On My Block Review: A Powerful Exploration of Family and Breaking Cycles!

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If you thought you'd make it through a season without shedding some tears, then you were mistaken.

While both installments had some emotional moments, On My Block Season 3 Episode 5 was the strongest installment of the season so far, and the most compelling and emotionally wrought.  

It took a beat to ground the series before forging ahead with cracking the season's biggest mystery during On My Block Season 3 Episode 6.  

Monse at the Funeral  - On My Block

The series is at its best when it presses pause on the silliness, kooky fun, and absurdity then strips these lovable characters to their bare bones, exposing their vulnerability.

It was no better time for it than the installment dedicated to the funeral of Monse's mother. In the end, her mother's death wasn't what made the half-hour so pivotal.

Everyone was in a dire state of weariness, and it shouldn't have come as a surprise. The series has a knack for getting all too real midway through every season.

Monse's Stressed - Tall  - On My Block Season 3 Episode 1

It's smart writing. One spends an hour or so chuckling and getting wrapped up in the adventures of this young group of teens and those around them. Then seemingly out of the blue, they hit you with a poignant installment, leaving you re-examining why some dismiss the series as being strictly comedic in the first place.

We saw this most of all with the Diaz men, and boy has the series made a quick Ray fan out of me.

It's thanks to the writing, but also Ian Casselberry's quiet but powerful performance. Ray has a strong presence, and it was evident before, but he didn't get his best moments until he started the half-hour tying Cesar's tie and telling him how he looks up to him, and he ended it hugging Oscar before being pushed away.

Ray's Call - Tall  - On My Block

Their arc was the most gripping, and it was the most profound in a sense too. If you had to sum up their storyline, it's about upholding cycles and breaking them.  

The 19 Street gang's threats have weighed heavily on Ray, and he felt it was best for him to leave again. However, his leaving was more complicated than a crappy father bailing when things got hard.

Look, you have every reason to feel triggered, but what you're doing is triggering other people. Everybody's going through their own shit. Okay? You gotta stop. You're bringing down the mood. At a funeral.

Jasmine

Ray believed he was protecting his boys by leaving. He thought it was the best solution for all of them, and a lot of his issues are rooted in him not knowing how to be a father.

He had a crappy dad, and therefore he was a terrible one for Cesar and Oscar. He didn't know how to break that cycle.

And he left his son to be a father to Cesar, no more aware of fatherhood and what it entails. It's a cycle deeply rooted and passed down, and they haven't been able to break it. Ray doesn't know how to be a dad, and he hasn't had a positive paternal figure in his life.  

Family Ties - On My Block

He recognized and owned it. One of his most touching moments was him expressing how much better he wants for Cesar. He knows the street life isn't for someone like Cesar. He still has a chance to be something better and greater, and he recognizes the potential in his son and how much heart he has.

Cesar isn't the brightest bulb sometimes, but he's pure of heart, and despite everything he's been through, it hasn't been snuffed out of him yet. Ray looked at him with guilt because of how he couldn't be there for him and give him something better, but also pride that Cesar turned out well despite that.

Ray: You're a good kid. I'm proud of you.
Cesar: Thank you.
Ray: I had a shitty dad. Never thought I'd be a good one. You know that old saying, you don't get to choose your parents? Truth is, you don't get to choose your kids either. If I could ... I'd choose you, mijo. Yeah, you're the first person I've ever looked up to.
Cesar: Me? I'm nothing to look up to.
Ray: No. I know nothing. As long as I've been alive, I've been nothing. You, you aren't nothing. You're a kid who's never needed anything, let alone anyone, to be something. Someone to look up to.
Cesar: Well, I'm proud of you too, dad.

It takes a real man, a big one, to look at his teenage son he hasn't had much hand in raising and say he looks up to him and is proud. Cesar didn't even know how to process those words.

It took everything in him not to shed a few tears. He's a softy that way. You could tell from that moment Ray planned on leaving, but it was such a heartwarming one, you knew it wasn't another case of him giving up on his sons.  

Cesar is Speechless  - On My Block

It sucked that he left without saying goodbye to Cesar. He deserved as much, and it's hard to explain to a kid that you haven't abandoned them.  

Ray didn't consider how much harder he made it on Oscar. And if Ray and Cesar's moment prompted a few tears, Ray and Oscar's final scenes incited a floodgate.

Ray: I hope they don't sell you out. There's going to be a day when the hood don't love you no more. When your power is taken, cause this isn't a life, and you don't have to stay here. You can make other choices. Be something you want to be.
Oscar: Thanks, papi. You're right. I can be president. Or an astronaut. Or a movie star. I can be anything I want to be because I had such a good role model!
Ray: I had a shitty dad too, mijo. But you gotta let go of that rage.
Oscar: Let it go? It's the only thing that keeps me going. It's how I survive out here without you. I'll see you around.

