black-ish Recap: A Somber Discussion of Police Brutality, Tinged With Hope

Week after week, black-ish delivers as many laughs per minute as any comedy on television.

But while Wednesday’s installment had its fair share of wicked zingers — Ruby’s “Trust me, precious metal and sexual favors are the only currency during times of civil unrest” springs immediately to mind — the serious subject matter and compact direction made it unfold like a half-hour stage play about the nation’s epidemic of police brutality against black people (and the failure of the justice system to remedy it).

The episode — which took place almost entirely in the Johnson family’s living room — found Dre and Bow and their four children, as well as Dre’s parents, gathered around the TV awaiting news about whether a grand jury would indict in a fictional case where cops used their tasers 37 times on an unarmed black man selling DVDs.

The half hour occasionally strained in its efforts to make statistics and harsh truths a natural part of the dialogue, a situation common to many series’ “Very Special Episodes.” (That said, maybe we should all go to our local book store and get Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me… just sayin’.)

But ultimately, the multi-generational approach to the subject matter proved as illuminating as it was moving. As Dre’s parents, Laurence Fishburne and Jenifer Lewis managed to convey the deep history of suspicion with which many black folks view law enforcement, while also managing to score the episode’s biggest laughs. Meanwhile, Yara Shahidi — as eldest daughter Zoey — was especially raw as a young woman feeling utterly hopeless about how she could effect change personally and politically.

Perhaps the best part of the episode, though, was the way it didn’t flinch at the conflict between Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) and Dre (Anthony Anderson) over how — or even whether to — explain the unfolding news story to their pre-teen twins. The actors allowed the audience to feel the passion on both sides of a particularly charged argument: Bow wanting to keep hope and optimism alive for her littlest ones, and Dre unwilling to let said optimism blind them to the harsh realities of racism in modern America.

Dre’s speech about the hope the family felt about President Obama’s election — and the abject terror they felt during his inauguration, worrying that he could be assassinated and that racists would “snatch hope away from us like they always do” was a stunning crescendo to the story.

And while the Johnsons’ group outing to a downtown protest over the grand jury’s failure to indict put a convenient bow atop a difficult episode, it nevertheless seemed apt given the title: “Hope.”

What did you think of this week’s black-ish? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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74 Comments
  1. Tom says:

    Awesome doesn’t feel quite right here. I mean yes it was a great episode, but Awesome just feels…….wrong

  2. KayCeeCee says:

    I laughed. I cried. Excellent job Black-ish team!

  3. KSM says:

    They did an excellent job with this episode. It actually brought me to tears, and also still managed to make me laugh at times. Job well done for an incredibly difficult subject… also a job well done bringing the issue into the homes of some people who may not live in a large city and realize that this is real life all the time for some people.

  4. Jeselnikfan says:

    Yay. More of the increasingly popular “white people and/or the police are the devil” rhetoric. Too bad such a routinely funny show fell prey to this sloppy storytelling device.

    • Greg. J. says:

      You need to go back and watch the episode again no where did it say “the police are devils.” This is real life for many people. You don’t seem to understand that. I wonder why.

      • JAV says:

        It was certainly implied.

        • Bigdede says:

          It was not implied. They made it a point of saying how of Dre is on a first name basis with the police in his neighborhood. So they made sure to say how we do need the police and they keep us safe. You didn’t watch the episode

          • D Baker says:

            Did you watch ? I think the damage was done when Dre said 92 percent of police are bad and the other 8 percent give advise to law – n- order episodes. I am sick of police in general being made to look like bad people. How many people do you know that would put their life on the line for you on a daily basis.

          • Bigdede says:

            Yeah I watched and apparently that was just him being angry and ranting because they made it a point of showing Dre on the calling the cops. You need to take off your hate filled blinders when you watch

        • Dial says:

          It is implied that all police are bad. Next time your in trouble don’t call the police handle it yourself.

    • Linda says:

      Did you even watch?

    • Sims says:

      You definitely need to re-watch this episode. It seems like the point of it has totally been lost on you.

  5. Greg.J. says:

    Great episode for a difficult topic. The scene where Andre was talking to Bo about president Obama tugged at me because I remember thinking that myself and still do at times today. That made it want to cry. Such a great show and cast. A+ from me.

  6. Cassandra says:

    Can someone please explain the Peabo Bryson reference in the episode?

    • Cocobiscalio says:

      Dre’s mother loved his music…but no kid wants to hear the song his mother listens to when she’s ‘in the mood’.

    • Bigdede says:

      Dre said how his mother didnt sugarcoat anything and kept it real when he asked questions. She cut a banana when he asked about Bobbit so she told him about Peabo

  7. Mak says:

    Obviously it’s not going to be to everyone’s liking but it was a very painful, powerful & confronting episode. I teared up during Dre’s speech. Best episode of the Series IMO…A++

  8. JAV says:

    Why are they attempting to romanticize such subjects as police brutality, painting the victim black and the horribly misguided and ignorant Black Lives Matter?

    Even went as far as to show snippets of our current failure of a PotUS taking office… one of America’s biggest mistakes and current the “change” that has put it on a downward cycle 7 years and counting…

    • Spike says:

      JAV, this is a discussion about a TV show, hence hence the site’s name – TVline. Your trolling racist comments belong in another forum. No one is forcing you to watching blackish. Really why do you watch it? They had a pretty tame approach to real events. They could have name checked events in Ferguson, Sandra Bland, etc. Maybe you should consider turning the channel to one of the many programs devoted to your pal Trump. Good luck with that.

    • Cindy Aragon says:

      Because he’s working with a bunch of ‘JUST SAY NO TO EVERYTHING’ Congress on the other side for the past 8 years that’s why he can’t do most of the change he wanted to because the GOP won’t meet him halfway.

  9. TvPeong says:

    Great episode. Kudos to the Blackish team

  10. lostom66 says:

    Fell right into Hillary’s wagon wheel for votes, enjoy.

  11. lostom66 says:

    Time for a draft to clean up the ignorant intercity scum and gangs. Let them go fight ISIS and not tax paying Americans.

  12. lostom66 says:

    People #Blacklivesmatter was started on a HUGE lie with mike brown. Hollywood is just cashing in on the cheap ratings.

    • :-) says:

      Black lives have always mattered even though some people don’t seem to think so. These same black lives have fought for this country in every war since the Revolutionary War. They serve as LEO, firefighters and other emergency personnel. They are citzens deserving of the equal protection under the law promised to every citzen. It shouldn’t take an organization or a TV show to tell some people in this country that black lives matter too.

      As far as the case that brought the fact that black lives matter too to the forefront it was not the Michael Brown case. The formal organization (group), if that’s what you are referring to, began in 2013 before Michael Brown was killed. You have a right to an opinion but please base it on fact.

      • Otis says:

        Few people heard of the Black Lives Matter organization until Michael Brown

        • :-) says:

          “lostom66 says:
          February 25, 2016 at 5:31 AM

          People #Blacklivesmatter was started on a HUGE lie with mike brown. Hollywood is just cashing in on the cheap ratings”
          The organization was started in early 2013. Michael Brown was killed in mid 2014 at best. His statement is uniformed and not based in fact. My statement stands.
          As for your statement of few knowing until then the organization was trending on many social media platforms in 2013. So more than a few people new. I’m not sure of the point you meant to convey but facts matter. This episode of Black-ish went out of the way to give facts on an emotional issue. I believe we are all better served when we use factual and true statements to support our opinion. That could be just me.

  13. Bigdede says:

    I didn’t get Black lives matter from this. This is something that’s been happening before Black lives matter even came into existence. My dad told me a story years ago about how cops just pulled over and harassed him while he was walking home from school. My brother was beat up on and maced my cops. Social media is just making this known. Anyhoo, when Dre had those tears in his eyes while talking about Obama, I cried because I thought the exact same thing. I also understood Bow because I want my niece and nephew to not think so negative about their future. This episode wasn’t as powerful as Scandal marvelous Lawn Chair episode but it was good

  14. :-) says:

    Very well done of the black-ish team. Yes there is a lot more to be said on each side but all in all it was a very eye-opening 30 minutes and still funny.

  15. Hedy S. says:

    Thank You JAV!!! Well said! They need to knock this crap off. I know police refuse to go to certain parts of my hometown because they are afraid for their lives. This is what BLM and all of this garbage, fake tv shows included, does to the morale and safety of police officers. They are creating a mob mentality.

    • :-) says:

      Manufactured mania. Like the TN Officer that blamed Beyonce for the shots fired at his house. He fells to mention that he is under investigation by the TBI, FBI and a few other people for a dew things. He’s also cost himself and his county a lot of money because he’s lost a few lawsuits because he fires that disagree with him. But that’s ok. Let’s blame the black people

  16. Peg says:

    We are bomb-barded all day everyday with social, political, ethical, moral information. When we watch a sitcom it is to escape, laugh, be entertained for 30 minutes. When comedy turns into commentary I will turn the channel. Will not tune into this program again. I hate hidden agendas.

