How the ‘black’ finale ended and the storyline you didn’t see

“Black-ish” ended its eight-season run on Tuesday night by going back to the beginning. Literally. The opening of the ABC comedy series finale started the same way the pilot did in 2014, with Andre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) waking up to his iPhone alarm clock and telling a little bit about his state of mind.

Even the opening lines of Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” opened the finale, just like the series premiere all those years ago. “Okay, so I’m just your standard, normal, incredibly handsome, incredibly charismatic black guy who found a way to actually go from broke to the Oaks without being a jump shot, number one hit or Tyler Perry,” Anderson, as Dre, opened the episode. “Against all odds, I made a home for myself with my beautiful and intelligent wife, where we raised five wonderful children and took care of my parents. I may have grown up as a kid from Compton, but now I’m living the American dream.”

(Compare that to the pilot’s opening story: “Okay, so I’m just your standard, ordinary, old incredibly handsome, incredibly charismatic black guy. This Drooling Pigment Challenge Mixed Race Woman is my wife, Rainbow. And despite what she looks like now, she’s a doctor. We’re lucky, we have a great house, four great kids and my dads. It’s a long way from where it all started. So I promised my parents that I would get an education, graduate and get myself out of there. I think for a kid in the neighborhood I’m living the American dream. The only problem is, whichever American had this dream, probably not where I’m from. And if so, he should have mentioned the part about how when brothers get a little money things start to get a little weird.

But with Dre’s reunited parents (Laurence Fishburne and Jenifer Lewis) moving out, the neighborhood wonders if the entire Johnson family is leaving because of the boxes in their driveway. When the curious Janine (Nicole Sullivan) stops by and asks if their house is for sale, Dre and Bow begin to wonder if it’s really time to move on.

“Maybe I was living the Black American Dream because things like that happen every day,” Dre clarifies later. 17 years on the same street and the whole neighborhood still whispered about us behind our backs. Ever since we moved here, there has always been a sense that we were idiosyncratic.” (Cut the infamous clip from the original episode of a tour bus passing by Johnson’s house, mentioning “The Mythical and Majestic Black Family.”)

Later, while working on a campaign at Stevens and Lido, Dre meets legendary gymnast Simone Biles, who gives him more food for thought: “What is it that you want? If I’ve learned anything, do what you want to do and not what someone else wants you to do.”

When Dre broaches the subject with Bow, she too admits, “Between the election and the pandemic, it’s making me rethink what’s important.”

Dre says: “Life is too short not to pursue what you really want. I think we should listen to four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles. She told me to blow my life up.”

Bow agrees, “I think we should blow this bitch up.”

The couple decides to sell their house in Sherman Oaks and move to a black neighborhood. “All my life I’ve been told I had to move out of my neighborhood if I wanted to succeed. But that wasn’t true,” says Dre.

The Johnson children are skeptical at first: “I would like to start the emancipation process,” jokes Diane (Marsai Martin). But then they visit their new home, which appears to be in Baldwin Hills, overlooking the city. Jack (Miles Brown) is sold: “Finally a house that fits my lifestyle!”

But that is not everything. Making a change, Dre also decides to leave Stevens and Lido and spend more time at home. “Freelancing, but step back, which means you’d carry the burden,” he tells Bow. She responds: “The fact that you think I’m not doing that now is really cute. But I have you.”

At the ad agency, Stevens (Peter Mackenzie) is relieved that “it’s not because of anything I said,” while Charlie (Deon Cole) reveals that “when I first came here, my plan was to steal your identity. But the only thing that got stolen was my heart… And a long-sleeved sweatshirt that was in the backseat of your car that I assumed you weren’t wearing because it had shoulder pads in it.”

Junior (Marcus Scribner) is still a little sad about the move: “I realized: it’s not just over for me this time, it’s over for all of us.” And later, as Bow and Dre walk through the empty rooms of their old house, they too feel a little unfinished business.

“I keep telling myself, these are just four walls, but it feels so much bigger than that,” Dre says. Bow adds, “Because it was our home. We made a family here. Laughter, heartbreak, births – many births. deaths. We did it together. Here.”

That’s when Dre decides to host a New Orleans-style funeral and wake up in front of their house. Zoey (Yara Shahidi) is there too, when the family throws roses into a coffin… and then a band appears and plays ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’. As they dance in the street, more of the show’s cast and crew emerges — and the soundtrack changes to Stevie Wonder’s “As.”

In the series finale button, we see a new couple moving into the old Johnson house in Sherman Oaks: a Latino husband and wife, played by Salvador Chacon and Ariella Amar. “We’re living the American dream,” they proclaim… and then Janine appears, as inappropriate (“Hola!”) as she once was with the Johnsons.

What you didn’t see in the meantime was an extra scene showing Junior’s decision to go back to college – this time at Cal U, where his sister Zoey is graduating. (Hence Scribner’s switch to “Grown-ish,” as Junior joins the show full-time next season).

“There was a very B-story in the finale where we cut everything out where he talked to Olivia (Katlyn Nichol), his girlfriend who broke up with him a few episodes before,” said executive producer Courtney Lilly. “He was going to try to come up with a very Seinfeldian idea where he was trying to ‘win’ the breakup by showing her how impressive he was and how everything was going well. In the end, he collapses because he doesn’t know what he’s going to do, and maybe he should have gone to college after all. She says it’s okay to go to college, you can always change your mind. It ends up with Cal U, and it’s one of the last shots of this montage we had to see. But then the episode lasted 30 minutes.”

Lilly said he considered making the final longer, but ultimately liked the rhythm of ending with a traditional half-hour broadcast. “We struggled, the network gave us time, we talked about different things and at the end of the day they gave us an extra minute for the broadcast. And we used that whole minute to play the full credits for our entire crew, because that’s what the show needed. That was important to me too, fundamentally about the journey we’ve been on as a show.

“But I also think there are positives about a 21-minute, 30-second broadcast,” he added. “There’s a discipline I appreciate in the half-hour sitcom. Tell a story efficiently. They’re used to us being a pop song. 30 minutes, it’s fat, it’s bloating. It’s not what we do.”

Lilly said the decision to end with season eight allowed the producers to map out a real ending. Lilly spoke to creator Kenya Barris and executive producer Laura Gutin Peterson about where they wanted to go.

The decision was made to reflect some of the issues raised by the pilot.

“This happens a lot to a lot of people who, whether you’re a minority, or you’re LGBTQ, feel like you have to represent for your entire culture,” Lilly said. “And that was so fundamental to the DNA of what Anthony was doing, what Kenya wrote in the pilot, and the premise was also that in order to have this lifestyle, I have to represent the culture 24/7. And we wanted to go, ‘Well, do you really have to? Do you always have to do that? Is there a place where there could be more comfort?’

“So we consciously knew we wanted this family – not all families, it’s not about segregation or whether this would be better. It’s just for this family, they eventually wanted to move to a black neighborhood. We mirrored that, all these kinds of ideas. And to come back to that question from the pilot.”

Lilly said the pandemic also inspired writers to give Dre a moment of clarity that he’s made it to the top, he’s ready to rethink his priorities. “The focus and drive to be such a high achiever has left us feeling like we really needed to meet Dre, a self-reported family man,” he said.

if Variety wrote earlier on Tuesday, Lilly is now focused on Scribner’s transition to “Grown-ish” while perpetuating the “-ish” franchise. That could mean visits from the Johnson family, or even a reboot, but nothing is set in stone.

“I’m certainly not against it and I don’t think it’s the last you’ll see of the Johnsons,” Ross said. “But right now there’s nothing on the roll, but I could jump into that playground any minute. It was a treat while it happened. And I’m sure it would be time to come back and I’m so excited for Marcus. †

Ross called the finale “bittersweet, but I’m leaving with a lot of joy and pride and I think so many of my tears happened in the final moments of the production. It’s a beautiful goodbye.”

Leave a Comment