Ian Casselberry and Julio Macias were incredible during the intense exchange between the two. Oscar's shift from anger, to sadness and brokenness, to carefully curated stoicism was a masterful journey.

It has been a fantastic season for Oscar. He was always a character on the periphery, and while he always had depth, it's the first season where there was space to explore it and peel back more layers.

Sons and Fathers - Tall - On My Block

He's one of the most multifaceted characters on the series, and when given the material, damn does he wreck you.

Oscar got into this life because of a lack of ways out and a choice. He has moments when you can see it destroys him. It's less than ideal, but he doesn't see any other way out of this.

It's like he's drowning, and if it was only him, he'd be fine, but everything he does is to take care of Cesar, too. He had to be a father well before he was ready for it.  

Cesar turned out OK. He's a good kid, and it is a reflection on his brother, but how does one become something they don't know or see?

Ray  - On My Block

Life ripped Oscar's childhood away from him, and he's angry all the time about that. As he said, anger is the only thing that keeps him going, and it sure as heck is the armor that keeps him and Cesar safe.

The tension between Ray and Oscar had been brewing for some time, but they were due for it bubbling over. Was there anything as hard-hitting as Oscar's line about being a father to his brother without experiencing being a son.

You know the worst part about growing up without a father? It's having to be a father to a brother without ever being a son.

Oscar

It's the plight of being the eldest sibling in a single-parent household, taking on more responsibilities than most, but after whatever happened to their mother, it was even worse.  

Oscar once alluded to their mother suffering from addiction or mental illness and not being around as much. It's something Cesar never noticed, and Oscar took pride in that. For him, it meant he did his job protecting his brother.

Monse was right. You are cursed. Everything.bad that has ever happened to me is because of you.

Cesar

But all that means is that no one protected Oscar. He bared his soul and cried like the little boy who longed for his dad, and it was the most heartwrenching scene.  

Oscar found a way to break the cycle by sticking around and raising his brother the best way he could, and because of him, maybe Cesar has a shot at being a wonderful dad someday.

Tearful Oscar  - On My Block

It's sad that Oscar doesn't think there's a way out for him, and that it's too late. Ray meant well with his "be anything you want to be" speech, but Oscar has already expressed that he feels opportunities have passed him by.

He was a smart kid once on his way to a good school. He wanted to be a chef. He had hopes and dreams, but their hood is claustrophobic, and it sinks its claws into people, and they feel like there is no way out.  

I'm just done with the bullshit and dancing around the truth, and the truth is sometimes I think we're better off dead.

Ruby

It's something Ruby was alluding to at the funeral. And if Julia was an example of what happens when someone does break free, then what does it mean for everyone else?

She spent her entire life restless and running from unseen demons, and she took her life in the end.

But the parallels between Oscar and Ray and Cesar and Oscar were striking. Ray knows he wasn't the best father, and he didn't know how to be one.  

Oscar Breaksdown  - On My Block

He took everything Oscar said to him; he knew it was true, and their hug was everything. He also understood why Oscar pulled himself together and pushed him away.

Oscar blames Ray for all the bad things that have ever happened to him, but it was another blow when Cesar turned around an echoed the same words he said to his father.  

Monse was right. You are cursed. Everything.bad that has ever happened to me is because of you.

Cesar blamed Oscar for all the bad things in his life without considering all the things Oscar has done to raise and protect his brother for all of these years. Oscar didn't want to be like his father, and he did as much as he could to ensure he wasn't, but Cesar responded to him all the same.

It was fascinating how similar the brothers are, and how they respond to things with that same anger to conceal their hurt and pain.

Cesar Hurts Oscar  - On My Block

It was a tough one for Oscar, who probably felt as though he was damned if he did and damned if he didn't, and he also had to deal with questioning his worth.

He wouldn't let Jamal know it (and that dynamic is divine), but he went to Cuchillos on their behalf to give them more time to find Ricky.

Spooky: I didn't know shit about you snatching up my brother and his friends after I delivered the Prophet$ and clean cash. I was right about that, just like I'm right about 19th street. They're fearless. They have no code. They don't care if they die, which means they don't care if innocent people do either.
Cuchillos: They're little boys. Whiny little bitches whose balls haven't dropped. Traviesos.
Spooky: Traviesos we can't control. We need to work with them. Neutralize them.