    • Jack says:

      They wont miss you.

    • Justice says:

      Hidden agenda is everywhere it’s called the media.

    • Dana says:

      Art is meant to be enjoyed, but it is also there to portray a facet of the real world, to inform us about the world we all live in. And frankly, the fact that a sitcom, with a black main cast furthermore, has not discussed the horrible situation stemming from systematic racism in so many parts of the US in particular, and the world in general, until the middle of the second season is far more disturbing than your perceived “bombardment” of information. I personally think this episode was a very moving and well-written one.

    • Exactly. When I watch a supposed comedy, I’m looking for an escape from the heaviness that surrounds us in our every day lives. They’re bringing way too many agendas into this sitcom and I’m done watching it, completely. Such a bummer because otherwise, it’s been a great show.

  17. heather says:

    I would have loved this episode if they would have touched on the truth of Freddy Grey. He was not some up standing victim! Treyvon Martin was not killed by the police but lets not let facts get in the way. They did bash law enforcement in this episode!
    Oh and on the Obama bringing hope what HOPE its worse now!

  18. Jake says:

    This show is really something special. They never disappoint. Wonderful cast, wonderful writers. black-ish is a showstopper and I know many people compare its impact on today’s black community to The Cosby Show. I hope it sticks around for many, many years. I think most white people who watch the show are level headed and see African Americans are more than entertainers so they realize why this episode was necessary. We aren’t just making this stuff up. I absolutely support the police. I do not and will never support killer cops. The sooner America realizes it is possible to support law enforcement but reject police brutality, the better off we’ll all be towards freedom.

  19. Mark says:

    While I think it was a subject that needed to be covered I just don’t think it fit with Blackish. I think a show like the Carmichael Show would have handled it better.

  20. LT says:

    This was an incredible half hour of television. Thank you cast and crew for showing how entertainment shows can really influence discussion in society. Great job all around!

  21. Christine says:

    …And i’m sure nothing was mentioned of how all of these “innocent, upstanding, young black men” were in the process of committing crimes when they were killed. Beyonce and all the other Black Lives Matter sheep seem to always forget the most important facts of these incidents! Ohh well, I supposed there’s no room for truth with this “movement”.

    • TnyGrl says:

      And I suppose all the people who died while NOT committing a crime – you have no room for their truth?

      John Crawford – shot while shopping at Walmart
      Eric Garner – choked after breaking up a fight
      Yoshihiro Hattori – foreign exchange student shot while asking for directions to a party because he “looked scary”
      Jonathan Ferrell – shot while seeking help after a car accident
      Aiyana Jones – 7yo killed at home while a raid was being filmed for a TV show
      Tarika Wilson – 26yo unarmed mother shot while holding her infant, also shot
      Steven Eugene Washington – Unarmed Autistic man shot in the head by LAPD
      Sureshbhai Patel – Paralyzed for looking “suspicious” and not knowing English

      I could go on, but I would highly suggest you also do your own research. It’s too important not to.

      • :-) says:

        Excellent post. We are not anti law enforcement because we want accountability in our law enforcement. Without accountability in those charged to protect and serve we all lose our freedom. A badge should not be immunity from doing your job poorly. A camera should not keep you from doing your job properly. How many businesses do you go in everyday that have cameras? People still do their jobs.

      • Bigdede says:

        Excellent post

      • Justice says:

        All lives mattes.It’s just worse for African and Mexicans because of stereotypes.It’s proven statistically blacks are treated differently we have been programmed for years to respond this way.Why is that?We have to break free of the programming.Open your eyes people propaganda is everywhere.Stop talking about it and do something about it.The only people really safe in this world is rich white males.Know thy enemies.

        Love the show I was worried about Obama too when I watched the inauguration,but let’s be honest he hasn’t helped the black community in anyway it’s worse.

      • James Thulin says:

        Ok, so you mention a small percentage of “innocents” that have been killed. You did forget to list whites that have been shot as well but that’s no suprise. Not all that you listed were shot by cops mind you.

        Why don’t we give all of you a uniform, a badge, and a gun and send you into NY city, S. central L.A., etc and see how well you do. You’d be scared out of your mind and rightfully so. It’s a war zone out there and I’m sorry to say that most of the enemy (criminals) are minorities and immigrants. If I’m a cop it’s me or them and I’m going home to my family at whatever cost! You blacks are the ones that just can’t seem to integrate!! You want all of your separate black entities and spew hatred and then wonder why things are so tense.

