All Of The Emotions Black-Ish’s Rough-Patch Story Arc Brought Up For Me

BLACK-ISH – “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” – Dre and Bow confront gender biases of their own after finding out that both Junior and Zoey have become sexually active. Meanwhile, Ruby is hurt when she finds out that Jack and Diane have been hanging out with a friend’s grandmother after school, on “black-ish,” TUESDAY, MARCH 13 (9:00-9:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)

Black-ish got very real about the challenges of marriage in its recent season-ending story arc, and it was pretty hard to watch Dre and Bow–an otherwise loving couple–fall apart at the seams. Truthfully, I almost couldn’t deal.

Despite their flaws, the Johnsons were a great example of a happy, healthy Black marriage. But as we all know, sometimes marriages hit a rough patch and Black-ish was refreshingly honest about how divorce, or even the prospect of divorce, can affect the entire family.

Black-ish broke with the normal sitcom approach to marital strife, dragging the audience through all of the uncomfortable moments it creates. For anyone hoping to tie the knot — or who is doing so soon, like me — this was helpful to see because it reminded us that no marriage is perfect. No couple is perfect (even the ones we look up to as relationship goals).

Still, Kenya Barris had the entire Ebony audacity to take me through 31 flavors of emotions during the last four episodes of the ABC sitcom. So far, I’ve actually only been able to process eight of them and here they are.

The story arc started out in the middle of a slump for Andre and Rainbow. I was a bit thrown off because there wasn’t a lot of lead up to it. There was nothing to explain how the couple got there. The previous episode — actually in all of the previous episodes, they were doing just fine. What happened was the question on everyone’s mind, including the characters, which was a refreshing view of marital strife. It’s not always a job loss or infidelity, or some other tragedy that causes a breakdown in a marriage. Sometimes individuals just get tired of compromise and stop making the choice to see the good in their partner over everything else, which is a much harder issue to put your finger on until it blows up, as was the case with these two.

I was a bit sad to see that Mr. Mrs. Johnson hadn’t worked things out by the end of the first episode. Normally, on a sitcom, these things are wrapped up in a nice little package within 22 minutes. This cliffhanger left things unresolved which left the audience in a very uncertain place–not unlike the characters themselves.

I wasn’t sure whether Dre and Bow would ever be able to fix things. There had been a few hopeful moments where it looked like things between them would be alright, but then one little comment would undo that little bit of progress. Again, the audience was made to feel exactly as the characters.

When it looked like Dre and Bow were heading toward divorce, I felt a way about the idea of showing us the breakdown of this family. Black audiences are starved for images of successful marriages and the idea of losing this one was frustrating. But the truth is what makes a marriage successful is surviving rough patches not being perfect and it was time we saw some of that realness on this show.

On another note of anger, it was also a bit messed up that Dre got mad that Rainbow went back to work while they were living apart. What did he think she was going to do with her days while he had the kids?!

When Andre and Rainbow could no longer put a Band-Aid on the situation, they had a huge fight in front of their entire family the night of Junior’s graduation. At that moment, their marital problems were laid bare for their kids and it scared everyone in the room. This was old news for Dre and Bow, but it was a fresh wound for their kids. As a viewer this was hard to watch but it was also a reminder that married parents don’t just have to be sensitive to the needs of their partner while trying to work through issues, they also have to comfort their children and keep them informed as their situation evolves.

In the fourth episode of the arc, Dre came home to comfort Rainbow after her father passed. Once again, it looked like things between them were on the mend, but we’d seen these near-reconciliations a couple of times before, only for them to get even worse. I wasn’t going to get too excited just yet, which is often how individuals feel when it looks like they might be able to make things work but they’re scared to be too hopeful.

By the end of the episode, Andre and Rainbow reaffirmed their commitment to each other and their marriage. This felt a bit more solid as a viewer, and I was looking forward to them coming back together.

When the credits rolled without another incident between Andre and Rainbow it alleviated a lot of the tension I experienced watching this horrible fall out. Things between them were officially getting back on track, and I could breathe a sigh of relief. But a key moment was when the therapist told the couple they still have a lot of work to do because that’s the “work” married folks are talking about when they tell people how hard marriage is. Just because a husband and wife aren’t yelling and screaming at each other or separating doesn’t mean everything is all good. Therapy isn’t just an avenue to explore when ish hits the fan, it’s also a tool to ensure your marriage doesn’t have to hit rock bottom to work again.