By Terrance Turner
April 19, 2022
Tonight marked the end of an era. After eight unforgettable seasons, ABC’s “Black-ish” ends tonight with a moving series finale. One of the few primetime network shows that centered around a Black family has now ended.
Created by writer-director Kenya Barris, the series followed an upper-class Black family — advertising executive Andre “Dre” Johnson (Anthony Anderson), his wife, anesthesiologist Dr. Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross), and their four (later five) children as they navigate race and class in a tony California neighborhood. Oldest daughter Zoey (Yara Shahidi) was mostly interested in clothes and boys, but later left the series to attend college on “Grown-ish”. Andre Jr. (Marcus Scribner) was the stereotypical nerd, with interests in gaming and science, but later broadens his horizons to include girls and hip-hop (briefly serving as an assistant for Migos). Twins Jack and Diane are a study in contrasts: Jack (Miles Brown) is winsome and good-natured but lacking intelligence; Diane (Marsai Martin) is smarter and more mature, but also pricklier and more crafty. Later the family welcomed DeVante Johnson, the youngest child.
Over the course of the past eight seasons, the family has gone through a lot: exploring holidays like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Juneteenth and the impact of police brutality and the 2016 election. Also covered: the microaggressions both Dre and Bow experience at work, Bow’s biracial identity, and the importance of raising “grounded” kids despite their affluence. But the series truly centered on relationships: the volatile bond of Dre’s parents (Laurence Fishburne and Jenifer Lewis), the stark cultural differences between them and Bow’s parents (Anna Deavere Smith and Beau Bridges). But some of the most moving moments have hinged on Dre and Bow themselves: Bow’s struggle with postpartum depression after having DeVante, and –perhaps most poignantly — the Season 4 escalations and arguments that drove her and Dre to briefly separate.
Now solidly on track, Dre and Bow face a major crossroads. Their white neighbor Janine sees boxes coming out of the house and assumes the family is moving. She inelegantly reveals that she and the rest of the (white) neighborhood have been taking bets on where they’re headed after the move. (She assumes majority-Black Atlanta.) Drew is offended by the racial assumptions and begins thinking of ways to strike back.
Back at work, Dre contemplates painting his house black — which isn’t the best idea, given that he and the team are working on an advertising spot for gymnast Simone Biles. In his office, Dre fumes that he’s not moving: “I’m not gonna give them what they want.”
“What is it that you want?” Simone asks. “Do a gut check. What’s your heart telling you?”
Dre: “I think it’s telling me that I need to make some changes.”
At home, Dre seriously contemplates his future. “Babe, life is too short to not go after what you really want,” he tells Bow. What he wants, he says, is to “blow my life up”. Bow agrees. “I think we should sell this house and move to a Black neighborhood.”
Dre theorizes that DeVante getting to see successful Black people other than his parents will be good for him. And it’ll ease the pressure that the Johnson feel being one of the only Black families in their Sherman Oaks neighborhood. “If we move to a Black neighborhood, we can relax,” Bow tells the family when she and Dre inform the family of their choice.
Later, when touring the family’s new digs, Junior reflects on his sense of loss. “The house is amazing. It’s just…it’s weird. You know, a part of me always felt like the old house would be there for me whenever I needed it. But all this — it’ just means that another chapter of my life is closed down. then I realized: it’s not just over for me this time. It’s over for all of us.”
In the next scene, Dre and Bow walk through their now-empty home, reminiscing on the ups and downs and incredible memories they’ve shared there. “There are a lot of memories in this house,” he says. “So many,” Bow agrees. “Do you remember when Jack fell off the back of the couch and lost his tooth?” They laugh.
“I’m starting to realize that this is no longer our home,” Dre reflects. “This won’t be the place I come to every day to see the people I love.”
“It’s crazy,” Bow says. “I mean, I know it’s happening, but…it doesn’t feel real.”
“We spent our lives here. I mean, good and bad. Laughter, heartbreak, births — a lot of births. Death. We did it together. Right here.” Bow tells him. “I would take a leap with you, anywhere. Anytime. Any place.”
“I love you,” Dre tells her. Bow responds:
“I love you, too.”
In an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” with his co-stars, Anderson revealed that the scene in the empty house was the final scene they shot on the show. “And in rehearsal, I’m looking around the empty house and I’m just hit with a flood of emotion,” he said.
“We couldn’t get through the rehearsal,” Ross said. “And the words in that scene — yes, are indicative of the scene, but also of what we were coming to the end of,” she added. “It was really hard. And really beautiful, too.”