The Chi is easily one of the best new shows on television, adding to Showtime’s strong lineup that includes spy juggernaut Homeland and the Damien Lewis-powered financial drama, Billions.

A searing and raw portrait of life on Chicago’s South Side, creator Lena Waithe (Master of None, Dear White People), herself a Chicago native, is unflinching in her excavation of the day-in, day-out lives of compelling characters who fight for love, dignity and survival on the hardened streets of the windy city.

In the Season 1 finale, “Ease on Down the Road,” most loose ends are tied up with the characters we have become invested in. The biggest question is, who killed Jason?

The answer is something of a domino effect. Trice cops to Jason’s killing, offering up his sins to Quentin. And here, there is no forgiveness. Reg is given the job of returning an eye for an eye, killing Trice, and in doing so, advancing to the top of the food chain. But the story doesn’t end there. Yes, Trice shot Jason, but it is Detective Cruz’s right hand man and partner who choked the life out of him. And yes, you will be forgiven for thinking this sounds a bit convoluted.

the chi showtime

Ronnie’s scenes are perhaps the most powerful of the episode. His, is a profile in bleak consequences. He killed Coogie. He turned himself in. And now it is time to pay the price. Waithe forces us to confront and stare incarceration squarely in the face in these sequences. From the sardine-packed confinement, and the complete stripping of personal dignity and humanity, to the inequities and hopelessness of it all. But the choices made by a violent man led him here.

And Laverne plans to stick around for Ronnie’s trial. The man who murdered her son will pay and she will have a front row seat. There is so much pain tied to Laverne’s story. After Jerrika sells Laverne’s house, giving her a well-earned chance to start over, Laverne must dim that light at the end of the tunnel to stay put and get justice for her beloved son.

Ntare Mwine’s portrayal of Ronnie grounds The Chi in devastating reality, with Mwine deftly slipping into the skin of a complicated man who is easy to despise, but incredibly compelling to watch, stealing every scene he is in. And the goodness in Sonja Sohn’s affecting portrayal of Laverne as a strong and fierce mother provides the perfect counterbalance.

And while The Chi has its flaws, it reflects the most honest portrayal of the delicate dynamics of inner city life since The Wire. Race, sex, politics, violence and the coming of age are all explored powerfully, leaving the viewer with a lot to chew on.


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