  22. Jeri says:

    It was a good show but I was confused by an ad I saw before it aired calling it an “extended episode.” Doesn’t that mean longer than usual? I even set the DVR to tape the following program in case it ran over. It didn’t. Perhaps it was just a misleading ad. It doesn’t appear to be on next week, I checked in case it was continued. That ad confused me, probably just a mis-statement though.

  23. Bill Shirkey says:

    This was a great episode. I was impressed with the cast and that it felt very genuine with their discussion regarding the tension in our society today. Relations between the police and the black community and other communities of color, have improved over the last 5-6 decades, but we have a lot further to go. When Dre verbalized the fears of President Obama being taken away due to violence, it brought me to tears. Those were the same fears many of us felt but may not have verbalized. Thank You Black-ism team for the strength and courage to bring us this episode. Keep up the good work!

  24. valerie tower says:

    Episodes ending made me cry. Well done blackish.

  25. Gee says:

    This was an amazing episode brought by an amazing cast and crew. it left me in tears and i remember feeling the same way Dre felt during inauguration. It also showed why I’m so scared having kids and bringing them up in a world where they have to encounter racism and police brutality everyday.

  26. Spence says:

    This episode needs to win some Emmy’s, hopefully people learned something from it.

  27. Desertman says:

    Watched show every week. Thought it was really funny and well balanced. Won’t watch it again after this episode. Don’t need to be preached to. Talk about black-on- black murder to get at the real problem.

    • Amen. I adored this show. The writing and the actors are incredible. The intense, skillful and completely backwards propaganda have ruined it for me. Never watching it again.

  28. Sims says:

    Can Anthony Anderson please get Performer of the Week for this episode?? At the very least an honourable mention. What a great episode. It wowed me. I just love that they never flinch from covering the hard topics even though it’s a sitcom, and they always do it in such a smart manner. I couldn’t help but tear up when Dre spoke about Obama’s inauguration. So good.

  29. Robin mason says:

    I can’t explain how funny and sobering this episode was. It was well written, well acted and very educational. I remember thinking the same thing when Obama walked down that street. I was afraid. Well done. I have never wrote anything about a tv show in my life, but I felt I had to say something🙂

  30. PEACE says:

    ALL lives matter. Just another advertisement of how much ignorance their is regarding this topic. How come no one is discussing the white bus driver who recently got assaulted. This episode will only stir up more negativity. Poor choice. I am sure the show lost MANY viewers deciding to take comedy to a dark negative place. It’s a shame some people can’t see past themselves to see that they aren’t the victims they think they are. Stand tall and just try to always be the best person you can. if you break the law, you have to be responsible. Doesn’t matter what you look like.

  31. Em says:

    I always look forward to watching blackish but almost did not watch this episode because I feared the subject of police violence would alter the unique dynamics of the tv family. I feel fortunate to have watched the episode as the family discussed the reality of the issue and how it impacts the family in a way which made me laugh and cry. I love l the character Junior because he is usually so “out of touch” with what is happening around him. But he was so informed about the subject of police violence I felt proud of him. The episode was great

  32. Brent says:

    I refuse to watch the show. I’m tired of the double standard. If there was a show called “Whiteish”, people would loose theirs minds. Even if show was white people joking on themselves, it would be racist. But because it’s “Blackish” it’s okay. If there was a WET network it would be racist, but BET is fine. It is 2016 not 1950 or 1960. Sure there is racism in this country. But racism is racism. White again Black, Black against White, or any other race again another. In my humble opinion, all the show does is further separate everyone. We need to hold THE PERSON accountable for their our actions, not the group or race they are. To say police brutalize black people is as wrong as it is to say all black people eat watermelon and chicken. Or all Asian people are bad drivers. Or all Arabs smell funny. Sure there have police officer who have brutalized black people. Just as there is a black person who loves watermelon or chicken. I’m sure there is an Asian that is a bad driver and an Arab that smells funny. We all need to step and take responsibility. We all need to work together to better our country. The longer we accept separation, the longer road it will be for us to come together as a unified country. The Great USA. Truely the greatest place to live. If you do not believe it is, go live somewhere else.

    • Peace says:

      I totally agree with you Brent. Everyone has to work together to NOT be seperated. You can’t choose to separate for BET and then want equality in other avenues. You either want t be united or you don’t

  33. Kelsey says:

    They stepped over the line and lost this whitish viewer. It’s a shame because I loved this show before. Remember when Ellen’s show became all about being gay? Blackish is treading on that territory lest we forget what happened to Ellen. We don’t need any more stirring of the racial pot. Just be a funny show and leave race out of it. You don’t ever know the fear a police officer feels unless you’ve been in his shoes. And guess what…not only black lives matter!!! Every life matters!

