Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 2: “Breaking Chains”
Original airdate October 18, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Emery’s excitement about beginning middle school is dampened when Eddie gives him a binder in which he’s kept track of all the lies he’s told the school about his culture, lies such as a daily nap time and a superstition against locker numbers beginning with 4. Eddie expects Emery to back him up on these fake traditions, but it’s keeping Emery from doing the things he’s looking forward to. Evan deals with riding the bus to school alone for the first time. Louis hires a housekeeper to help Jessica, but Jessica is insulted by the gesture, saying “I would love some help. Getting the knife. Out of my back.”
Good: There is so much here to love, but the best moments are Emery’s confrontation with Eddie (and subsequent coming to terms), Evan’s lecturing Eddie about letting Emery be Emery, and Louis’s fight with Jessica, during which we get to see him raise his voice in frustration: “It’s a GIFT!” I also love the brief (agonizing) scene at the locker, when Emery’s new locker buddy immediately becomes his locker stranger, and she turns around and becomes the girfriend of the guy with the locker on the other side. Eddie’s lies hit him right where he lives!
It was also nice to see former Not Ready for Primetime Player Melanie Hutsell as the housekeeper.
Bad: I still have issues with how stupid all the grownups at Eddie’s school are, but there’s at least a pretty good reason this time for this presentation. Eddie’s speech during his argument with Emery has me reconsidering the stupid grownups as a meaningful device.
FOB moment: “They’re ignorant about who we are, and where we come from. Why shouldn’t we take advantage of that? They see me coming down the hall — they’re nervous. I’m keeping them on their toes, blazing trails, breaking chains. Then they see you coming, in your gi, with your violin and your camera, and we’re back to where we started!”
Soundtrack flashback: “I Wish” by Skee-Lo (1995). “Zombie” by the Cranberries (1994). “Un-Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton (1996). Possible timeline issue: “Un-Break My Heart” was on the Secrets album, which was released in June of 1996. The “Un-Break My Heart” single was released in November, but this is the first week of school. It’s possible Jessica is listening to a CD in the car, but if she’s listening to the radio, it’s unlikely this song would be playing. I know; it’s a reach.
Final grade, this episode: Turning Eddie’s laziness into racial subversion is kind of genius. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in prime time. And I’ve always been fond of the episodes where each of the boys gets individual screen time with his two brothers. Jessica’s dialed up to 9 through most of the episode, and Louis is right with her for one scene, yet the brothers pretty much own this one. Excellent performances by all the principal actors. A-minus.