'black-ish' Shows What Happens When Family Game Night Gets Personal

by Kayla Hawkins
Eric McCandless/ABC

The Johnson family can't do anything without a serious negotiation first, and that includes playing a board game. For this crew, simply sitting down for a game of unstructured black-ish Monopoly wouldn't work at all — enter the complicated, high stakes world of the Johnsons' "Black Monopoly," where Pops can ignore taxes because of reparations and Ruby holds her cash in her "brassiere" (her words). And while the family don't need to learn much strategy as experienced players, Dre is reminded to be a team player, something he desperately needs. The Johnsons play a little unconventionally, splitting the family into teams of two: Dre and Bow, Jack and Diane, Ruby and Pops, and, presumably, Junior and Zoey. But since the latter is at college, Junior's girlfriend Megan takes her place.

With a new baby, four other kids, and two identically-dressed grandparents running around, Dre and Bow's relationship has been a little worse for wear so far this fall. Dre couldn't even be relied on to treat Bow sensitively about her postpartum depression, so it's no wonder that after experiencing the brief high of playing without his partner, Bow, he "sells" her off to Jack & Diane in exchange for a few fake dollars and the promise that they won't have any more kids. Of course, Dre's winning streak doesn't last for long, and he eventually winds up burning out, unifying everyone against him, and losing badly enough that he winds up owing the family a hundred bucks each in real money.

If you're not already familiar with the game of Monopoly, this episode is probably impossible to understand, but if you have sat through an intermitable round of the game with your family, the different types of players and personalities that emerge are probably very familiar, hilariously so. Being a big spender doesn't often pay off in this game, and there's always a Junior type ready to point that out with some nerdy statistics in tow. Ruby is the resident tightwad, while Pops is the player that no one can really make follow the rules. If only Diane's killer instinct had been better explored — she really deserved to be the one to help deliver the killing blow, since one of Dre's most duplicitous happens while she's in the bathroom.

For a brief moment, Dre's sore winning and even more sore losing is compared to Donald Trump, with the corresponding hotel ownership and eventual bankruptcy, but it's not particularly political — more observational about how the current Commander in Chief tends to react on Twitter to bad news. However, perhaps the Johnson family has the right idea for anyone hoping to mount a successful defense against opposing political forces: the family starts out totally divided into its different teams, but by isolating Dre and working together as a collective, even though they individually wind up losing a few points, they boost the weakest player, Jack, to the point where he helps defeat Donald — I mean, Dre. Thankfully, after a little humiliation, Dre is reminded why he needs his family and his partnership with Bow in order to stay grounded.

The theme of teamwork permeates the whole episode, and ultimately, it's the one thing that saves Dre from being resigned to life as a "sad" lonely loser and instead helps him embrace being part of a unit. Of course, everything isn't perfect (Bow seems more concerned with Junior moving on and growing up, an ongoing theme for her this season), but it's always good to end one of these episodes with the Johnson family patriarch realizing what a great family he has, even if the Halloween'd up Darth Dre-der only acknowledges DeVante as his son when it's time to trick-or-treat.