Following last week’s superb episode about the use of the n-word, Black-ish turns the second episode of its new season to the topic of guns. The results are predictably unpredictable, as we’ve come to expect from this bold comedy disguised as a family sitcom.
There’s been a rash of break-ins in the Johnsons’s neighborhood, and Dre (Anthony Anderson) thinks he needs a gun for protection (“Time to tool up!”). Wife Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) is adamantly opposed to such a purchase: “I hate guns more than I hate the way Levis fit me.” She thinks they’re adequately protected now, pointing out the various weapons Dre has already stashed around the house, such as his should-be-patented “shower machete.” These are the polarized positions, but as usual, Black-ish uses the rest of its cast to make the subject more nuanced.
Laurence Fishburne’s Pops counsels martial-arts training as a weapons alternative. The little twins Jack and Diane (Miles Brown and Marsai Martin) are positively appalled that their house doesn’t contain a gun. The episode, written by Peter Saji, takes one easy potshot at a somewhat lax gun-store owner who subjects Dre to a 10-day waiting period before purchase, yet sells a daffy old lady a big shotgun. But the rest of the time, the episode is prickly and argumentative while still being very funny.
Tracee Ellis Ross talks about tonight’s gun episode:
Had Black-ish taken the usual sitcom route — the Ridiculous Dad has to be proven wrong by the Wise Mother — it would have left itself open to charges that it was taking the “liberal” line on what Dre calls “the most polarizing issue in America.” Instead, in its final segment, Black-ish takes a number of twists and turns that throw everything open to fresh interpretation—by the characters, and by the show’s viewers.
As it did last week on the subject of racially-charged language, Black-ish doesn’t tell you how to think about guns and gun control. It lays out various arguments, pushes some of them into the kind of exaggeration we call comedy, and leaves you to figure out where you stand on the serious theme, while providing you with some new intellectual ammo.
Black-ish airs on Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.