[Warning: The following contains spoilers from On My Block Season 4! Read at your own risk.]
On My Block, Netflix's charming series about a group of teenagers surviving a rough Southern California neighborhood with the strength of their friendship came to a bittersweet close on Oct. 4 with the conclusion of the fourth and final season. Over the course of the show, Ruby (Jason Genao), Monse (Sierra Capri), Jamal (Brett Gray), Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia), Cesar (Diego Tinoco), and Oscar (Julio Macias), grew from mischievous teenagers into ambitious young men and women. While not all of them made it through to the end of the series -- Oscar was gunned down in the middle of Season 4 -- On My Block still ended on an optimistic note for the core group's future and the hope that their friendship could survive whatever turbulence adulthood sends their way.
The journey to get to that ending point was a bit of a rollercoaster, with blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of gnomies along the way. TV Guide spoke to co-creators Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft about the highs and lows of the final season, what Abuelita's treasure map really means, and what we can expect from the upcoming On My Block spin-off, Freeridge.
When did you know that Oscar was going to die this season and what made that feel like the right choice?
Eddie Gonzalez: We knew he was going to die when we were talking about some big tentpole ideas [when] we were hoping to get a Season 4, when we were talking in Season 3 about the potential for a Season 4. In our minds, he was always born to die. It's tragic. But unfortunately, it's very real. The show has always been about authenticity. So we definitely wanted to address that and go in that area. It's tough because you're such a beloved character, but this was something that was planned over a year ago.
After his death, he was still around via flashbacks and in Cesar's memory. Why did having that additional time with him feel important to the story you were telling?
Gonzalez: It is about closure. That was very, very important to us and I think what it is, more than anything else, is if you have a life that is cut short there are so many things that you wanted to say. We think that for Cesar's emotional journey, he needed to have those conversations with his brother. [Cesar] needed to say to [Oscar], "Those little jewels of knowledge that you dropped, I actually did listen to them and they landed with me. I'm changing because of you." Without having those flashbacks, he would end up saying them to himself or to one of the other characters. It just made sense that he'd be able to say it to his brother and complete the circle.
Oscar wanted Cesar to move to Portland to study architecture. Is that still the plan or could we see Cesar continuing the work of Ricky Gallindo and his dad, helping people get out of gangs?
Jeremy Haft: It's open to interpretation. We didn't want to wrap up everything with a bow and make everything perfect. ... He is sort of where Oscar wanted him to be at. ... At the end of the show, he is still going to move to Portland and he is going to help his sister-in-law and help his niece. That's sort of his journey, right? The Santos life wasn't for him. Cesar says that once or twice, and then by the end we see he's becoming his own man and looking to help his brother's baby and wife.
Gonzalez: I think there is a world where he does accomplish his goal of becoming an architect, as well as becoming a mentor, paying it forward in Oscar's honor in helping other guys who are in the life. I can easily see that for him.
This may also be up for interpretation, but as co-creators of the show, do you think that Jasmine and Ruby and Monse and Cesar stay together?
Gonzales: As co-creators, I don't want to speak for the group. I can see Jasmine and Ruby actually not being together in the future, but being best friends. I don't think that Jasmine defines herself by her relationship. I can easily see them remaining great friends for years to come, but not together. Monse and Cesar are in a world where they get back together, then break up, and then they get back together, and then they break up. The reality is there are so many different options for them that I wouldn't put them into a specific box.
Haft: I think Eddie was really eloquent in saying that Jasmine is certainly not defined by her relationship with a man. In Season 4, she especially learned to be her own person. Her evolution of the character is wonderful. As Eddie said, Jasmine and Ruby could be back together or could not, but it'll be other terms, what's best for her because she is not defined by a relationship or defined by a man.
At the end of the series, the crew is heading in different directions but it feels more hopeful than it did when they split up at the end of Season 3.
Gonzalez: In terms of the hopeful, you nailed something that was really important to us and I think speaks to who we are as people -- Lauren, Jeremy, Jamie, and myself. We're very, very, hopeful people. We don't just see the bleak[ness] in life, even though we had some moments that are very bleak this season. We always try to see the bright side of things. So [the core four] went on this journey. We love the fact that they have these bright futures that are, if you think about it, very different from each other.
Can you confirm what Abuelita's treasure map was leading them to?
Haft: As the creators, the four of us tried to give off the idea that it is the Rollerworld money and it is a map to where she put the money. It's sort of like a bookend in that Jamal was talking about Rollerworld early in Season 1. They found the money and it disappeared, it's always sort of a mystery. The idea is that she always wanted to keep the kids together, and has put them on another journey together.
Gonzalez: If you look at Season 3 when she is speaking to Spooky, she [asks] him, "What are you going to do with the money?" And he doesn't answer. Throughout the Season 4 flashbacks, when Cesar confronts Spooky, he says, "I'd love to give you the money, but I don't have it." So clearly, he's telling the truth during this time. I believe Abeulita had the money the whole time because she realizes the destruction that money creates, and it's kind of fitting for her and her personality, and also the spirit of the show, that she was leaving them a roadmap.
The next adventure is Freeridge. What can you tell me about the spin-off and how it connects to On My Block?
Haft: When Lauren, Eddie, and I created the show, Freeridge the city was also a character. There's tons and tons of stories to tell in Freeridge. We're lucky enough to continue this journey, continue these stories with Netflix being so kind as to give us a spin-off.
Gonzalez: There's not really much we can say about Freeridge other than we're so excited about it and it does give you a kind of different perspective. We're excited to mine this world with new characters. We're very excited about doing it.
On My Block is now streaming on Netflix.