When Netflix’s On My Block first premiered on the streaming service in the spring of 2018, I already knew it was going to be something special. The show featured the first on-screen depiction of gang violence that didn’t make me want to roll my eyes or cringe at the negative stereotypes it perpetuated. The teen characters actually looked their age, the adults weren’t stupid or abusive or naive (simply out of the loop). And unlike so many other teen shows past and present, Black and brown kids are at the heart of this story. They find love and lose it, struggle to pass classes, dream of graduation day just like any other white protagonists, as well as fight against the gang violence and gentrification in their inner-city LA neighborhood of Freeridge—though not letting the struggles of their stories define them.
For three years, I have adored this show—the twisting mysteries, the magical gnomes, the natural and honest dynamic between all four main characters. Over and over again, Jamal (Brett Gray) cemented himself as the comedic scene-stealer. César (Diego Tinoco) grew and matured exponentially and Ruby (Jason Genao) made certain his 5’3” stature wasn’t the only thing that defined him or made him the butt of the joke. Monse (Sierra Capri) embodied the Afro-Latinx experience years before it became a larger conversation, before the lack of diversity in Latinidad on-screen had even been questioned.
Warning: Possible spoilers ahead
This time around, it was heartbreaking and frustrating to watch the show’s fourth season knowing it would be its last. Not every question was answered, mostly about the future of all our favorite characters (seriously, HOW could they leave us hanging about the fate of Monse and César’s relationship like that?). Storylines would simply be forgotten over time or rushed to their conclusions without much ceremony, often ending in a way that disregarded all the development that had come before it.
But maybe that’s the point. In a city like Freeridge, the reason for violence and death isn’t always as clear-cut or obvious as it seems. Answers aren’t always given freely. Sometimes you can’t escape even when it’s what you want because home can be stronger than the plan.
Yet in other ways, this last season was the perfect farewell. We saw characters from previous seasons return, friendships heal, heartwarming and moving good-byes exchanged (Abuelita and Jamal, anyone?). And in the very last scene, we spot four kids peeking over the wall into Ruby’s party, a callback to the pilot episode when we met Monse and the boys for the first time. Seeing how much these kids have grown and how much of their story is still yet to be told, I won’t lie, I got teary-eyed.
I’m grateful to On My Block for accompanying the past three years of my life, and also for what it’s done for the larger Latinx experience on screen. As a precedent for shows like Netflix’s Genetified, Hulus’s Love, Victor, its upcoming spin-off Freeridge, and countless Latinx teen TV characters that have debuted since 2018, On My Block set the stage for more diverse Latinx representation. It also made us Angelenos feel seen, and was one of the first to give us what we’ve always been owed.
On My Block is now available to stream on Netflix.