'Wu-Tang: An American Saga' Episode 6 Recap
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'Wu-Tang: An American Saga' Episode 6 Recap: Bird's-Eye View

This week's episode focuses on perspective, point of view, and how they shape realities.

The story of the Wu-Tang Clan is a story of rap as a way out of the hood, but it’s also a story about using talent to break cycles and beat the system. Episode 6 focuses on perspective, point of view, and how they shape realities. What happens as our characters dare to look past Park Hill and Stapleton Houses to the world beyond? And how many visible and invisible barriers are in place to prevent it from happening? Using NYC’s official mascot, the pigeon, as a tour guide, our journey starts and ends at the Coles’ house, where Darren’s (Amyrh Harris) view is usually limited to the world immediately outside their Stapleton window.

At the Diggs’ residence, Randy’s Undependable Ni**a Association of America-certified father, Jerome, has shown up out of the blue (they stay having people show up with no advanced warning). Of course, he’s played by Bokeem Woodbine because would it even be a ‘90s hood narrative without Bokeem Woodbine? He sweeps in, making promises of houses, lawns and clean air in the great state of Ohio… as soon as a deal to sell some land he’s been “sitting on” goes through. Sounds like undependable ni**a rhetoric to us, and to Linda (Erika Alexander), who has more pressing issues on her mind — namely paying the debt to Fat Larry (Vincent Pastore) and associates that her sister left behind. As Linda is counting her savings in the First National Bank of Black Mamas — aka the coffee can — we set a timer for the moment it’s discovered that Jerome took the cash and broke out.

Shurrie (Zolee Griggs) is pissed that Jerome’s visit has disrupted her household schedule — because she does technically run the household, especially where little brother Randy’s concerned. “That’s your problem,” Jerome tells her, “too busy acting grown when you ain’t.” When she complains to Divine, he basically tells her to calm down; he now understands what it’s like to get out of jail and feel like the world’s left you behind. Plus, at least Randy’s dad is coming around, unlike theirs. When Dennis (Siddiq Saunderson) stops by to drop something off for Linda, Shurrie takes the opportunity to confront her boo about his distance.

He’s been funny style since their conversation about a future together. Dennis, who’s been in the middle of solving yet another problem at home, emphasizes to Shurrie again that his family is always going to need him, and he doesn’t want to put that weight on her shoulders. Shurrie tells him that’s not his decision to make, and she’s tired of everyone seeing her as a little girl; she’s almost a grown woman (they could have just inserted a chyron that said “And then, she got pregnant” here, the foreshadowing was so heavy). Shout out to Dennis for being all about the hair scarf lovin’, though. He knows what’s up.

Bobby (Ashton Sanders) is still trying to uphold his responsibilities to the household, which now includes helping his mom pay back the mob. But his business is slowing down for the winter. Over in Park Hill, Rebel (rapper Joey Bada$$) can tell Bobby how many hood spins his single with Shot Gun has every day before the kids head to school and the mailman comes, but he ain’t actually trying to go outside to sell product. He’s content to observe the world of Park Hill from his window until the weather breaks, prompting Bobby to compare him to “that inspector from the Pink Panther.” (Seed for “Inspectah Deck”: planted.)

Bobby’s money coming up short means money for his mama comes up short — Linda owes interest for paying late — which means the family is vulnerable. On top of that, even after solving this week’s payment, next week’s is looming. Bobby gets an idea from the record shop owner to grab Dennis and venture beyond their side of Satan Island to do business at a burger joint literally called “White’s” (I guess they didn’t want smoke with White Castle). They have a great sales night, but Bobby decides he wants the full tourist experience and tries to get at a white girl, spitting game about Blondie’s and New York City’s bastion of punk music, CBGB. He and Dennis subsequently end up in a fight with locals who no doubt grew up to vote for Trump (if you want to know anything about Staten Island outside of Wu’s side of town, know it’s the only NYC borough that went to 45 in the election). They give Bobby a pretty serious gash over his eye and run his and Dennis’ pockets for almost all the money they just made. Bobby dispatches Dennis to give Linda what little money is left while he goes to get stitched up.

Linda heads to work stressed about how she’s going to handle the balance due for the week and is shocked and surprised when Paxti (Antoni Corone) passes her outside the rib joint without incident. She’s even more surprised when she walks inside to discover Jerome paid her debt in full. He figured out her trouble with Fat Larry while questioning Randy about Linda’s love life and decided to step up. Maybe we had you pegged wrong, Jerome. Our bad. He begs Linda to change her outlook and trust him, just one more time. Looks like Ms. Linda is ‘bout to get her groove back.

We spend more time in and around Park Hill this episode than we have previously, and Shot Gun is now a local star. As Rebel reported to Bobby, “Killa Hill” is still being bumped non-stop. Shorties are getting his number, cats want the opportunity to beat him in a rap battle. He’s the only eventual Wu member, aside from Bobby, committed to using his talents to get him out of the hood and tells Haze he’ll bring him along as manager. We also finally get some insight into Haze’s leadership, composure, and code-switching adeptness: he’s former military. He tells Shot Gun how much love he got in Germany when the Berlin Wall came down and that he’d consider going back to stay. Even though young Clifford has his eye on a life beyond Park Hill, Germany ain’t it: “That’s like a lion saying he’s gonna leave his own land, and put himself in a cage at the zoo.” But Haze’s experience in the world has given him a self-confidence that goes beyond street braggadocio, “I’d still be king of the jungle.”

Sha is peepin’ Shot Gun’s shine, and feeling a way. He’s low key annoyed that Bobby gave Shot Gun such a hot beat, but Bobby had been trying to get Sha to lay something down forever. Sha finally gives Shot Gun the freestyle battle Officer Marcus interrupted previously. And Officer Marcus is about to come jack it up, again.

