Wu-Tang: An American Saga Episode 4 Recap
Ashton Sanders (L) plays Rza and Siddiq Saunderson (R) plays Ghostface Killah in Hulu's 'Wu-Tang: An American Saga.'
Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu

'Wu-Tang: An American Saga' Episode 4 Recap: Dwellin’ In The Past And Flashbacks

As evidenced by the title, this week’s episode of Wu-Tang: An American Saga is centered around Dennis/Ghostface (Siddiq Saunderson). Episode 4 builds on the narrative from one of Ghost’s signature songs, “All That I Got Is You,” the tale of his home life, his relationship with his mom, and how it made him the man he is; and then adds the love story of a young Dennis and Shurrie (Zolee Griggs).

Whether you’re a die-hard Wu fan and know the rappers’ backstories, or you’re just a casual fan who sang along to Mary J. Blige as the clan’s designated storyteller painted the picture of growing up in a crowded Stapleton Houses apartment on “All That I Got…,” you probably know that Ghostface had two brothers with muscular dystrophy (his only siblings for the sake of the series), and a mother with issues - including alcohol addiction. If you saw the Wu-Tang docuseries Of Mics and Men, you also know that as the eldest, he was the man of the house before he was even a teenager. In this week’s episode, we get a closer look at how the pressures of caring for two brothers with disabilities - one who’s nonverbal, plus a mom fighting with the bottle, drove Dennis to be such a go-hard. He’s always dead serious about the business because he has no choice. Bobby/Rza lives in a house - with a basement - has a working, engaged mom, routine, order and stability. Meanwhile, at one point, Dennis is down to the last box of oatmeal in the crib.

The episode follows Dennis and Shurrie back and forth between an undetermined “THEN” that could be one or two years in the past, and “NOW.” The “THEN” is peppered with heavy foreshadowing, starting with a studious and focused Shurrie telling another girl on the bus she’s destined to end up with a locked-up baby daddy before getting distracted by Dennis while trying to study at the house. When Divine gets home, he tells Dennis that he and drug dealer Power (Marcus Callender) are no longer working together and appoints Dennis as his No. 2 man.

In the “NOW,” Dennis wonders out loud if Shurrie should be with someone more suited to a college-bound student...and if they should tell Bobby and Divine about their relationship. Her response? No, and “You crazy?”

Mama Linda (Erika Alexander) visits Divine (with her cream Dooney & Burke bag. Big shout out to costume designer Marci Rodgers; she is killing it.) and convinces him to take a plea deal for the sake of the entire family. Now, Dennis and Bobby have to get serious about coming back from losing all their inventory and cash in the stash house fire. This is no longer a case of holding things down for a minute until Divine comes back; this is a long-term situation. It’s on them. And Christmas is coming.

While cutting through Manhattan’s Battery Park on his way to a job interview, Bobby has the realization that he and Dennis could move weight to all the financial cats there. There’s no heavy police presence and no competing factions. Shotgun’s coworker Erika hooks them up with some rolls of film to sell on the streets for cash (we’re guessing in exchange for a weed connect once they get the product). They get their dough, get a skimpy bag of product, cut it with some tea leaves (figuring the target consumer won’t know the difference), and they’re in business.

At home, Dennis is trying to keep things together as his mom is falling apart. He takes his brothers to the neighborhood babysitter Ms. Gloria (there was always a neighborhood babysitter yelling at kids to “get out of the street” and stuffing money in her bra. Amen), cleans up the house, and even adds some holiday cheer. He gives his mom space for a little pampering, complete with a box of Calgon; something it’s obvious she doesn’t get often. His obvious pride in being able to help her out and give her some joy is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

In another “THEN” flashback, Dennis is itching to get at Power, but Divine orders him to stand down, insisting there’s no beef between the two - just business. The series opened with Power ordering a hit on Dennis and he was later behind the fire at the stash house, so we know there’s more backstory coming to fill in the gap between time periods. Dennis promises he won’t touch Power and robs his parents’ business instead. In the process, he realizes that Power is a college graduate who grew up in a stable family - most importantly, with a father. This stays with him. Meanwhile, while he’s working with Divine, he and Shurrie are building a romance through furtive glances and little moments of tenderness, like Dennis scraping his plate instead of just dropping it in the sink for Shurrie to wash like her brothers. Acts of Service is apparently Dennis’ love language.

In another “NOW” scene, Ms. Linda’s street-savvy, hair-styling, fly girl sister Laurie (Diane Howard) surprises the family with a visit and blesses us with some outstanding lines. Can we form an actual Undependable Ni**a Association of America to officially keep a rating scale? Life would be easier.

Anyway, Aunt Laurie clocks the vibes between Shurrie and Dennis immediately. Later, when Shurrie answers a desperate emergency call from Dennis, Laurie cautions, “Go take care of your man, just make you take care of yourself, too. Alright?”

