I’ve always been drawn to coming of age stories in media. There is something cathartic about them, but until On My Block started on Netflix I hadn’t seen my experience on television. Now, I haven’t found a secret stash of money or gone on adventures but in my season 2 review, I explained how Monse (Sierra Capri) and Cesar’s (Diego Tinoco) relationship reflected me and my high school sweetheart. The gangs, the homelessness, the stress of knowing that he could do so much more and ultimately him choosing to push me away so I could succeed. When you come from a “bad neighborhood,” marginalization, and poverty, your childhood looks much different and what you deal with growing into an adult is worlds beyond what more privileged people get. Now, On My Block Season 3 shows us the teens coming out on the other side of their childhood, which leads to a more grounded season.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, On My Block follows friends Monse, Cesar, Ruby (Jason Genao), Jamal (Brett Gray), and Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia) as they deal with trauma, high school, and a world that makes it hard for them to be a kid in Freeridge, a rough inner-city neighborhood modeled off of East LA. As a series, It’s a testament to the communities we build in neighborhoods and showcases an identity that many Latinx live, marginalized yet trying to thrive. Last season, Freeridge got even more dangerous as the kids continued to grow.
Now, On My Block Season 3 picks up directly where the last left off. Kidnapped with bags over the heads, each of the kids sits at Cuchillo’s table. The leader of the Santos, Cuchillo gives them a proposition. Their choice is to use the skills that found the Roller World money in Season 1 to find the founder of the Santos, Lil’ Ricky or find out why she’s named Cuchillo. The pressure of this pushes the group apart, already fracturing edges while also bringing them closer together in small moments and through new relationships.
On My Block Season 3 explores what the teens have been through over the past two seasons well. Again, we see a more adjusted Ruby who still has moments of fear, where Monse deals with her complicated and now nonexistent relationship with her mother, and Cesar sees a new dynamic emerge in his family as his father returns to the picture. There are a lot of issues to unpack, and while the series focuses on the struggles that those in “bad” neighborhoods face. That said, it’s never for the white gaze, instead, it’s for us, the adults who went through it and the young adults going through it now.
To balance out the varying explorations of trauma, the season expertly uses comedy. While the humor throughout the On My Block Season 3 can be a bit much at times, it also helps the bitter pill go down for viewers. There is normalcy to the things that they’ve experienced that allows them to be scared on the inside while the humor that lies on the surface is both genuinely funny and works like a salve. At the same time, there a couple of moments throughout the season that would have better served if the humor was left by the wayside allowing the more emotional nature of the scenes to be embraced. That said, watching people struggle can tire an audience and ultimately the series and this season strike a fine balance.
Without getting into spoilers, the best part of the season is Oscar, better known as Spooky. When I heard that Julio Macias, the actor behind the character had been promoted to a season regular, I was beyond ecstatic. With Spooky, audiences are given a dynamic look at what happens not only when you join a gang, but what happens when it’s your only option. While the last two seasons have showcased his relationship with his little brother and Ruby, On My Block Season 3 goes deeper as we learn not only about the circumstances that made the big brother grow into a father to his kid brother but also he has desperately tried to shield Cesar from the realities around them, even when it wasn’t apparent.
While Monse demonizes him, a stand-in for how many in the audience are sure to see him, Macias delivers a dynamic performance the utilizes machismo like the shield it is and shows that Spooky would do anything for his brother. While last season we saw Cesar seemingly abandoned by him, this season dives into the reasons, explores what happens when kids have to become adults and ultimately how the world around them shapes their behaviors and expectations even when they try to push back.
This season is about growth, and sometimes growth isn’t pretty. By the end of the seasons there are moments that confirm their childhood is over, and the road ahead, while paved with hope, is not easy. However, the ending of the season, specifically the last episode feels abrupt, and frustratingly so. It’s the flaw of the season and will surely split fans. That said, On My Block Season 3 offers up a fitting next chapter for the Freeridge teens, even if it’s a little uneven. But most importantly, it continues to be a story told from a perspective that looks at nuance and reality in Latinx and Black communities.
On My Block Season 3 will be streaming exclusively on Netflix starting March 11th.
On My Block, Season 3
On My Block Season 3 offers up a fitting next chapter for the Freeridge kids, even if it’s a little uneven. But most importantly, it continues to be a story told from a perspective that looks at nuance, reality, and Latinx and Black communities.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.