(Warning: This article contains spoilers for Season 1 of On My Block)
The first season of On My Block, Netflix's coming-of-age dramedy about high school freshman in the tough South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles, ended on a cliff-hanger after a shocking act of violence. Ambivalent gang member Cesar (Diego Tinoco) disobeyed an order from his OG brother Oscar (Julio Macias) and didn't murder rival gang member Latrelle (Jahking Guiilory), even though Latrell's threats against Cesar started the beef in the first place.
Cesar's act of mercy had serious consequences for him and his friends, though, as Latrelle crashed Olivia's (Ronni Hawk) quinceañera to finish off Cesar and ended up shooting Olivia and Ruby (Jason Genao), moments after Olivia had finally returned Ruby's affections. Olivia seems likely to survive, but Ruby may not make it. The finale made the specter of violence that hung over the season real, to devastating effect that hit especially close to home in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
But there was a silver lining: Jamal (Brett Gray) finally found the urban legendary $200,000 in buried cash, missing since a gang-related heist in the early '80s, that he'd been seeking all season. The cash could change his and his friends lives, if he plays it right.
TV Guide talked to two of the show's three co-creators, Lauren Iungerich and Eddie Gonzalez (the third is Jeremy Haft), about what happened in the finale, what will happen on the show if Netflix picks it up for Season 2 and why On My Block has been the most meaningful thing they've done in their careers.
TV Guide: The finale really threw me for a loop. I was upset in a really good way.
Lauren Iungerich: You're welcome? Hahaha. I think we're finding across the board that people are kind of knocked out by it. The irony is that it's hit at a time when there's so much change around gun violence going around in such a profound way with kids. And that was the point. The point was for us to get really comfortable in this world, to make this world feel really normalized just like any other teen world, and then to remind you this is not the world of John Hughes, and to show you what it's like to be a kid who grows up in a place where violence is the norm.
Eddie Gonzalez: One of the things we always talked about in the room is that the stakes to our kids' mistakes are so much greater. And you forget about that for three or four or five episodes and then all of a sudden we jolt you back to reality because that's what it is. Innocent people get caught in the crossfire.
LI: When you look at the show, they are the two characters, the two kids, who had never been exposed to gunplay. Jamal has been in situations where things were a little scary with Chivo (Emilio Rivera), but these two characters have never been around any sort of imposing danger.
That's how you came to the decision to have it be them?
LI: No, it was just the irony as we were breaking the story. We were like, "Wow, that's just totally awesome that that's a statement we're sort of making." But from even before we started writing the season, Eddie, Jeremy and I had the design to drive the season to this moment.
If the show comes back for Season 2, where does it go from here? Do you think it'll be a darker show?
LI: Obviously there's some real heavy stuff we're gonna have to address, like Monse's (Sierra Capri) mom. Obviously what's happened between Ruby and Olivia and how we're going to resolve that is going to be quite dramatic.
EG: There's also Cesar and what's going on with his brother.
LI: He's going to get disciplined.
EG: Because he didn't follow through on those orders.
LI: That's a big deal, and we're going to have explore that and the relationship between the brothers who are in a power dynamic in a gang. Oscar loves his brother but he can't let his brother get away with bucking orders. So there's a lot to explore but at the same time, Jamal found the f---ing money. There's something awesome there. I think for us we have a lot we can explore and there's a lot of lightness. There are some really great things that we can't tell you that are going to come back into the show that are really fun and light. The joy for us is that we get to make this world feel really real, feel really rich, and I think next season we get to build on what we've laid down in the foundation of a first season and expand the world and tonally continue with the journey that makes the world really fun and a joy to watch and to relate to for kids who've never seen themselves represented this way.
EG: And authentic. More than anything else, authentic.
LI: So yes, there will be heavy stuff but there will also be a lot of light, really joyful things in the show. We're not going to abandon the tone that we've created.
In Season 2 will Jamal be more integrated into the action? Because he was off on his own for a lot of it.
LI: Well, he was off on his own because if you really look at it, he's the only character in the entire season who didn't have a sort of rite of passage into adulthood and a loss of innocence. He's the only one who's retained his innocence in some ways. He still believed in the lore of Rollerworld and then went out by himself to find it. Our sort of alienation of Jamal had everything to do with where he was as an innocent, more than anything else. So now that he has this money, he sort of becomes a focal point for the crew in a weird way. I mean, they love him — there's that moment at the end where they all realize they've been super harsh to him, and they're like "I miss Jamal." There are lot of colors in this dynamic of friends where they're all having guilt, anger that's going to misplaced at times, and in the middle of it is Jamal, who's going to be sort of the glue, I think.
EG: He's the innocent one here, but now he's going to deal with the ramifications of two friends being shot. So there is this loss of innocence that we plan on exploring in Season 2 with Jamal as well.
LI: He's going to be sort of the gatekeeper of hope and change and, again, the glue of the crew, but with that comes new stakes, because that was stolen money that he's now recovered, and if any word gets out there's gonna be a lot of people coming after him. So just keep that in mind. Because how do you keep a secret that you have $200,000 in cash when you are a kid who can't keep a secret? Don't be surprised if you see Jamal in a fancy suit at the hospital, that's all I'm saying.
So here's kind of a stupid, obvious question: is Ruby dead?
LI: Oh, God, we can't tell you that! You need to ask Netflix if we're getting another season. If we don't get another season, then I think you know the answer: everyone's dead. But hopefully we get another season to continue the storytelling. We're so proud that the fans so far who have seen the show have been almost unanimously positive.
EG: I think the thing that's really affected us the most, though, isn't so much when fans tell us that they love the show. It's that it's inspired them and they feel this tremendous connection because they feel like they're finally being represented accurately on screen. And having grown up in Compton and Lynwood, that has meant the world to me. When Lauren and Jeremy and I started this journey, we said "if we can touch someone's life..." And I know that may sound a little hokey, but it's the truth. You wanna see these kids connect with the material. Lauren had that experience on Awkward, and she's having it again on this show.
LI: This show is so much more profound in so many ways. I can't tell you how many kids in the last four days have direct messaged me and reached out to tell me that they had given up on telling their stories and being screenwriters or filmmakers and now with this show have had a fire lit in them to start working on their stuff again. And that is just profound. To have this have that kind of impact and to light a fire under all these kids and young people who are ready to go out and do it for themselves and be voices in the world, it's maybe the most meaningful thing that's ever happened to me in my life besides having my children. I'm not from this world, but I've felt more seen and heard as a human being than I did working with all these incredible people. There's just so much love that came from making this show, and that people can see it and feel it watching the show, I don't even know what to say.
On My Block is now streaming on Netflix.