Up Next

‘Survivor’s Remorse’ finale: Once more unto the breach

Julius’ death opened a Pandora’s box of parental issues — and new opportunities

Season 3, Episode 10 | “Father’s Day” | Sept. 25

It turns out that the biggest and most meaningful tribute Survivor’s Remorse has paid Uncle Julius in death has also been its most subtle. Julius, the wisecracking, skirt-chasing connoisseur of all substances mind-bending and illicit — played by Mike Epps — wasn’t just a friend, a brother, and trusted counsel.

He was a parent.

Survivor’s Remorse has been really thoughtful about showcasing the reverberating consequences of a character’s death throughout the season in ways big and small. Still, the season three finale was an unexpected illustration of the impact that Julius’ death has had on Reggie (RonReaco Lee), Cam (Jessie T. Usher), and M-Chuck (Erica Ash).

Julius was the salvo for the barely contained rage Reggie has been carrying around toward his abusive, alcoholic father. His presence allowed Cam to focus on basketball instead of stressing about his dad’s imprisonment, and maybe even quieted some of M-Chuck’s anxieties about her origin story.

He was equilibrium.

And with equilibrium gone, we get the discomfort and uncertainty of looking into yourself and feeling not quite sure about who you are or what’s missing from your life. After all, if he were still around, it probably would have been Julius soothing away Cam’s abortion anxieties with a couple of quick lines and a pat on the back. Then again, maybe they never would have come up without Cam rooting through Julius’ adult goodie box.

It’s virtually impossible to watch Reggie face off with his father in the diner and not think of Will Smith and Ben Vereen in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He may have been an unlikely and uncharacteristic one, but Julius turned out to be Uncle Phil. And don’t forget Squeeze (Catfish Jean), the son of one of Julius’ exes who also counted Julius as the closest thing he ever had to a father. No wonder the family semi-adopted Squeeze and installed him as a butler in the Calloway manse. They’re all sharing the same sense of loss.

Chen's mother is none too thrilled that Cassie is black.

Chen’s mother is none too thrilled that Cassie is black.

Courtesy of Starz

But aside from the dust that continues to be disturbed by Julius’ departure, everyone has parental stuff. Chen’s (Robert Wu) parents harbor some serious anti-black racism, especially his mother, who reacts in hilariously polite bourgeois horror upon meeting Cassie (Tichina Arnold) for the first time. The two self-absorbed disasters who created Jimmy (Chris Bauer) were the very definition of unfit. There’s a grand sense of optimism in Survivor’s Remorse — that we don’t necessarily have to be the people we came from, that each generation will improve on the one before it. And if we can’t let go, we should all be so lucky to have a friend who will lend his plane to the cause of tracking down our most unshakable demons, or in M-Chuck’s case, the rapist responsible for her existence. One of the most rewarding developments of season three has been the friendship between M-Chuck and Jimmy — Ash and Bauer just play off each other well, as when M-Chuck proclaims, “My mother’s a sympathetic character … I couldn’t believe it either!”

Given the precedent set through its first two seasons, it was fair to wonder at the beginning of season three how a fairly lighthearted comedy that is largely episodic would handle a heavily emotional dramatic arc like a prominent death. Survivor’s Remorse has done so with aplomb. While Jesse Usher has ably handled everything thrown at him this season, it’s been an opportunity for Ash’s and Arnold’s dramatic gifts to really shine. I’d be happy to see the show build on this, and judging from where it’s leaving off, with M-Chuck and Cam both seeking answers about the most mysterious parts of their lives, it looks like that will happen in season four. Reggie may want to close the door to his past and never open it again, but for Cam and M-Chuck — and by extension, Cassie — it’s once more unto the breach.

Odd and Ends

  • What happened to Allison? Her role has been the biggest inconsistency this season. We haven’t witnessed a breakup, and there was no mention of her when Cam and Reggie go to Dealer Joe’s wedding, and she’s not part of the equation when Cam decides to visit his father in prison. But she was present with the rest of the family for the Reggie and Jimmy’s big negotiative face-off over Cam’s contract. Where is this relationship going? Is this the television equivalent of the The Fade Away?
  • I’m curious about what people think about Chen’s decision not to warn Cassie that his parents are racist or tell his parents that Cassie is black before introducing them. It feels a little naïve to keep her in the dark with the hope that Chen’s parents will behave politely until they genuinely come around. Coincidentally, this was also a subject of debate in last week’s episode of Better Things — Sam’s (Pamela Adlon) mother turns out to be a raging British imperialist who still says “nigger brown” to describe the color of her preferred pantyhose from Harrod’s. And she has no problem saying this in front of Sam’s newest romantic interest, played by Lenny Kravitz.
  • JimIsa is now a thing — possibly. A thing with a $4 million balloon payment if it becomes public that Isa (Felisha Terrell) and Jimmy are dating and she loses her job. This seems like a good time for Isa to consider switching beats and ask to be put on football, baseball, or hockey.
  • Given the opening sequence, in which M-Chuck tells Dr. Roycroft (Regina O’Malley) the story of her conception, I’m hoping this means their sessions — and Roycroft’s presence — continues.

 

Soraya Nadia McDonald is the culture critic for The Undefeated. She writes about pop culture, fashion, the arts, and literature. She's based in Brooklyn.