Netflix’s ‘On My Block’ Season 4 offers patient epilogue of reconciliation, growth

still from On My Block
Netflix/Courtesy

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Grade: 3.0/5.0

With its Oct. 4 Netflix premiere, the final season of “On My Block” brings back the four teenagers — Caesar, Jamal, Monse and Ruby — for one last reunion. While maintaining hilarious dialogue and heartfelt moments that highlight the previous seasons, this final season provides an unhurried, reconciling account of its characters’ reconnection as friends and their individual paths of growth.

The past three seasons have received great critical acclaim for the show’s signature authenticity. The fourth season faithfully continues exploring the character arcs of the four teenage friends with whimsical humor and resonating details, as they each strive to confront their problematic family roots and navigate a tumultuous neighborhood. 

By the end of the third season, each character’s individual path was clear, but the group broke further apart. Monse (Sierra Capri) left to study at boarding high school. Caesar (Diego Tinoco) became the young street gang leader of Santos. Ruby (Jason Genao) and Jamal (Brett Gray) attacked each other in a school election. The final season thus becomes a necessary centripetal force — a narrative thread that ultimately ties the friends back together.

Despite discussing serious issues such as violence and neglect, the TV series has been one of the most entertaining and amusing shows on Netflix. The speech exchanged among characters often excessively includes slang, playful puns, unintended curses and skittish sexual innuendos, which are nevertheless the most memorable parts of an informal teenage reality that becomes lost after adulthood. 

In addition to speech, the drama avoids presenting a panoramic view of the block through a communal perspective but always sticks to “My Block” — a local landscape viewed only through the teenagers’ perspectives. As an audience, we find familiarity in settings such as school prom, fully-decorated bedrooms and backyard parties. They easily evoke our personal memories of teenagerhood as well.

Besides the reckless fun of adolescence, multiple critical moments in the final season are incredibly touching and illuminating. In the last episode, Caesar cries when he tries to manage his tie but thinks of how his brother used to do it for him. His point of reconciliation with family tragically only comes with his eternal loss of it. Ruby’s newfound composure confronting death — which has always haunted the tumultuous, violent block the characters live in — indicates precious growth. His reconciliation with his family comes after he forsakes his unconfident, cranky past. In all, the final season well inherits the entertaining and moving moments of its previous seasons. 

Although the final season maintains the show’s past advantages, it fails to provide new thrills in its mission to tie things up. While it succeeds in providing adequate accounts of how each character pursues their paths of growth, the paradox at stake is that those paths unavoidably diverge and lead to different futures, away from their communal “Block.” Unable to invent new occasions that reconnect those diverging paths together, the screenwriters of the final season thus choose to reconcile all preexisting conflicts among the four friends. Slow pacing becomes an issue, as the narrative tends to revolve around similar conflicts and rehash the same old themes. The interactions among the four friends also sometimes become forced and ill-explained, if not entirely boring. Yet, the concluding scene ends with a note of mutual reconciliation and heartfelt reconnection as friends. Despite the drowsy way that the show progresses in the middle, the ending is a firm and positive one that rewards our patience. Perhaps the screenwriters’ message for us is that, rather than an awkward reunion, it might be better to let the friends leave, with their own ways into adulthood, out of the “Block.”

The final season of “On My Block” offers a more patient, though equally entertaining and moving story than previous seasons. You can often anticipate how the story will proceed; nevertheless, either for weekend leisure or a good cry, the show is still worth following.

Contact William Xu at [email protected].