Freeridge resurrects the quirky charm and coming-of-age drama of On My Block

We said goodbye to Ruby, Jamal, Monse and Cesar, but now it’s time to return to the infamous neighbourhood of On My Block in the spinoff, aptly titled Freeridge. The series follows a new group of friends who may or may not have unleashed a deadly curse, sending them on an adventure to right their wrongs.

One of the biggest praises I can give Freeridge is that it does feel like it’s taking place in the same world as On My Block. There’s some loose references, direct connections and maybe a couple of cameos that let you know this is the same neighbourhood we’re familiar with. It’s not just the visual connections either – the creators have done a fine job at replicating the quirky yet heartwarming tone that made the original series so beloved. It goes from silly sexual innuendos to gripping heart-to-hearts and back again in a way that’s familiar and satisfying. The only aspect I’d say is completely tonally absent would be the sense of danger that On My Block excelled in exploring. There’s not much of a gang presence like in the original series, which is where that sense of danger stemmed from, meaning the series is lacking in the realm of thrilling suspense.

What the season lacks in a central threat or sprawling sense of adventure, it makes up for in its character relationships. Much like our original crew, this group of friends go through their own highs and lows, constantly drifting apart and coming together in ways only a core group of friends can. It can take a few episodes to really get a sense of who these characters are and the history they share, but overall I like this new group. They get up to some mischievous fun here and there, which makes for some pleasant moments to break up all the clashing and infighting. There’s not as much as a variety of personalities in the crew – for instance Jamal, Monse and Ruby each bring a unique vibe to On My Block that only they can contribute. In this show, Gloria, Ines, Demi and Cameron feel somewhat similar in personality… although admittedly they haven’t had as much time to grow.

Much like in the original series, there’s a light supernatural element that’s carried throughout the season. It’s silly and ridiculous of course, but that’s part of its charm. These supernatural beats are introduced well in the pilot, but are glossed over through the middle of the season. Thankfully they return for the final few episodes, but it’s a shame they didn’t play more of a role. Speaking of the final two episodes – this is where the season is at its best and it has found a tonal balance that really works. The characters have been mostly fleshed out by this point to where you’re firmly interested in all of them, there’s an actual sense of adventure, tension and danger settling in, and the silliness is ramped up in the best way. I still think the rest of the season prior to this is fairly solid, but these two episodes had me the most hooked.

There’s nothing much in the way of quality performances, although the two lead actors who I loved most in this season were Bryana Salaz (Ines) and Ciara Riley Wilson (Demi). These two bring the most to the series in terms of charisma, emotion and comedy. There’s a great balance of these three things that makes them very likeable, well-rounded characters. That’s not to say I didn’t like Keyla Monterroso Mejia (Gloria) or Tenzing Norgay Trainor (Cameron), I just didn’t think they were as strong. However, there is one shining light in this season who is without a doubt the best part of the show – the presence of Peggy Blow. I won’t spoil how or why she’s in it, but every moment in which she’s on screen is incredible. This season wouldn’t have been quite as good without her help.

In terms of the comedy, it’s again not as strong and punchy as On My Block, but it does contain plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and quippy one-liners. The ridiculous humour and spontaneous moments of raunchy comedy are well handled and garner some great laughs. Just like how the series’ tone is perfected in the final few episodes, that’s where the comedy is at its strongest. It’s never groundbreaking in that department, but it’s good fun from beginning to end.

In the end, Freeridge is a good show and a solid spinoff to On My Block. It’s not quite at the height of On My Block’s best, but it’s better than On My Block’s worst. It seems like Freeridge wants to form a story that stands on its own, but it’s also heavily reliant on characters and lingering plot-points from On My Block, making it hard to not compare the two series’. Nevertheless, it’s a fun outing for fans who fell in love with the silly comedy and quirky vibe of the original series. By the end of the season, there’s much to love about the new characters and the complicated relationships they share. There is a hole left by the lack of gang-related content, but that could be rectified going forward.



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