He also had to inquire about Cuchillos' choice to kidnap his brother and the others despite everything they did to take down a rival gang.

Cuchillos is a ruthless woman, and she didn't need a knife to cut Oscar down.

Ruthless Cuchillos  - On My Block

I'm worried about Ray. His phone call to Cesar had an ominous tone, and the last time people lashed out at a character wishing them out of their lives and death upon them, it was Selena.

Ray also gave the impression he was seeking atonement and willing to do something risky and life-threatening to save his boys.

You know what's yours, papacito? Nada. You own nothing. You don't even own yourself. I own you, Spooky. Never forget that. OK?

Cuchillos

He may do something rash with the 19th street gang, or maybe Cuchillos herself.  

But Oscar is worth being concerned about too. He knows what's brewing. Cuchillos is out of touch or doesn't care, but he's always made it clear that the gang life he's in is about protecting his neighborhood.  

Oscar Meets with Cuchillos - On My Block

He lives by a code, but the 19th street gang does not, and he knows there will be bloodshed and no paz if they don't find a way to compromise with them.

Cuchillos reminded him that he's a nobody and that she owns him, which means she won't respond well when she hears he struck up a deal with 19th street.

All those years waiting for her to come back to you, I thought she would come back to me too.

Monte

The scary thing about his agreement is that he either has to deal with 19th street pushing their limits to gain more power, or he'll have to deal with retaliation from the Armenians when they find out about the new deal.

Monse also touched upon a disturbing reality. Her mother died, and she didn't know how to feel. She couldn't bring herself to be upset or even wonder what her mother said to her in the voicemail she deleted.

Monse at the Funeral  - On My Block

Monse was afraid that she was becoming desensitized to the trauma and everything else happening in their lives. It's something that was bound to come up. Who can forget the opening scenes of the series was the group distinguishing gunshots from fireworks and cars backfiring and guessing the type and make of a gun.

They did it with ease and familiarity.  

Monse: I'm worried that all the shit that keeps happening to me to us... I'm worried that it's starting not to penetrate. Or not make me feel anything. What if I'm totally desensitized to pain and loss? What if I become one of those people who is numb to life. I don't want to be that person.
Ruby: I know that feeling. I feel that too, but these feelings past.
Monse:How do you know?
Ruby: Because you questioning if you're not feeling means you're still feeling something.

At some point, a person dissociates to function, and Monse was terrified that she was becoming one of those people who stopped reacting to bad things happening.

It's a real fear, and it made for a visceral, raw scene, and Capri and Genoa knocked it out of the park. It was chilling how they had this specific discussion while sitting in front of one of the shrines to a life lost in the neighborhood. Ruby was right, as long as she was wondering if she was affected at all, she was OK. 

Profound Talks  - On My Block

The day she stops caring or worrying about how apathetic she comes across is when her fears have come true.

It's remarkable how these kids endure so much trauma and find ways to still persevere. They never stop being kids, despite life and circumstance doing everything to rob them of it.

All those years waiting for her to come back to you, I thought she would come back to me too.

Monse is another character who has had to grow up faster than she needed to, and it's a wonder she doesn't recognize that in someone like Oscar.  

She was all grace and maturity when she held her father as he sobbed. Monte broke down after Selena's death, and it left him wondering why she abandoned him and Monse in the first place.

He wondered if he was ever good enough, and he hoped she would come back. But Monse was right. As she comforted her father, not unlike she did with Brian at the wake, she told him that her mother was troubled. Julia/Selena was always going to leave.

Monse Comforts Monte  - On My Block

She was a broken person, and nothing or no one would change that. It wasn't nearly as shocking as you'd think when Brian said she left him and the kids multiple times too.

Monse never learned about womanhood from her absent mother, but isn't it funny how she managed to fall into some of the characteristics of black womanhood anyway?

Never underestimate the "I don't give a shititude" of part-time security guards. 

Jamal

She embodies it to the hilt, and it was moments like wondering if she was desensitized and taking care of and comforting the men in her life at her expense that made it stand out. Jamal was no stranger to a breakdown of his own.

Usually, he's the one the seems the least affected by anything. He finds a way to carry on, but the Lil' Ricky assignment is wearing him down. Before, it was about satisfying his interest, but now it's life or death. It's not for fun anymore.  

Sad Jamal  - On My Block

He made a heck of a discovery when he connected Lil' Ricky to the music producer. It was funny and crazy when he ended up with Ainsley, the bratty artist.

It was a wild plan, but the intel and conclusions drawn were reasonable. However, the Goose didn't speak Spanish. He wasn't Lil' Ricky, and they were back at square one with no time.

