There are a lot of things ABC’s beloved sitcom Black-ish does well. It mines the little-talked-about mores of modern life as a person of color better than nearly any other show. It makes big points about our justice system. It even deals with the sex lives of older Black women, which everyone else tries to avoid. However, Black-ish rarely excels at making me ugly cry on the couch.
The entire tension around Rainbow’s unexpected pregnancy complications and her subsequent unplanned delivery felt like a soul twin to the This Is Us series premiere. With the Johnson family, a very pregnant Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) heads to the hospital after experiencing terrible headaches. Soon enough, a doctor is explaining the mom-of-five-to-be has preeclampsia — or dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy — and it would be best for mother and child to deliver the baby right now. Everyone’s emotions are immediately on high alert as Bow is prepped for an emergency C-section, since vaginal delivery would be too dangerous. Tell me this wouldn’t fit into This Is Us.
On that NBC series, mom Rebecca (Mandy Moore) goes into labor six weeks early and things take a turn for the worst during delivery of her triplets. "Your wife is in distress, Jack," the doctor tells Rebecca’s husband (Milo Ventimiglia) before wheeling her into surgery. Cue the tears. Black-ish gives us its own stressful delivery scene, as Bow starts sobbing before giving birth to DeVante, two months early. "This was not supposed to happen like this. I’m really good at this stuff," she tells husband Dre (Anthony Anderson) between tears. "I’m a baby maker."
After the emotional chat, the camera switches between showing the terrified faces of the entire Johnson family and Bow’s fraught delivery. There’s little to laugh about through all of this, despite the fact we’re technically watching an ABC family comedy along the lines of Modern Family and Fresh Off The Boat. Thankfully, Black-ish’s littlest one survives, unlike the heartbreaking outcome on This Is Us, where one of the Pearsons’ triplets doesn’t make it.
If all of this doesn’t feel This Is Us-y enough, Black-ish also gave viewers tinier moments to cry at, which the Big Three excel at. Before Bow heads into delivery, her mother-in-law Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) finds her alone on a gurney complaining her feet are cold. Although Bow and Ruby’s relationship could be described as playfully strained, at best, the older woman says something we’ve been waiting to hear for years. "Somebody get my daughter a blanket!" she yells. It’s so genuinely kind I’m still tearing up about it (yes, I know I cry too easily). Bow has clearly always wanted Ruby to accept her, and in her most dire hour of need, the scared pregnant woman gets the love she needed. Kevin Pearson would be proud.
But, "Sprinkles" wasn’t all This Is Us sobbing. The episode ends on a very upbeat, Black-ish note, with Dre announcing both Bow and DeVante are healthy. Then Biz Markie appears to perform "Just A Friend" for the entire Johnson family, because you know Jazzy Jeff was busy, right?
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