This review is very light on spoilers and doesn’t reveal major plot points.
Part of what was so wonderful about season one of On My Block is that it exemplified what inclusive shows should look like without having to rely on one-dimensional stereotypes. Each of the characters had their own distinct personalities and backgrounds. Their setting–located in one of L.A.’s inner cities–was a part of who they were and what motivated certain aspects of their actions without wholly defining them as people. It was a breath of fresh air. The show’s second season had a lot to deliver on and, though it doesn’t flesh out everything, it doesn’t disappoint.
On My Block’s first season ended with a suspenseful cliffhanger that was equal parts upsetting and shocking. Suffice it to say that Ruby (Jason Genao) survived the shooting, while Olivia (Ronni Hawk) did not. Picking up a month after Olivia’s quinces and the tragedy that hit too close to home, Monse (Sierra Capri), Cesar (Diego Tinoco), Ruby, and Jamal (Brett Gray) are all dealing with the aftermath. While they all lost a friend in Olivia, it’s Ruby who is taking her loss the hardest, while also dealing with PTSD.
Meanwhile, Monse is struggling to keep Cesar safe now that he has nowhere to go and has to contend with the reasons for her mother leaving. She’s also adjusting to having Julia in her life. Cesar has been rejected by his brother, Oscar, aka “Spooky” (Julio Macias) and, by extension, the entire Santos family. He’s stuck with no family and is scared of what could happen to him since he didn’t go through with killing Latrelle (Jahking Guillory). Ceasr is also dealing with guilt because he thinks he’s the one who should’ve been shot in Ruby and Olivia’s place. Jamal is ecstatic about the RollerWorld money, but is also paranoid about someone stealing it. He and his friends eventually hatch a plan that involves cleaning the money through other means, but of course having the money in the first place makes their lives that much more complicated.
The series still manages to balance serious topics with a lot of humor as the primary focus still remains on protecting Cesar from Latrelle and finding him a home. The characters are still young teens, though they’re dealing with a lot of major hardships. But life is life and the second season is at its best when acknowledging the characters’ multifaceted emotions and reactions to situations without assuming they are constantly living with only one kind of emotion.
The best example is Ruby’s PTSD and grief over what happened. He’s dealing with survivor’s guilt, but his emotions fluctuate, going from high to low in a very realistic manner. He could go a whole episode without crumbling, seemingly happy, and then sadness or a panic attack hits and he’s right back in the moment of the shooting. It only goes to show that On My Block is able to showcase the process of grief, fear, and a plethora of other emotions that aren’t simply resolved after one conversation.
One of the more exciting aspects of the show is Jasmine’s increased screen time. Jessica Marie Garcia was a scene stealer in season one and she only gets better in season two. The writers flesh out her character and backstory a bit more, though they’re reluctant to make her and Monse friends, only teasing a potential friendship blossoming between them in the very final episode. Most of her scenes are with Ruby and she’s amazingly one of the most grounded characters in the show. Hopefully, the writers find a way to incorporate her further into the core four’s circle in the future.
The acting is also much better this season, though some actors remain stronger than others, with Jason Genao, Jessica Marie Garcia, Brett Gray and Julio Macias being particular standouts. Cesar and Monse’s relationship is a little steadier this season for the most part, even when they hit a rough spot that can be considered to be somewhat melodramatic. However, considering how old they are, that’s to be expected. The one major downside is that the season doesn’t spend enough time on Monse’s story with her mom, at least not in the aftermath of a plot reveal and its effects on Monse. Each episode, of course, stands on its own, but there are several loose plot threads that wind up coming together rather nicely in the end, culminating in a more or less satisfying finale.
On My Block season two is ultimately about forging new paths, questioning traditions, and figuring out whether or not to leave the past behind in hopes of a safer and better future. The humor remains, filled with plenty of laugh out loud moments. It also doubles down on the emotional moments that will break your heart. The cast continues to have great chemistry and, with the addition of some new characters and an intriguing and consistent plot, On My Block remains one of Netflix’s gems.