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The Black-ish season finale is about to take an emotional turn

‘It required tears and things like that, which are not things we usually do,’ Tracee Ellis Ross shares

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The season 3 finale of Black-ish Wednesday night won’t be following suit with the lighthearted twists of the finales that came before it.

The series time traveled back to the Harlem Renaissance for the conclusion to season 1, and season 2 featured the Johnson family in the ‘70s world of Norman Lear’s Good Times. But creator Kenya Barris zigged when we expected him to zag this time around, and he’s taking us straight into the heart of the maternity ward to tell the harrowing story of Bow’s (Tracee Ellis Ross) emergency delivery of her baby boy. Directed by first-time Black-ish director Eva Longoria, the episode, which is drawn from Barris’ recent experience with the birth of his sixth child, carves a much more emotional and tense path than previous season enders.

“Honestly, it was challenging,” Ross, who spends most of the episode confined to a hospital bed, tells EW. “It required tears and things like that, which are not things we usually do. And they were not supposed to be Carol Burnett tears, but real ones.”

Titled “Sprinkles,” the episode begins with Dre (Anthony Anderson) prepping an over-the-top co-ed baby shower, but those carefully laid plans are thwarted when he has to scurry Bow to the doctor’s office because her headaches just won’t abate. She’s not set to have the baby for another two months but complications quickly lead her into the delivery room.

“I have not given birth before. I’ve not been pregnant before,” says Ross. “I could imagine what it could be like to be afraid that I was going to die before of a medical situation. But it was me stretching into an area that was absolutely new to me with a new director in a way that was not typical for our show.”

Many of the cast members in this episode stretch in new directions. Dre and Bow’s relationship is tested in new and deeper ways. Charlie (Deon Cole) makes a guest appearance at the hospital as does Bow’s brother Johan (Daveed Diggs). Ruby (Jennifer Lewis) and Bow have a scene that is unlike most the sparring mother-and-daughter-in-law get to share, and it’s one of Ross’s favorite.

“There was an unexpected and authentic sweetness that Ruby expresses towards Bow that came out as a genuine moment,” notes Ross. “Ruby is protective of Bow and it’s really sweet.”

Make sure to stick around until the very end — you’ll never guess who shows up to D.J.

The Black-ish season 3 finale airs Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.