Working hand-to-hands in Battery Park, Rza takes a moment to sit with the chess elder (Anthony Chilsolm), and complain about the Five Percenters loud and incessant “teaching” messing with his focus (we feel you, Bobby, we feel you). Some of the future Wu members are already Five Percenters (Ason, Allah Justice, Sha), but the elder plants the seed for Bobby’s conversion when he translates the Islamic sect’s message to chess terms: “The world will tell the Black man he’s a pawn, a white man he’s king. But those gentlemen over there, they tell you that you’re the player and that you move the pieces. That you’re a God.” We can see the transformation of thought happening in Bobby’s mind. The convo immediately transitions to Bobby, Dennis, Ason and Gary/Allah Justice watching Shaolin vs Wu Tang for the umpteenth time. But now, Bobby is actually listening to the Shaolin monk’s dialogue (he’s woke!). He hops up, inspired, and starts working on what sounds like an early version of “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” Ason jumps on, Bobby talks about arrangements to make it a crew cut, and Dennis decides to break out, “As long as my gun clap, I ain’t gotta rap.”

When Dennis gets home, he discovers that his mom had another Calgon night - and threw in a bottle of booze. He finds her passed out, half-submerged in the tub. He calls Shurrie, the one person he knows he can trust his brothers with while he goes to the hospital. When he finally gets home the next morning, he’s at his breaking point, “I got all of this (material stuff), and I still got nothing.” Shurrie insists that he has her, and Dennis scoffs. As much as he loves his brothers, the idea of having kids with disabilities, and possibly driving another woman to his mother’s fate, is terrifying. Shurrie is bright - folks have been talking about her books and reading the whole episode - and is about to graduate and head to college. Her aunt even called it “parole,” a way out of a life of cooking, washing dishes, and looking after her younger brother while her mom works double shifts. Dennis can’t see a typical domestic future is in his cards, “You think we gonna get married and have kids?!... I thought you was the smart one.” (Spoiler alert: They get married and have kids.). He storms out and finds himself back at Power’s parents’ store. He ends up in a discussion with Power’s dad - unaware that he’s talking to the person who robbed him - about fatherhood. The same way something clicked in Bobby’s mind in Battery Park, we see a change of heart and mind - and perhaps determination? - show up in Dennis.

--

What The Episode Got Right: Let’s just assume fashion is going to always be an answer here, so we’ll skip that. We still think the scenes between Bobby and the old chess playing sage are a bit too down the middle, but the elder’s breakdown of the Five Percenters’ message explains the appeal of the movement to young black men in the early ‘90s, and how the Five Percent Nation’s influence on Wu-Tang is vital to Wu’s story. Also, to answer a question we posed in the last recap: Yes, Ghostface and Rza’s sister (her real-life name is Sophia) were really in a relationship.

What The Episode Got Wrong: Nobody from the boroughs says “Manhattan” like Bobby did when talking to the chess player. It’s “the city.” (We understand that was for you non-New York viewers, but still.)

What We Could Do Without: About three of the references of Shurrie being smart and focused. We got it.

What We Absolutely Don’t Believe: That Shurrie just walked off the bus after that back and forth and that was the end of it. Ol’ girl would have ended up in a fight on the bus after that line. Shurrie actually might have gotten jumped.

What We’d Like To See More Of: Is Aunt Laurie hanging around? Because she’d be good for some good ol’ grown foolishness that we don’t get from Mama Linda.

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Jada Pinkett Smith In Talks To Reprise 'Matrix' Role

Earlier this year, it was announced that The Matrix would return for a fourth storyline. Although a release date has yet to be announced, box office names like Keanu Reeves, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Carrie-Anne Moss, and now Jada Pinkett Smith have been attached to the franchise's upcoming installment.

According to Deadline, Pinkett Smith may step into her previous role of Niobe from the films The Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions. Her agent is allegedly in negotiations with the movie's producers so it's not set in stone as of yet, but fans of the franchise hope to witness Pinkett Smith's appearance on screen. The Matrix premiered in 1999, depicting a sci-fi story of a battle between humans and machines.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Pinkett Smith said her husband and fellow actor, Will Smith, auditioned for the lead role of Neo (played by Reeves). “I knew it would be revolutionary,” she said. He ultimately passed on the character, stating "I probably would have messed The Matrix up. I would have ruined it, so I did y’all a favor.”

The mother-of-two auditioned for Trinity but the role ended up going to Moss. However, the movie's visionaries Lana and Lilly Wachowski wrote Niobe with Pinkett Smith in mind. “I thought Carrie-Anne was the perfect Trinity, and there was no way I could do what she did,” she said. “And that’s the only time in my career I’ve said that about losing a role.”