A few feet away, Ms. Burgess, the neighborhood elder, has a cozy slice of comfort inside her well-appointed, well-maintained home. Inside, Nina Simone is the soundtrack and Ms. B carries a running commentary about the good ol’ days with her late husband Curtis. But the civil rights era survivor is plagued by the non-stop noise and profanity of rap battles and drug deals right outside her ground-floor window.

After begging Haze to get the young guns in line, since they listen to him, she tries dealing with them herself. When that goes left, she’s disrespected with a thrown rock, broken china and a destroyed quilt before calling the police. Dammit, Ms. B.

Meanwhile, Divine is still trying to get back in the game, despite the urgings from literally everyone around him. He’s secured a buyer for his product in Park Hill, but when he gets there to complete the transaction, he learns dude was picked up by his parole officer. As he’s heading out, deflated, he sees the police responding to Ms. B’s complaint. Now he might eff around and get sent back to jail himself. His girl won’t let him stash product in her apartment, so he dumps it down the trash shoot. Money gone, but freedom saved, as he bumps into a cop and gets patted down immediately after.

Outside in the courtyard, Haze does what Ms. Burgess initially charged him to do, encouraging the young men to stay calm and cooperate so the incident with the cops doesn’t escalate unnecessarily. Officer Marcus, also from Park Hill, isn’t feeling the street muscle outranking his badge and decides to assert his authority — and escalate. Haze not only refusing to back down but insulting him in front of the hood and his officers, drives Marcus to pull out his taser, which then leads to a scuffle between the two men. As Shot Gun, Sha, and Rebel watch from elevated positions, separated away from the fray; Ms. Burgess watches in horror from her window, realizing what she put in motion; and Divine tries to get to his friend, risking violation of his parole in the process; Officer Marcus chokes Haze to death, insisting “I run the streets!”

Outside of the basketball court, however, life moves forward. Bobby heads home from the hospital; Ms. Linda and Jerome are cozied up, perhaps contemplating life in Ohio, and Dennis and Shurrie are finally moving publicly as a couple. Our friend and guide, the pigeon, comes back to rest outside of Darren’s window.

--

What This Episode Got Right: The immediate assumption is probably that the tragic scene with Haze and Officer Marcus is in homage to Eric Garner, the black man killed on Staten Island in 2014 via asphyxiation; the result of a police officer restraining him in a chokehold for a non-violent offense. Unfortunately, the tension between black men and the NYPD long precede #BlackLivesMatter and was especially thick in the early-mid ‘90s. Haze’s death was based on the life of Ernest “Case” Sayon, who grew up with Shot Gun in Park Hill and died following a struggle with a police officer — who put him in a chokehold — over what Method Man has said was a misunderstanding about fireworks. The officer was acquitted.

Oh, and people needing to get your permission to use your phone to call long distance was real. Phone bills were really the biggest scam ever.

What This Episode Got Wrong: Haze bucking up to a police officer as former military felt a bit off, but street code supersedes rank and file. And the police on the other side of Staten Island would probably have arrested Bobby and Dennis instead of just leaving them there. But nothing stood out as a big “nope” for us this episode.

What We Could Have Done Without: The use of the pigeon was overdone, although the various framing shots were fantastic, Ms. Burgess’s speech to the Park Hill kids was also too much; very Mother Sister in Do the Right Thing. We actually exhaled when somebody through a rock, because no way would that have worked in real life.

What We Have Questions About: Where did Jerome get the money to pay off Fat Larry and ‘nem? We still have our eye on him.

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Zoe Kravitz Lands Catwoman Role In 'Batman'

Zoe Kravitz is the latest bombshell to become Catwoman. The 30-year-old will play Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman alongside Batman (Robert Pattinson), CNN reports.

This new role is a major milestone for Kravitz, who’s most known for her role as Bonnie Carlson on HBO’s Big Little Lies. The actress was congratulated on her new role by her step-father, Aquaman actor Jason Momoa on Instagram.

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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“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.'

It’s important to acknowledge that I got in the door easier because of them. Some kids work their whole lives and they can’t even get an agent to call them back. That part was handed to me,” she continued. “People are always going to think that maybe you are who you are because of your family. So it’s my responsibility to work harder.”

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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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Ava DuVernay And 'Netflix' Sued For Portrayal Of Interrogation Technique In 'When They See Us'

Ava DuVernay and Netflix have been sued over their portrayal of the Reid interrogation technique of the Central Park Five in the Emmy-award winning series When They See Us, according to a new report by Hollywood Reporter.

According to the report, John E. Reid and Associates, a company that trains police on how to interrogate, claims that When They See Us sheds a negative light on the procedure, and implies that it involves coercion.

“Defendants intended to incite an audience reaction against Reid for what occurred in the Central Park jogger case and for the coercive interrogation tactics that continue to be used today,” the suit reads. “Defendants published the statements in 'When They See Us' in an effort to cause a condemnation of the Reid technique.”

The lawsuit also refers to a specific scene where the alleged Reid technique was badly dramatized.  In the final episode of When They See Us, a district attorney's office employee confronts a detective in the case, saying: "You squeezed statements out of them after 42 hours of questioning and coercing, without food, bathroom breaks, withholding parental supervision. The Reid Technique has been universally rejected. That's truth to you."

The detective responds:

“I don’t even know what the fucking Reid technique is, OK? I know what I was taught. I know what I was asked to do and I did it.”

Reid and Associates also claims the program has caused harm to the company's reputation, and the firm is seeking actual and punitive damages.

When They See Us, directed by DuVernay, tells the story of the Central Park Five, a group of young black men who were falsely charged with the rape and assault of a jogger in 1989.

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