Party of Five’s “Rafa” goes micro while the rest of the show had been going macro, and it’s both incredibly appreciated, and absolutely necessary. Yes, the restaurant is a concern, and the big issues of what being latinx means in this day and age are things a show like this one cannot hope to escape, especially in 2020. But this show is still about a family, and the big and small problems that entails.
For Emilio, who’s trying his best to be a parent to four kids with very different needs, and to shield his parents from the knowledge of not just how hard things can get for those four kids, but how hard they have been for him.
For Beto, who wants to enjoy his first girlfriend and worry about the things a boy his age would be worrying about, except he can’t ever shut down and truly disconnect, because that’s just not the way his life works.
For Lucia, who is finding within herself a desire to right not just this wrong, the one that she’s personally feeling, and living through, but all the wrongs she can right.
And for Valentina, who is still a kid, expect in so many ways, she isn’t. In so many ways she was forced to grow up in a hurry, and must now adapt to a new reality that requires more from her than it ever required from her older siblings at her age.
This balance is tricky, and the success of the show hinges on us both caring about the big issues, and the little problems about what Rafa is eating and who’s picking him up from daycare, just as it hinges on us somehow feeling like the environment around these children feels real.
Because yes, they’re on their own, but that doesn’t mean they have to stop mentioning the parents – who wouldn’t in this situation? It doesn’t mean they don’t need to send Rafa to daycare (or get him a nanny, I remember the original). Doesn’t mean it isn’t good to see Lucia with Matthew (and to see a character like Matthew in general).
Doesn’t mean that Ella and her rebellious streak, and her racist and overbearing father aren’t necessary.
Often shows don’t quite manage to send the message they’re trying to send because they get so caught up in the message that they forge that life isn’t a fable. We don’t usually get just the circumstances that would make for a good lesson, and we never, ever get the lesson spelled out for us, even when we do.
Instead, we get lessons, and moments that just about passing the time, or enjoyment. That’s life, and that’s what the show needs to remember.
So far, Party of Five has been not just good in this regard, but amazing. We’re already, as astonishing as that sounds, halfway through this first season, and I’m not sure I would have done anything differently, can’t really ask for more than what we’ve gotten.
Here’s to the back half of the season being as good as the first half, and here’s to many, many more seasons. The Acostas still have a lot more life to live, a lot more lessons to learn, and we’d really, really like to be here for that journey.
Things I think I think:
- “As long as he thinks some adult is vaguely aware of my comings and goings, he’s fine.”
- I mean, I guess Emilio is vaguely aware?
- Does Emilio count as an adult?
- Whatever Lucia’s doing, I feel like we missed out on a reference. I can sorta see it coming after the last episode, but it almost feels like maybe this wasn’t meant to be episode 5.
- Beto’s like anything? You sure that’s the word you wanted? Anything?
- I just KNEW Valentina was gonna walk in. Like, I felt it in my soul.
- No, no. You really don’t gotta show a baby who’s boss, Emilio.
- Though you do have a point with Val.
- Beto’s FACE at the condoms.
- I mean, you have a big brother. It’s embarrassing, yes, but ask. Who else you gonna ask?
- Look, any speech with “Treat Women With Respect!” as a headline is a good speech in my book.
- I hate the great tradition of teachers embarrassing students.
- Valentina is my HERO.
- Though to be fair, it’s super hard to know with babies. It is.
- Also the ER is SO EXPENSIVE. The cost of healthcare in the United States is prohibitive.
- Emilio being nice to the nurse, aww.
- He looks like the type who’s just nice, too.
- My level of worry about Rafa is at about:
- Googling symptoms IS the Gen Z way.
- I like Ella, she’s trying. She’s just not family yet.
- Am I the only one who keeps thinking about how much this shit is gonna cost them?
- SOCIAL SERVICES NOW?
- “You realize that’s what a parent would say?”
- IF YOU THINK I’M NOT CRYING.
- “You’re taking care of them too.”
- CRYING, I TELL YOU.
- “I don’t have time to get good at parenting.”
- Ella’s rebellious streak is going strong. I wonder what will be like after that. I wonder what her relationship with Beto will be like after that.
- So now they’re on probation. Yay!
Agree? Disagree? What did you think about “Rafa”? Share with us in the comments below!
Party of Five airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on Freeform.