Warning: This post contains spoilers from the black-ish season 4 finale, which aired tonight. Read at your own risk!
Well, we’ve finally reached the end of black-ish’s first serialized arc and a resolution to the Johnsons’ marital woes.
The last four episodes of the ABC sitcom’s fourth season were about a recent rough patch in Andre (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow’s (Tracee Ellis Ross) marriage, which ultimately led to the once-happy couple separating. In the season finale, Dre bought his dream home, where he could spend time with the kids on his days, and the episode dove into how Dre and Bow were adjusting to being apart from the first time in quite a while. However, the sudden death of Bow’s father brought the couple back together and helped them realize they wanted to be there for each other.
“The thing we wanted to do as we moved into this episode was to show that when this couple got back together, we left the audience in a place knowing they were actually in this for real, and it’s not about codependency and it’s not because [being separated] was too hard,” says black-ish creator Kenya Barris. “We wanted to show that one of the great things about having a great family is that they do have your back and support you.”
Below, EW chats with Barris about whether he ever considered not bringing Dre and Bow back together, the hardest part of this arc, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you know from the beginning that this arc would ultimately end with the Johnsons getting back together? Did you ever consider not reuniting them?
KENYA BARRIS: No, we wanted them to get back together. We knew that this was a family that we feel like we want to have a positive image, and we feel like they’re in love. The biggest thing is that we wanted to get people [to see that] you can’t see daylight without seeing night first. You can’t taste sweet before you know what sour is. As I think 100% of couples would admit to [going through problems], we wanted to give them something saying, “You’re not the only one.” The couple we see every week and we love has gone through things, and sometimes it actually does seem like it hits a rock bottom, but there’s a place to come back from.
Where did the idea to have Bow’s father die come from?
Sometimes you realize that life isn’t defined by the good times. I don’t know you, Chance, and I could come to your office right now and literally go have the wildest, greatest night in the world, but in the morning when I realize my parents are sick or I’m having financial problems or something work-wise happens, you don’t know me, you’re not going to be there. Life isn’t defined by the good times, it’s defined by the bad times, and sometimes those are the moments you reach in deepest to your life and say, “Who are the people who are there for me when the moments aren’t quite funny?” It makes you look past those bickering moments, those moments when the cap was off the toothpaste, and realizing, “I have problems with everybody, but I would not want to go through a bad time with anybody else. This person is a person that’s been there for me when the sun wasn’t so bright.”
I know this story was inspired by your own marriage. How much of the finale scene between Dre, Bow, and their therapist came from your real life?
I feel like that particular thing was directly taken from my life, as was a lot of this, and from the writers’ lives. These things were things that we as a writers’ room really emoted and really went through together in a really big way. This was an extremely personal arc for me.
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Looking back at this four-episode arc, what was the hardest part for you as a writers’ room to nail?
I think our episode “Blue Valentine” was our hardest, and it was also one of the most proudest moments for me in making television for network. It was a complete departure from the tone. We shot it long-lens, we shot wide-angle, we did color desaturation, and we actually had a wall-to-wall score that had a motif to it. The thing that I get so often with network comedies, and I think some of the most brilliant people in the world do them, but it’s easy to hide behind a joke. I kind of feel like when you have to face things and you don’t have humor, it becomes very vulnerable; it exposes your deepest and darkest fears, in some aspects.
Do you have any idea what you hope to tackle in season 5?
Black-ish will return in the fall for season 5 on ABC.