HOLLYWOOD─I stumbled upon this Showtime series on coincidence and I cannot tell you the last time I was compelled by TV series since I can remember. However, the series “The Chi” puts a spotlight on violence, youth family and so much more in Chicago, and we’re not talking about the glitz and glamour of the city right off Lake Michigan, it’s the areas not so many people talk about.
The drama is the brainchild of Emmy Award winner Lena Waithe, who is currently getting her other series “Twenties” to generate a bit of buzz for TV lovers. If someone were to ask me to categorize “The Chi,” I would have difficulty to do it. Why? I honestly have not seen a series like it before on my TV screen. Some people would argue it might be similar to the Starz series “Power,” but I could not attest to it. “Power” really glorifies violence in a degree that you root for the bad guys in a way that I’ve never seen plausible on TV. “The Chi” does not do that, the violence is visceral, it’s in your face and it can be haunting at times to watch it.
I would argue it’s a harsher level of violence that lingers in a way that scares you. How so? Well if you’re someone who has grown up in the inner city of any urban area where violence is prevalent, this is not something that is normal, but it is something that stays with you. You wonder if you walk about the house if it’s your last time you will say goodbye to family members. You don’t know if you or a loved one will take their last breathe. “The Chi” scares me as a viewer in a way that I don’t know if it’s good or bad, and that might be the resonance of the series’ impact.
This third season has kicked off with the departure of series regular Jason Mitchell who portrayed Brandon. Mitchell, as many may or may not know was let go from the series after misconduct allegations. That said, the focus has turned heavily on Emmett (Jacob Latimore) and his quest to turn his business into a food empire, with a new ally, Dominique ‘Dom’ Morris (La La Anthony). Would I be lying if I said Anthony’s presence of the show gave me vibes of “Power.” Slightly, but her character doesn’t seem as invested in the drug world, even though she is a player in the food arena.
The verdict is still out on Dom, but if it’s anything worth hinting, I can see a potential love affair between Emmett and his new business partner people. Speaking of Emmett he is still juggling taking that leap into adulthood with his lady love, Tiffany (Hannaha Hall) and the mother of his child. Yes, I can totally see Tiffany’s argument that Jada (Yolanda Ross) is enabling Emmett and stopping him from reaching his fullest potential because he’s always looking to her to bail him out of dicey situations. Yes, Emmett is taking on big shoes to fill the role vacated by Brandon, but we’re only 3 episodes in on the new season, so we will have to see how things pan out moving forward.
However, let’s turn our attention on the core character, which in my opinion is Kevin (Alex Hibbert), who tries to balance his persona on the street with the persona he presents at the elite school that he attends with his pal, Jake (Michael Epps). It’s always interesting to see a series that places the spotlight on kids, the plight they encounter and how they navigate life jumping through those hurdles. Jake is living with Otis ‘Douda’ Perry (Curtiss Cook). Otis is a frightening character because his shear authority is hidden; it’s not bluntly expressed to the masses and that is scary because when it shines it’s like a magnifying glass.
Perhaps this could be a direct result of him running for mayor, while touting to Trig (Luke James), that he has Jake in his possession. Yes, Trig is Jake’ estranged older brother who has a reputation for violence and is looking to re-acclimate with his little brother. I will be honest James is really shining in the role and the fact that his character is involved with a transgender character is another layer that makes “The Chi” such interesting television to watch. There is some diversity here and while some will make the argument this is a ‘Black’ show which I hate that term to the fullest, it is not your cookie cutter premise like so many expect.
At the core of this season is the disappearance of Kevin’s older sister, Keisha, who went missing while at a bus stop. You know how you get that awful feeling in your stomach, where you SENSE something is going to happen, but you’re not certain if it’s going to happen? That is precisely how I felt watching that scene at the end of the first episode, where Keisha went missing after locking eyes on Ronnie (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine). Ronnie is a fallen veteran who has encountered some tough times. He is homeless but works diligently around the clock collecting recyclables to keep money in his pocket and to care of his sick grandmother. I will admit I absolutely thought Ronnie was responsible for Keisha’s disappearance after that look he gave her.
Recent episodes have revealed Ronnie is innocent, but he might be the only person to connect the dots to unveiling Keisha’s actual location. The show has stressed me out a bit because I’m eager, I want to know what happens, and I guess that is the great thing about TV when you’re forced to wait like everyone else each week to find out precisely how things unfold. I would not say I’m hooked, I’m glued to this series and cannot wait until new episodes air each week. “The Chi” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime.