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Black-ish - The Purge - Review:"My Sixteen Chapel"

"Lots of people say 'Sixteen Chapel!'” may be the line of the night in a hilarious episode that sees Dre at both his best and worst.

It may be morally on the gray side, but Dre’s best has to be the amazing prank he almost pulls off in Black-ish’s Halloween episode.

It starts with maximum embarrassment for Dre when Jack films Junior owning him at basketball and puts it on YouTube for all his coworkers to see. Dre has already been thinking about the social dynamics of the animal kingdom and isn’t ready for his son to usurp him as dominant male. Dre, who can’t even reach the high salad bowls, knows he can’t return the humiliation at basketball or some other actual feat of endurance, so he decides to beat Junior with what he is best at – pranks.

Dre gets the idea when Junior sends him a box of nuts. Charlie is excited about them and has to be gently reminded that he is deathly allergic. Dre looks at his eccentric friend and wonders just how bad Junior would feel if his little taunt had backfired. We immediately cut to an elaborate funeral, complete with mourners (some in on the joke, some not) and Charlie in a casket.

The show doesn’t try to insult our intelligence by ever trying to convince us that Charlie is really dead. Dre, Bow, and all the children except Junior are in on the prank. Bow goes along with it, although she takes offence to Dre trying to pass it off as his “Sixteen Chapel”. Diane’s just happy to see her dream come true and Charlie gone. Charlie’s sad his parents didn’t show up. To be fair, he didn’t go to their funerals either.

But the funeral doesn't take the prank far enough for Dre. He stays in the Halloween spirit and arranges a special haunting. With the right makeup and special effects, Charlie makes a terrifying ghost. As he pops up behind corners and accuse Junior of his murder, Charlie is having a bit of an existential crisis. He is really not sure if he’s actually dead at this point, despite Dre’s reassurances.

The ghostly activity works. Charlie scares Junior more than the woman he once tried to return a gun to (the cutaway was the best physical gag of the night as Charlie insists on following her around the parking garage, waving the gun).

But, pride goes before a fall, and it’s Junior’s fall that ends Dre’s reign as Prank King. Charlie’s final scare sends Junior flying down the stairs. As Dre gloats and even gets in a little kick, Junior screams in agony. Both his legs are broken and by trying to stop his son from growing up, Dre literally stopped him from growing any further by giving him debilitating injuries.

Dre is forced to explain to a straight-faced doctor that he wasn’t actually trying to hurt Junior. After quite a bit of ranting about embarrassment, pranks, and Charlie’s lonely son (who never did get picked up from soccer practice thanks to the fake death and funeral), the doctor concludes that Dre isn’t an abuser, but simply a small, petty man. Dre happily accepts the insult.

Junior starts staring forlornly at the Johnson’s basketball hoop and Dre realizes he messed up. When he tries to have a heart-to-heart with Junior, Junior reveals what many probably suspected. The fall, broken legs, and hospital visit were all fake. Junior, with the help of his entire family and some doctors who owed Bow favors, got the Prank King to step off of his throne and accept that his son is starting to surpass him. Dre has the good grace to know when he’s been defeated.

The B-plot of the episode wasn’t as solid as the main plot, but still got a lot of laughs. After Ruby mistakes the popular thriller The Purge with a documentary, she begins to embrace the spirit of the Mischief Night organized by their neighbor, Janine.

Janine was last seen passed out, drunk, in her car and this new appearance doesn’t make her any more likable. If you have to explain to someone that you aren’t doing blackface, you may just want to rethink your look. She’s trying to stop the “urban” element from disrupting the neighborhood Halloween festivities by providing a fun, safe prank night. Kids get their own roll of toilet paper, a safety whistle, and permission to go crazy, as long as it is in pre-approved ways.

Ruby isn’t having it. She wants chaos to reign and gets Jack and Diane excited about getting their purge on. Between Charlie’s funeral and almost getting to throw a Molotov cocktail, Diane’s having the best day of her life (“it’s like your skin’s dancing!” she gushes).

Bow, naturally, is against both Janine’s lame and Ruby’s crazy ideas for Mischief Night. When a group of teens shoot her repeatedly with paintballs, she finally loses it (and isn't Bow supposed to be pregnant? Shouldn’t she be upset for more reason than the paint ruining her cashmere sweater?) and threatens to do something pretty bad. We are left wondering what, but it certainly made an impression on Jack and Diane. Bow may have threatened the misbehaving teens, but she’s adult enough to just go home. Purging isn’t worth it.

Ruby has to learn that lesson the hard way. She takes out Janine’s mailbox and Janine returns the favor by going after her car. As the Johnsons now know, purging and pranking are not for the fainthearted.

About the Author - Laurel Weibezahn
Laurel Weibezahn is a freelance writer. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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