The Johnsons Will Be A Different Kind Of Family When ‘black-ish’ Returns

by Kayla Hawkins
Ron Tom/ABC

Spoilers for the black-ish Season 4 finale. The 2017-2018 TV season is coming to an end, and lots of series are leaving their audiences with big questions — even comedies like black-ish, which has been teasing a possible divorce between Dre and Bow Johnson for several weeks now. In the week before its finale, black-ish was renewed for Season 5 by ABC, per Deadline. And though the network has not announced an exact return date yet, fans can rest easy during the summer hiatus knowing that Bow and Dre got back together in the black-ish Season 4 finale.

UPDATE: According to The Hollywood Reporter, black-ish Season 5 will premiere on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

The arc comes to an end with a somewhat surprising efficiency considering how excruciating it was to watch the couple struggle with the decision to separate. But the finale implies that the Johnsons are going to continue working on their relationship and taking small steps towards a better and more harmonious future during the long, incoming offseason. Fortunately, the reunion does not suggest that everything will be solved instantly.

The show resolves this split rather quickly as far as screentime goes. But the audience gets the message that more happened that they didn't see. Bow and Dre attended multiple therapy sessions, doing the serious (and not particularly thrilling) things that make a relationship work. Bow and Dre are growing and evolving from the roles they were previously stuck in when it came to their relationship.

Remembering 20 years of marriage doesn't force Bow and Dre to stay together, nor does having five children. It's figuring out that while it may have been easier for Bow to make dinner every night and Dre to take out the trash, they can live apart and take over what one another usually does. That makes them each more appreciative of what a great partner they really had all along. It makes it easier for them to find flexibility and to stop criticizing one another at every turn.

But if audiences feel like this was an abrupt way to end the season, they should consider that ultimately, this wasn't ever really a story about the end of the Johnsons' relationship or what leads to a divorce. It really was just a realistic "rough patch" in the story of a successful marriage. Most relationships go through hard times, and this narrative experiment gave the black-ish writers a chance to show what one of those times would look like for the now beloved sitcom couple.

Showrunner Kenya Barris told Entertainment Weekly, "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," explaining that he always wanted Dre and Bow to stay together. "We wanted to give [couples] something saying, 'You’re not the only one.'" Barris added that he has no idea where he wants the show to go in Season 5, but that he's happy to see how well this serialized arc has been received — so perhaps there will be more running storylines in black-ish's future.

Ron Tom/ABC

But while not all struggling couples have the luxuries that the Johnsons can afford, such as going to therapy, taking time apart, or having one parent stay home from work, there are still solutions presented that are applicable to everyone. For example, why not trade chores with a partner to get an idea of how much they contribute to the shared household?

The only aspect of the resolution that feels a bit unfair is that Bow barely gets any time to grieve the death of her father, which is the thing that brings the couple back under the same roof. In a real relationship, that would probably be a terrible time for a vulnerable person to make huge change like welcoming back an estranged spouse.

Still, the black-ish season finale shows that sometimes, with hard work and openness that couples facing seemingly insurmountable problems can reconcile. And even though the wait for Season 5 will likely mean no new black-ish until at least the fall, hopefully Bow and Dre's marriage will be stronger than ever before by the time fans get new episodes with the Johnsons.