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Zoe Kravitz Lands Catwoman Role In 'Batman'

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For Kravitz, it’s always been important to make her presence known in Hollywood outside her parents' influence on the business (her father is Lenny Kravitz and her mother is Lisa Bonet). To get these coveted roles, she admits to, ironically, having to work harder than her counterparts just to prove her success isn’t just a product of nepotism.

 

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I’m so proud of u zozo bear. On and off screen OHANA. DC WB ohana Lola and Wolfies big sister is CAT WOMAN😍😍😍 Unbelievable so freaking stoked. Your going to have so much fun Aloha P bear

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“If I don’t have [the next] job lined up, I get nervous,” she told Elle. “It’s irrational, maybe. But also good. When I was in high school, if a girl didn’t like me, the first thing she’d say was, 'You think you’re so cool because of your parents.' That carries into later life, like, 'Oh, you just got this part because your parents are this and that.'

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How 'My Brother And Me' Resonated With A Generation Of Young Black Men

In terms of cultural impact and influence, the '90s ranks as one of the defining decades for black entertainment of the past century. This proves particularly true in the realm of television, with a number of landmark programs debuting that reflected the life and times of blacks in the urban community and beyond. While the '80s produced groundbreaking sitcoms like The Cosby Show, A Different World, Family Matters, 227, Amen, and Frank's Place, all of which featured predominantly black casts, these shows were few and far in between.

However, the arrival of a new decade coincided with an influx of programs starring black leads, with shows like Martin, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Living Single, Hangin with Mr. Cooper, Roc, Thea and South Central all making their debut. While these shows were hits across various age groups, they all starred and revolved around actors of age, in some form or fashion. One of the first programs to divert from this formula and place the focus squarely on adolescents was My Brother and Me, a sitcom that often gets overlooked when listing the pivotal shows of its era.

Making its debut on October 15, 1994, My Brother and Me was among the first live-action series to air on Nickelodeon and the first to feature a predominantly black cast. Created by Ilunga Adell and Calvin Brown Jr., and directed by Arlando Smith and Adam Weissman, the show centers around brothers Alfred "Alfie" Parker and Derek "Dee-Dee" Parker, the two youngest children of parents Jennifer (Karen E. Fraction) and Roger Parker (Jim R. Coleman) who experience the typical growing pains of pre-pubescent young men that are coming of age.

Additional core cast members include Alfie and Dee-Dee's older sister Melanie Parker (Aisling Sistrunk),, Alfie's best friend Milton "Goo" Berry (Jimmy Lee Newman, Jr.) who has an infatuation with Melanie, Melanie's best friend and Donnell's older sister Dionne Wilburn (Amanda Seales), Dee-Dee's best friend and Dionne’s younger brother Donnell Wilburn (Stefan J. Wernli),, Dee-Dee’s other best friend Harry White (Keith "Bubba" Naylor), and local comic book store owner Mrs. Pinckney (Kym Whitley).

Set in the suburbs of the west side of Charlotte, North Carolina, My Brother and Me was the Nickelodeon's answer to Sister, Sister, a sitcom on ABC starring identical twins Tia and Tamera Mowry that had debuted earlier that year. With a beat writer for the local newspaper for a father and a school teacher for a mother, Alfie and Dee-Dee enjoyed a stable living environment in which they could thrive academically and socially while simply being kids. A middle-class family with access to all of the basic amenities, the Parkers' economic situation was in stark contrast to the usual scratching-and-surviving, rags-to-riches themes often associated with sitcoms geared towards people of color.

While removed from the harsh realities that often accompany life in the inner-city, the Parker boys were drawn in by the allure of street culture, with Alfie and Dee-Dee both being avid fans of hip hop music, fashion, and style. This love affair would be the driving force behind various episodes, most notably "Dee-Dee's Haircut," during which Dee-Dee allows Goo to butcher his hair after marveling at fellow student Kenny's "Cool Dr. Money"-inspired haircut. Going as far as handpicking designs out of a rap magazine Donell borrows from his sister Dionne, Dee-Dee goes to the extreme in an attempt to mirror Kenny and Cool Dr. Money, a testament to the influence hip hop holds over him. His affinity for the culture is also reflected in the "Donnell's Birthday Party" episode, during which the impressionable youngster mimicking dance moves from a rap video in hopes of tightening up his dance skills.

Alfie and Dee-Dee may have been the intended stars of the show, but to many viewers, the most memorable character from My Brother and Me was Goo, who stole scenes with his humorous wisecracks and mischievous hijinks, often at the expense of Dee-Dee and his friends. From showering Mrs. Parker with disarming compliments to masterminding various plots and schemes in an attempt to get himself and Alfie out of trouble, Goo proved to be the most entertaining member of the show, exuding swagger and confidence that are palpable to the viewer and as hip hop as it gets. On the other hand, Alfie, who is not as overtly demonstrative in his rap fandom as his younger brother or Goo, reps his allegiance to the culture more subtly, with his haircut, backward caps and boisterous mannerisms.