  34. JOYCE WILLIAMS says:

    I WAS SO SAD TO SEE MY,FAVORITE SHOW BECOME A FORUM FOR ANTI-POLICE SENTIMENTS. ESPECIALLY TO HAVE UPPER MIDDLE CLASS ,SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE
    STATE THE TERRIBLE INEQUALITY BLACKS SUFFER. ALL THIS AFTER THE PEOPLE OF OUR NATION ELECTED A B;LACK PRESIDENT TWICE.. aLSO NEVER ANY ME NTION OF THE TERRIBLE BLACK ON BLACK CRIME COMMITED IN INNER CITIES. SURE THERE ARE BAD POLICE , AS IN ANY PROFESSION , BUT THANK GOD WE HAVE THEM TO PROTECT US.

  35. Amanda says:

    I liked the show. It was funny and to me showed that success and lesser success wasn’t race related.

    This episode seemed to perpetuate the self inflicted race issues. I don’t think race issues are gone, but this episode of hate will cause me to not watch this otherwise great TV show.

    I found the show not about race, but busy family values. It portrayed great family values and a fight against the “norm”. I have seen the other “black” perspectives, but liked the idea of sharing a perspective I didn’t know personally, but could relate too.

    I am a republican and personally not a Omaba fan, but as with any President so proud of what he has accomplished. He had moved past name calling and speaks of the well being of our country. That’s all you can expect regardless of race/sex.

  36. Dial says:

    My son is a police officer and puts his life on the line everyday!!! A doctor on a sitcom does not! He never knows when someone will kill him! So until your in my sons shoes don’t judge on what decision my son should make. My son is not a rasist. My son grew up a military family and I’m Hispanic. To group more than 90 percent of police officers as bad Is laughable and ridulous and I think police lives matter too!!!! I taught my boys to respect everyone including police officers and they will make right decisions and do not have to fear the police.

  37. Traci says:

    I can appreciate that there is real issues with our legal system that reflect the unfair treatment of blacks. TV has a given a rated G version of what is going on all the time to Black men. Thank you Black-ish for being bold enough to bring real life to TV, we can’t always be comedians. Glad you made it a family oriented moment, we need to communicate all life’s challenges. Must be careful with stats, there are some good cops out there.

  38. Gary says:

    Blackish was one of my favorite shows. But after this episode I deleted it. It was a cop bashing episode. I have A family member who is a policeman who takes his life in his hands every day. They could’ve handled this much better if they wanted to. And no one is talking about what the grandmother painted on the garage door very end of the episode she painted black power. What if modern family painted white power on their garage door at the end of the episode. People would’ve went out of their minds. I’m tired of this double standard.

    • Dana says:

      She wrote “Black Owned”!!!! I understand having a family member in the police. In fact, my father recently retired from the police, and my uncle is still an active officer, while my aunt is a judge, and her sons are prosecutors. All of them have had to see a lot of horrible aspects of humanity, but that does not entitle them to just shoot someone dead because of their skin colour, or religion, or perceived socio-economic status, or sexuality, or sexual identity. It is in fact the duty of all parts of the justice system to ensure and enforce equal rights to all the citizens of a state! I re-watched this episode tonight, and I don’t find any of it prejudicial to officers of the law. The scum that cover their racism behind a service pistol do not deserve to be called officers of the law.

      • Dana says:

        And the reason she felt she needed to write “Black Owned” on the garage door wasn’t because she was racist, it was because she wanted to make sure that if any police were to come to the house (a pretty plausible thing to happen during riots of the like that have been happening over the last couple of years, btw), they would be aware that the black people inside weren’t “thugs” looting the place, but the family living there. And isn’t that a horrible thing to have to worry about in this day and age?! Imagine if a white family had to do it to feel a little bit safer, how would you feel then?
        P.S.: Make sure you have your facts straight next time you decide to rush to the comment sections cause you thought you saw some “reverse racism” on a TV show!

  39. Jess says:

    I have to say this episode made me more emotional than any of the others and more than anything I’ve seen in a sitcom lately. I remember being in high school in Canada watching Obama’s inauguration and we were all as worried as we were excited. Everything in this episode was important and deserves to be shown and discussed, they weren’t bombarding anyone with this, these are things that need to be talked about. These shootings shouldn’t be happening, it’s as simple as that. Zoey was great in this episode too, love this show.