The aspect of peace versus a sense of inevitability seems to flow through the heart of the S3 premiere of “The Chi” entitled “Foe ‘Dem”. The idea revolves around a community with so much loss being tested interrelated with a procession of joy. Writer Lena Waithe knows the classical structure of tragedy versus light but placing that idea within this Chicago neighborhood makes it all the more rich when the stakes are revealed. She also integrates the idea of relationship, young and old, straight or gay which gives the story even more universality. In an age still buried in certain toxic traits balance with enlightenment, it is a matter of how each family and each person deals in their own way, through hardships, successes and failures. People are finding their way here while others fall back into a sense of normalcy and habit whatever that may be. The dark criminal drama is unfolding underneath it all but it doesn’t play like dread but instead just a reflection of normalcy and a way of life. The wedding, especially with its unusual family, plays with the right beats although the foreshadowing leads to a bad possibility, but not from the exact direction one would think.
Behavioral tendencies are universal while situations are different. There is a speech during a funeral that is utterly rich because of its stark truth to the lady speaking it but what Waithe does is balance it with the smaller conversations whether it be on the sea wall outside a wedding or with kids hanging out in the afternoon. The scenes are not based in sentimentality but an authentic air. The words, especially in some of the darker scenes, seem a bit stilted but work. The idea speaks to the alphas and the betas but also those characters that filter in between trying to get ahead. Like any city or community, there are joys and heartache but this sector of Chicago and its lives have its fair share of heartache. Many are struggling to get out. Many return to find that this being their home, they need to fight for it and risks need to be taken. As the episode ends the idea of stakes continue despite best intentions for a peaceful resolution because of the essence of human nature.
By Tim Wassberg