While race was never a prevalent topic on the show, if one was to look closer between the lines, My Brother and Me was unapologetically black and pridefully so. Take, for instance, the various nods to HBCU culture throughout the show, including Roger Parker's various North Carolina Central University sweatshirts and hats, Alfie's Morehouse fit, and insignias from various black fraternities. One other common thread of the show was its incorporation of sports, starting with the Parker household's fandom of Charlotte's local professional franchises on full display, as Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Panthers memorabilia are all visible throughout the household. Cameos also included appearances from NBA stars Kendall Gill and Dennis Scott, the latter of whom teaches Alfie, the superior athlete of the Parker brothers, a lesson in selflessness and teamwork by cutting him from the school basketball team in "The Basketball Tryouts" episode.

Of all of the aspects of My Brother and Me that made the show a game-changer, the fact that it was one of the first times young black males saw themselves in characters on the TV is the most enduring. While plenty of shows and networks fixated on coming-of-age storylines centered around the privileged youth of white America, My Brother and Me provided the alternative, promoting the bond of brotherhood and family values with each episode aired. Preceding shows like Kenan & Kel and Cousin Skeeter, both of which implemented overt comedic or fictional elements, My Brother and Me was a realistic glimpse at the life of the average black boy in America without the overarching narratives of impoverishment, temptation, and despair. For many young black men born in the '80s, the show left an indelible impact on them and holds a place near to their heart a quarter-century later.

In spite of its critical acclaim and popularity, My Brother and Me only aired for one season, as it was canceled after airing its final episode on January 15, 1995. The network would air reruns into the early 2000s before returning briefly during The '90s Are All That block on TeenNick in December 2013, the last time the show would appear on television. In June 2014, Nickelodeon released My Brother & Me: The Complete Series as a two-disc DVD, giving a new generation of viewers and longtime fans of the show an opportunity to relive the magic that the show captured during its short, yet unforgettable run.

In the years following My Brother and Me's cancellation, many of the actors and actresses from the show would fail to find their footing in the entertainment industry, resulting in their acting careers fading into obscurity. Arthur Reggie III scored a few additional credits, appearing in the TV shows Sliders and C-Bear and Jamal, as well as the 1998 film Bulworth, but later transitioned into a rap career, performing under the name Show Bizness. My Brother and Me would mark Ralph Woolfolk's last appearance as an actor, as he decided to leave the industry behind and focus on his education, pursuing a degree in English at Morehouse College in Atlanta, while also attending law school. He is also a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and currently serves as a police officer for the city of Atlanta. Jimmy Lee Newman, Jr. scored bit roles in the TV shows Sweet Justice and Sister, Sister in the subsequent years after the show, while Aisling Sistrunk, Stefan J. Wernli and Keith "Bubba" Naylor would never act professionally again.

However, a few members of the cast were able to sustain viable acting careers well beyond My Brother and Me's cancellation, most notably Amanda Seales, Karen E. Fraction and Jim Coleman. Seales would rebrand herself as Amanda Diva and become a successful media personality before transitioning back into acting, last appearing as Tiffany DuBois on HBO's "Insecure." In 2019, Seales debuted an HBO Comedy Special I Be Knowin', and was chosen as the emcee for NBC's comedy competition, Bring the Funny. Jim Coleman has kept himself busy with various roles over the past two decades, last appearing in "The Council," and continues to receive steady work. Karen Fraction would add a few additional credits to her resume after "My Brother and Me," but passed away on October 30, 2007, after a five year battle with breast cancer. She is survived by her two children, Lauren Elizabeth Jean and Lawrence Wm. Morris, and her husband Lawrence Hamilton. And last, but not least, Kym Whitley would enjoy a fruitful career on television and on the big screen, appearing in dozens of shows and films throughout her lengthy career, with her latest role being Mrs. Malinky in the Netflix animated comedy Pinky Malinky.

In the time since the debut of My Brother and Me, a lot has changed in terms of the presence and representation of black youth on television and beyond. A number of black actors and actresses have had the opportunity to shine in a big way, including Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris) Zendaya (Shake It Up), Kyle Massey (Corey in the House), Keke Palmer (True Jackson, VP), Miles Brown (Black-Ish) and Alex R. Hibbert (The Chi) all among the more prominent child stars making major waves on TV over the past two decades. That said, 25 years later, the fact remains that My Brother and Me was ahead of the curve as one of the first instances of seeing ourselves in a positive and uplifting light on the small screen.

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