I tend to overanalyze and then write about the TV shows that successfully grab my attention, so move aside, Ginny & Georgia, Friends, and Inventing Anna—it’s time I delve into another longtime obsession.
It’s been almost five years since I fell in love with the ultimate friend group in On My Block, invested in their witty banter and just the right dosage of teenage drama while getting to the bottom of a decades-old money heist operation in a gang-riddled neighborhood of Los Angeles. As a comfort show for me in my upperclassmen high school years and my freshman year of college, when the last and final season 4 was released in October 2021, you can imagine my disappointment in my…disappointment. The characters I had grown so fond of underwent little to no personal growth, fan favorite side characters faced unnecessary deaths, and the final scene depicted a less than anti-climactic plot resolution that the writers had so meticulously built up, and then tragically let down, since its original release in 2018. It turns out I’m not the only one who felt this way—the Instagram comments I went sleuthing for on the actors’ accounts reflected a similar pessimism, and an audience score of 45% on Rotten Tomatoes for the season isn’t exactly stellar compared to its three predecessor seasons’ ratings of nearly double that. The only good thing about the ending for our group of four? There is indeed a sweet moment, drawing a parallel to the very first scene in episode one so many years ago, where four presumably high school freshmen are peaking over Ruby’s backyard fence, wanting to get in on all the glamorous high school action, when Ruby ponders, “Look familiar?”
But enough about the show of all shows for me. Over the past year and a half, give or take, since the letdown of my year in that ending, it totally escaped my mind to follow up on the details of a sequel to On My Block that was, presumably or not, in the works. When the title On My Block: Freeridge popped up on my Netflix account a couple weeks ago, depicting the same four naïve and wonderous faces peering over Ruby’s fence (apart from a different Cam), what other option did I have than to hit play, and then, of course, take meticulous mental notes of how it compares to its predecessor?
First, the plot. Freeridge, again set in the fictional, action-packed neighborhood of the same name in present-day Los Angeles, instead follows a different subset of a friend clique of high schoolers—dueling sisters Ines and Gloria, scatter-brained Demi, and soft-spoken Cam. While the five members of the original crew have gone off to college after On My Block’s finale, we quickly see a resurgence of some familiar faces, starting with Ruby’s parents Geny and Mario, and soon to follow a mysterious red-headed Abuelita (who’s later discovered to be Mariluna, Abuelita’s estranged twin sister), convincing the kids that her antiqued monogrammed box, which they tried to pawn off at a yard sale, will curse all four of their lives until it’s back in her rightful possession. The curse phenomenon, causing the squared friend group to argue over its validity, bears an obviously similar resemblance to On My Block’s ever-evolving Roller World money hunt that was the source of a continuing plot for four seasons. Do I personally think that the resort to a curse plot, complete with TikTok-famous mediums and séances is a bit of a lazy, somewhat corny plot, especially when it turns out to be embedded with the decades-old trope of a seemingly evil twin of the dead? Unfortunately, yes—I think a more captivating approach, while simultaneously keeping the mystery component alive that so many fans loved about On My Block, could’ve been taken instead, and probably would’ve made the final episode’s dramatic memory more memorable. But on the other hand, for eight episodes, each with a 25-30 minute running time, already setting the expectation for some light-hearted content, there’s still something to be said about Freeridge’s mini mystery.
Then, the characters. I made the most of each episode by (uselessly and aimlessly) equating each of the four protagonists—Gloria, Ines, Demi, and Cam—to their most identical and iconic counterparts from On My Block—Monse, Ruby, Jamal, and Cesar (sorry Jasmine). I can’t lie, Gloria, the self-elected leader of the group in cracking the curse code, who I decided to be most similar to the affirmative and confident stature of Monse, absolutely enraged me. Along from being particularly cutting to all her friends at one point or another, the writers wasted no time in centering her character around belittling Ines, her younger sister, by shooting her down in order with the nastiest insults thinkable, only to never apologize later. However, while Gloria had me yelling at my TV almost any time she would step on screen, I didn’t mind Ines, even with her occasional self-centered, perhaps bratty moments, and really loved the dynamic between Demi and Cam, which, quite importantly, the writers took as an opportunity to explore how a friendship can be wrecked, but then reworked, over different perceptions of self-identity and expression. With the latter two of them being the strongest link of the plot for me, I’m genuinely eager to see where their friendship, platonic or perhaps romantic, goes next.
Finally, the style. I also can’t deny, much like my appraisal for the main Freeridge gang, that I thoroughly loved pointing out the stylistic similarities between the show and On My Block, from the hip-hop music adding life to my playlist, the wide-spinning and deadpan camera angles, the warm color, and the quick, witty banter as the main makeup of the dialogue. These factors together, props to the original creative minds behind On My Block, in my opinion, is what made the original show such a commercial success among young adults like you and me both. The only thing in stylistic choices that I personally feel that On My Block intrinsically has, yet Freeridge lacks, is a dialogue that actively has me laughing, impersonating, quoting in my daily life, for good or for bad. While Freeridge had its moments that got a “ha-ha” laugh out of me, I’ll forever miss Jamal’s overthinking, Ruby’s intricate plans for execution down to the crudest detail, and even Monse’s blunt insults that were essential to their vibrant personalities, which made On My Block a primary source of comedy for me.
Can a show sequel ever really be better than the original? That’s a rhetorical question—to me, even though the answer here may still be no, Freedrige still has all the right quirks to love.