Last night was the season premiere of the new Showtime series The Chi. Creator and Writer Lena Waithe (Master of None, Dear White People) birthed a television drama that tells the story of the interconnected lives of eight individuals in the South side of Chicago. Two episodes have been released on HULU, and so far the series does not disappoint. The pilot episode immediately draws viewers into the rich urban aesthetics of Chicago, and as quickly as day turns to night, we’re taken to the darker parts of the South side infamously known for its violent headlines.
The series tagline “Our City. Our Streets. Our South side.” appropriately sums up the macroscopic depiction of Chicago’s touristy landmarks and coveted culinary culture, while guiding us into the more introspective experience of its natives. It’s a day to day look into the streets of the South side, however, The Chi does not neglect to shed light on the hustle, fine arts culture, ambition, and perseverance that make the people of Chicago so beautifully resilient.
Image: Matt Dinerstein/Showtime CBS Corporation
The cast for The Chi is exceptional. Character portrayal is true to life and viewers are literally thrown into their lives, as if jumping on a fast-moving CTA subway train. There are no slow beginnings, and that’s a great thing. They are fast-paced personalities in an even faster-paced city, which helps to recognize how street smarts and intuition are keys to adaptation. This is especially evident in the maturity levels of the sharp, fast-talking younger characters like and Coogie (Jahking Guillory, Kicks) and Kevin (Alex R. Hibbert, Moonlight) who’s childlike innocence is virtually non-existent. Again, a mirror into a society that has likely diminished the privilege of a normal childhood due to premature exposure to violence and crime. As far as addressing the crime epidemic, The Chi offers so many layered perspectives of the ongoing conflict between citizens and the police force, as well as the internal conflict of perpetual eye-for-an-eye street justice as a community. Despite the seriousness of those issues, the budding storylines of growth, family, love, loss, struggle, and relationships are laced with subtle anecdotes and are entirely relatable. The twists and turns may leave you emotionally distraught in regards to growing with each character because just as in real life, the unpredictability of the streets equates to simply surviving to see another day. Anything can and will happen at any given moment, and that’s part of the premise of understanding life in The Chi.
Overall, The Chi is off to a great start. My prediction is that there will be at least three solid seasons but my hope is that it will live up to the legacies of OZ, The Wire, and Power.