From the first episode of the series, The Chi has been a series rooted in the Black family structure. We’re introduced to Emmett as an absentee father running the streets; introduced to Ronnie as a proverbial stepfather for Tracy Roxboro’s son Jason whose death started the series; introduced to former The Chi star Brandon Johnson as the protective brother of Coogie and son of a dysfunctional alcoholic mother. Finally, in the penultimate episode of The Chi’s award-worthy fourth season, viewers navigate through the trauma and beautiful perseverance of broken Black families.
Most of Lynae (Zaria Imani Primer)’s appearances on this season of The Chi are rooted in a level of dysfunction and negativity. Whether it’s being in the middle of a family intervention turned screaming fest or defensively asking Kevin if he was trying to date her, The Chi writers crafted Lynae’s character as one who has trust issues. Now, we finally find out how they developed. When she finally lowers her guard and lets Kevin into a part of who she is, Lynae reveals the dysfunction of her home life. She lives with her brother and his girlfriend and has been focusing more on where she’ll live than the school work she’s good at. Seconds after that revelation, she tells Kevin she isn’t used to people being nice, explaining why she is always defensive around Kevin.
That part of the scene only lasts a few seconds but connects to the beginning of the episode when Keisha jokingly accuses her new boyfriend of being a liar when he says he was thinking about her. We learn that Keisha’s trust issues stem from traumatic kidnapping and sexual abuse that still plagues her mind from prior episodes. Bookending the episode with two scenes rooted in trust issues is an astute way of comparing a dysfunctional family to trauma for a young Black kid. A 2019 Economic Policy Institute study found children who live in crowded homes and/or are constantly moving are more likely to develop toxic stress response as a result of having to cope with poor living conditions and instability. The study describes “toxic stress” as frequent, severe, and sustained threatening events and/or conditions with the ability to disrupt brain development, stunt a child’s ability to learn, and lead to a lack of focus in school, as Lynae explained in The Chi episode.
In what is undoubtedly the most endearing sign of Black family unity in the entire fourth season of The Chi, we see Emmett’s father Darnell apologize for leaving Emmett for his mother to raise when he was younger. Darnell says he never realized how much he needed Emmett and his mother before fighting back tears and refusing to get too emotional, a common trope for Black men on television and in the Black community. Typically, Jada and Darnell’s interactions are contentious and, as such transient, never truly representing the emotional core of an episode. However, in this episode, Darnell cooks for Jayda, invites their son over, and they have the first family dinner with just the three of them in four seasons of The Chi. From parts jagged by bad decisions and people outgrowing the pain of those decisions, this Black family is showing how they can put together a family structure that works.
Emmett was able to see his parents’ once fractious relationship produce a touching moment of Darnell helping style Jada’s newly shaven hair as a way to reclaim part of her identity lost to her cancer diagnosis. This is while Emmett spent the entire episode asking everyone for advice on how to fix his marriage. In the end, The Chi gave a great example to both Emmett and viewers at home of the strength of the Black family through any hardships.
Relive the episode through photos in the gallery below: