The Chi (Recap) | Quaking Grass (S1 E4)

by Jasmine Sanders | via Vulture

“Quaking Grass” commences with the bark of a shotgun fired by unseen hands, as last week’s confrontation between Ronnie and Brandon (and precipitated by Kevin) reaches a fulcrum. Ronnie confesses to Coogie’s murder and an enraged Brandon charges, their tussle relayed via flashbacks. (The flashbacks are a little hokey, with each man or boy’s face briefly glowing bright to signal the time jump.) Brandon is the presumed gunman, but how did things get so violent so quickly?

The episode’s opening montage mostly consists of a bleeding Ronnie, the gunshot victim, stumbling around the city streets, seeking refuge and help that wouldn’t involve a police presence. The scene drags on for too long, the score used too freely; it would have been more stark and jarring, its violence more punctuated, if the moment were allowed to be silent. The camera repeatedly lingers on the image of Ronnie’s bloodied hands, a symbolic reminder that they aren’t clean — that he is not a perfect victim. At one point, Coogie’s voice comes from a mirror behind Ronnie as he washes the blood off his hands. “Hurts, don’t it?” the murdered teenager says. Ronnie’s wound rests in a similar place as Coogie’s fatal bullet, driving home the notion that this was his due karmic retribution.

It’s eventually revealed that Kevin — presumed to be a witness to the crime, but not a participant — was actually the gunman. There’s a moment when Kevin, delirious with fear after shooting Ronnie, cries in Brandon’s arms. It’s a nice moment of fraternal tenderness, the type that I wish The Chi would allow to exist without the constant trauma and dysfunction. Kevin makes it home, and his sister helps sneak him back into his bed without their mother’s knowledge.

This episode derives its title from a matcha-colored paint, which Brandon’s de facto stepfather is using to paint Coogie’s room. Brandon narrowly makes it home after a run-in with a couple of cops, but when he awakens, it’s Jerrika who he has to face: She found Kevin’s gun in his backpack.

Jerrika wakes up Brandon in tears, which quickly degenerate into punches. Her primary concern is his return to a way of life that threatens their relationship and life together, but it’s a show of such callous disregard that it’s impossible not to hate her just a little bit. The implication is that women like Jerrika simply do not understand a black man’s plight, or what he faces in the mean streets. So Brandon and his hangdog expression, along with the weapon, are banished to his mother’s house. His mother is mostly calm this week; it’s her boyfriend who’s the tyrant, insulting Brandon and making sure he knows he isn’t welcome. The dynamic between Brandon and his stepfather is so tense, you know that a confrontation of some sort is unavoidable.

Ronnie eventually makes it to his grandmother’s house, where he collapses on the old woman’s floors. She calls her nurse, out of fear of involving the authorities. Together, they stitch him up and save his life. The camaraderie between the two women is a reminder of how deeply The Chi has interrogated the inner lives, alliances, and networks of boys and men, while so far being unwilling to do so for their female counterparts. Why haven’t we seen more of this?

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