Why the show should end now

Netflix’s On My Block has always ended its seasons on crazy cliffhangers. In Season 1, a shooting left Ruby unconscious from a gunshot wound and in mortal peril. In Season 2, all four of our heroes were abducted after finding and laundering the RollerWorld money. 

Season 3’s ending leaves us with some questions, but for the first time it feels like a conclusion, not a cliffhanger. For the first time, it feels like it might be the moment to let this show go.

First, a quick recap: Season 3, episode 8 opens with the Monse, Ruby, Jamal, and Cesar trekking into the woods to lay low and find Oscar’s body — Oscar, whose death is not believable for even a second, but OK.

It doesn’t take long for this morbid wilderness adventure to turn into On My Block’s equivalent of Girls’ “Beach House,” as the group turns on each other and airs grievances that have been days and weeks, if not years, in the making. Jamal and Ruby blame Cesar for bringing Cuchillos into their lives and endangering the friends through his involvement with the Santos. Ruby and Monse both chide Jamal for his expert catastrophism, and for the first time he responds to a unanimous, “Shut up, Jamal!” with a loud “STOP TELLING ME TO SHUT UP!”

Respect this boy!

Respect this boy!

Image: Kevin Estrada / Netflix

It all comes back to Cesar and his guilt, even after he’s bluntly reminded that Ruby was shot in the chest right before they all watched Olivia die. That Cesar somehow manages to be obstinate in the face of that anecdote stretches believability; it could be weak writing, or acting, or direction — or it could be a sign that maybe this group is fractured beyond repair.

Of course, it’s not Oscar whose corpse lies in the woods, but Cuchillos herself, murdered before Cesar could get to her and do something he can’t take back. Oscar is alive if a little beat-up, with Abuelita tending his wounds. The squad doesn’t find that out until later, but they return from the woods a changed group. They faced what felt like certain death at Cuchillos’ hands, and even though they emerge unscathed, they can’t shake the truth that they were ready to take a life themselves.

That affects everyone individually. Ruby and Jamal can hardly stand to be in a room with everyone else. When Ruby splits, he pauses at Olivia’s memorial, realizing what he has to do. Free of the tangled threads of Santos and Prophets and RollerWorld and Lil’ Ricky, he sees his feelings for Jasmine clearly, and apologizes for lying and leaving.

Jamal, unburdened of his purpose as group leader in adventure and investigation, hits up Kendra, regretting his decision to give her up while he focused on the mission. Kendra is as weird and forgiving as ever, unperturbed by the constraints and anxieties of modern dating as she welcomes Jamal back into her life, or at least her curriculum.

I gotta side with Monse's dad on this one.

I gotta side with Monse’s dad on this one.

Image: Kevin Estrada / Netflix

For Monse and Cesar, the entire season has been an agonizing push and pull of their relationship. They clearly bring drama and destruction into each other’s lives, but can’t ignore the chemistry and history (high school, amirite?) when they’re together. No matter how much Jasmine or anyone else advises against it, they’re drawn back to each other, in part because they don’t know anything different. When Cesar intimately tells Monse, “Tu eres mi vida,” in episode 7, it feels more performative than genuine. She is his life, along with Ruby and Jamal and the Santos, but perhaps everyone involved needs a slightly different life.

When he finally pushes for Monse to leave Freeridge, Cesar tells her, “We are burned into each other’s DNA. Wherever your heart beats, mine beats with it.” That’s true for all the friends as they separate, and for all of us regarding the people who stood by us in our formative years. We might not be friends for a long time, like Jasmine predicts for herself and Ruby, but we are part of each other even as we part ways and go out into the world.

Monse’s goodbye is classic, reminiscent of so many scenes we’ve seen over the years. The friends hug and linger, reverting to their old dynamic for a few minutes, but now it’s more forced than natural. They are, all of them — Monse included — putting on a show, doing an impression of the friendships they left in the woods with Cuchillos’ body.

These days might be over, and that's okay!

These days might be over, and that’s okay!

Image: Courtesy of Netflix

And then it’s time for the flash forward, which tells us as much. Two years in the future, Monse’s Freeridge crew are in the back of her mind and on the back of the dresser adorned with photos of her loved ones. Jamal is back on the football team but apparently thriving socially. Jasmine and Ruby are still going strong, though that doesn’t stop the latter from exchanging a loaded, lingering look with Jamal at school that no one else in the vicinity seems to notice. Oscar finally got out of the game to enjoy the peace and family he never had, and unfortunately, it’s Cesar now trapped in the world of the Santos as a roughed-up gang leader calling shots and kicks, ostensibly to comfort that broken heart tattooed to his chest.

Until the Cesar scene, I thought this must be the end. It’s bittersweet for sure, but so true to life. Even Cesar’s arc, painful as it is, mirrors the lives of many who can’t escape cycles of violence and misfortune because they were born in the wrong class or neighborhood. A fourth season will at least be a chance for On My Block to rescue him from this, but that involves sucking Jamal, Ruby, and Monse back into the Santos’ orbit and danger’s path. The chances of every character getting a happy ending on this show were slim to none, ever since Olivia’s devastating quinceañera. For now, at least, some of them have found a better life. That’s as good an end as any.

On My Block Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.

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