8 Asians

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 1, Episode 13 (Season Finale): “So Chineez”
Original airdate April 21, 2015.

RANDALL PARK, CONSTANCE WUMicrosynopsis: Louis and Jessica are invited to join a local country club, and while at first Jessica is excited, she begins to worry that her family is losing its Chinese-ness, so she insists that Louis cancel their membership. World Cultures Day at Eddie’s school becomes a point of contention when Eddie asks to be assigned to Jamaica. Evan and Emery compete to see which of them can impress Jessica enough with their school work to earn a place on the kitchen refrigerator.

Good: This is the final episode of the season, and there is no word yet on whether or not the show will be renewed. This makes the episode’s opening, in which Eddie summarizes his family’s migration and adjustment, poignant in a way that doesn’t feel contrived or cheesy. Scenes where Jessica and Louis are alone together continue to be very strong, and we’re treated to some great moments with Grandma. Emery and Evan, who operate best when they’re in their own private corner of the show, are as funny (and adorable) as they’ve ever been. And the episode’s theme, about the Huangs holding onto their ethnic identity, is handled in a way that many Asian families will relate to.

RANDALL PARKBad: I’m not fond of the portrayals of the old men at the country club and the principal at Eddie’s school, ‘though he’s a lot less annoying than he usually is. And what’s up with one boy representing all of Africa as if it were one culture?

FOB moment: The entire episode is an FOB moment*, but since Fresh off the Boat has yet to be renewed for a second season and this may be my last ever, I’m going with Jessica’s “If we drop the ball, they’ll end up getting their culture from fake Chinese restaurants like this one!…Success is important, but it is meaningless if we lose ourselves,” which I hope ABC will take to heart.

Soundtrack flashback: “Opportunities” by Pet Shop Boys. “Juicy” (edited for appropriateness) by the Notorious B.I.G.

Final grade, this episode: I couldn’t help myself: I smiled throughout most of the episode, and I’m not a smiley guy. I don’t think a show like this serves itself or its audience well if it dwells endlessly on issues of ethnic identity, but it’s got to address them head-on once in a while, and this final episode of its first season seems like a good place for it. “So Chineez” is laden with stuff to talk about, to reflect on, and to inspire the obvious question about why we had to wait until 2015 to see a show like this on network television. Most importantly, it’s funny from beginning to end, and the actors are very good. If things fall into place a little too sweetly, the show can be forgiven because it’s a season finale, and it ends on the note we all really want. The episode achieves a kind of excellence it only hinted at in its strongest moments this season. It’s a low A, but it’s still an A, good enough for Jessica’s fridge.

* I write this phrase “…an FOB” because where I come from, “FOB” is pronounced by its letters, “eff oh bee.” I’m aware that in most other parts of the country, it’s just pronounced as a word, “fob,” but like Eddie, I’m repping where I come from the best I can. And if you don’t know, now you know.

FRESH OFF THE BOAT: SEASON 1

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