Jasmine: But Cuchillos loves him. She just wants to reconnect.
Rose: Reconnect? She wants to kill him. Why in the hell you think he skipped town in the first place?

Jasmine has been the shining light of the season as the wise friend and confidant offering sage advice and a level-head. If there was ever a character who deserved the world and more, it's Jasmine Flores.

She's the glue that's keeping the group together, and the amount of emotional labor she's compelled to carry on her own is surreal, but it makes for compelling moments.

The New Leader - Tall  - On My Block Season 3 Episode 1

Jamal casting aside his frivolous quest to be the ultimate leader and expressing how damn tired, scared, and clueless he is was such a jolt.

Jamal is the happy, quirky, kooky one. He's the embodiment of a carefree black boy.  

Where's my bull, bitch?

Ainsley

When Jamal gets somber, it's as if someone deflated a child's balloon. But they rallied around and encouraged their friend. The love among this group of friends is enough to give you all the squishy feels.

And their mission wasn't a complete bust. Jamal was able to piece things together after speaking to Rosé. 

Rose  - On My Block

She and Lil' Ricky had an affair. She was in love with him, and she even wrote a song about him.

Ricky was Stacy's boyfriend. And Stacy? She was Rosè's best friend, and she's now known as Cuchillos.

Jamal: We're disposable.
Monse: What are you saying?
Jamal: We're not going to find Lil' Ricky, and even if we do, she's just going to kill him, and then she's going to kill us. Either way, we're already dead.
Jasmine: Oh my God! She's going go kill us!
Cesar: Unless we kill her first.

As expected, Cuchillos does not have the best intentions. She wants to find Ricky but not for anything good. The ever astute Jamal figured out that they are loose ends for Cuchillos. When she's done with them, she's going to get rid of him.

Naturally, the group worked themselves up in a tizzy, but Cesar's plan is simple. They have to kill Cuchillos before she murders all of them. 

A Music Shoot  - On My Block

It sounds easy enough, right? The scary thing is it feels like someone may be losing their life soon, but who?  

On a lighter note, Ruby is coming to grips with his feelings for Jasmine, and you have to adore this girl for telling it to him straight. 

Jasmine: I'm a whole life's love, boo. Not just part of someone's one-eighth life crisis.
Ruby: But these feelings might be real.
Jasmine: Might be. If you don't know ... they're not. Goodnight.

She's afraid his feelings aren't real. Hell, she's afraid they are. She's a confident girl, and the poster-child for sex-positivity, but she's a young virgin who is afraid of giving Ruby her heart for real and having him break it. 

Monse is right, though. Ruby isn't the type of guy to do that to her. For the record, I do believe that Ruby's feelings for Jasmine are real.  

New Plan  - On My Block

She has reason to be concerned that he turns to her in his times of need, and she represents safety and security for him, but both of those terms and sentiments get a bad rap. 

It's nothing wrong with safety and security, especially in their hectic lives. Jasmine has become escapism for Ruby, and his feelings are real and genuine. It took time for him to develop them, and it's blossomed from a friendship they have formed. 

Ruby: Shit! Am I a womanizer? I barely had a woman to nize!
Cesar: No, but you're being way more a sexist cliche by not talking to her.

Ruby and Jasmine have my heart as much as Monse and Cesar. Hopefully, they'll make it official soon before it's too late.  

Over to you, On My Block Fanatics. Did Ray grow on you? How can they take down Cuchillos? Should Ruby make a move on Jasmine? 

Hit the comments below! You can watch On My Block online here via TV Fanatic.

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Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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On My Block Season 3 Episode 5 Quotes

Spooky: I didn't know shit about you snatching up my brother and his friends after I delivered the Prophet$ and clean cash. I was right about that, just like I'm right about 19th street. They're fearless. They have no code. They don't care if they die, which means they don't care if innocent people do either.
Cuchillos: They're little boys. Whiny little bitches whose balls haven't dropped. Traviesos.
Spooky: Traviesos we can't control. We need to work with them. Neutralize them.

Ray: You're a good kid. I'm proud of you.
Cesar: Thank you.
Ray: I had a shitty dad. Never thought I'd be a good one. You know that old saying, you don't get to choose your parents? Truth is, you don't get to choose your kids either. If I could ... I'd choose you, mijo. Yeah, you're the first person I've ever looked up to.
Cesar: Me? I'm nothing to look up to.
Ray: No. I know nothing. As long as I've been alive, I've been nothing. You, you aren't nothing. You're a kid who's never needed anything, let alone anyone, to be something. Someone to look up to.
Cesar: Well, I'm proud of you too, dad.