show, could use this ending to make the show to be more mature. But if in the end there will be no fourth season for On My Block, the ending is still pretty much a perfect closure.
What do you think of the ending of season three? Let us in the comments!
On My Block season three is available to stream on Netflix.
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