[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Season 3, Episode 9 of The Chi. Read at your own risk!]
Food, laughter, marriage, death, and in the end, the promise of birth: Season 3 of The Chi pretty much had it all. After a thrilling, poignant storyline about Kiesha (Burgundi Baker) kidnapping and imprisonment at the hands of a sexual predator, as well as the shocking murder that upset the natural order of the series, The Chi ended its third and arguably best season so far on some pleasant notes. Fans saw a celebration of Ronnie's (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) life; a renewed commitment between Nina (Tyla Abercrumbie) and Dre (Miriam A Hyman); and the thoughtful de-flowering of Kevin (Alex R. Hibbert) and Jemma (Judae'a Brown).
Of course, the biggest turn by the end of the season was Kiesha's decision to not terminate the pregnancy that came about as a result of her being raped by her captor. Kiesha was already understandably working through a thicket of complicated emotions after her rescue, but the realization that she was now carrying the baby of the man she killed added yet another dimension of difficulty to her once simple life. Why did The Chi make that choice, and how will Kiesha be affected? Showrunner and executive producer Justin Hillian spoke with TV Guide about Kiesha's bold decision, some of the other big storylines this season, and what might be on deck for a possible Season 4. (Showtime has yet to announce a renewal for now.)
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My first question is the big one: Why did Kiesha decide to keep the baby? How did you all arrive at that decision?
Justin Hillian: Yeah. So, I mean, my decision was born out of the theme, which is tied to the preservation of the black family. And we looked at, you know, there's so many different versions of families within the show. We just thought that there was an opportunity to have Kiesha be touched by Ronnie — the idea that even the least among us has value. That thought of 'What if he wasn't here? What would have happened to me, and what could this child possibly grow up to become?' This is totally random, but Magic Johnson was the last of 10 siblings, you know, and like, what if they stopped at nine? You know, there's no magic guy, you just think about like the, you know, the possibilities for the child, regardless of how it came into the world. It could turn out to be anything.
Well, he could also turn out to be an axe murderer.
Hillian: [Laughs] That happens. They're not all wins.
Sorry, I'm a weirdo. But seriously, I would imagine that her decision is going to be a little controversial for some viewers. What is your response to people who might take issue with this decision? Obviously, the kid would be an ever-present reminder of what happened to her. How do you defend having her make that choice?
Hillian: I don't. I don't defend it. I don't think that's our place. That's why it was important to have her sit with Tiff and Jada — people who made different decisions. Jada is someone who decided to have her child and Tiff is someone who decided to not have the second child. We didn't want to be passing judgment. We felt like everyone's decision is valid and Kiesha decision for her is valid.
Should you get a Season 4, have you thought about what parts of that process would we see? Would we see her pregnant, or just with a baby?
Hillian: Yes. In the event that we were fortunate enough to get a Season 4, we know exactly what we would do with that. It would be a surprise, but definitely complicated and emotional.
Kiesha had these ambitions and plans to leave town to go to school. Is all of that off the table now for her?
Hillian: I wouldn't say off the table. That's why we wanted to end with her running and you see in this little determination that she's going to fight. We wanted to show that she's definitely going to try and pull herself together and have as fruitful a life as possible after she'd dealt with so much trauma.
Shifting gears a bit, how does Papa's father's arrest impact his faith and his relationship with his father?
Hillian: It's going to make him question his faith. Which I think in a potential Season 4 would be an interesting route for him to go down. Because that's something he's always leaned on.
He and Maisha's relationship is so cute and it might be the healthiest relationship on the show. What do they represent and why do you present them the way you do?
Hillian: We just felt like we had an opportunity to, like you say, show a really healthy relationship. And although Maisha liked Kevin and Kevin liked Maisha, it took him a while to get there. We just felt like she deserved better than that. She deserved to be pursued and to be courted, and to have someone kind of worship the ground she walked on. With Papa being such a gentleman and her having so much to offer, and him being sort of intellectual, it just felt like a natural fit.
So...Kevin had his first time? Is he about to be the next father on this show?!
Hillian: [Laughs]. No. Normally I would not say it that clearly, but no.
Can you talk about why you portrayed it the way you did? I mean, a lot of our first times are traumatic and weird or whatever, and theirs was very sweet and thought out.
Hillian: When you think about the images that we are projecting, and, you know, the show is grounded in reality, we thought while we have these kids, and whenever we have the opportunity to show something be healthy, that it's important to do that. And also for young men to make sure you have consent and wanting to make sure that the female characters have as much agency as possible.
Douda. He's quite the villain now. What's his motive? What's he planning and why?
Hillian: What I would say is that in a potential Season 4 is how his policies affect the community. What we have talked about is him being able to manipulate the police force for criminal gain. He's an operator and a manipulator. And so even if he takes the loss he is going to turn it into a win.
Emmett's marriage seems, especially knowing what we know about him, doomed from the start. Why is he doing this? Hillian: He messed up, he realized that even though he wasn't ready, he kind of leaped in hope that the net would appear. He's probably not as ready as he thinks he is. But he would rather not lose her. There will be ups and there will be downs for sure. They both have a lot of growing to do. It will be hard for him to keep his infidelity secret. And when you're already married to someone and that is revealed, where do you go from there? Dom is constantly around, and they're going to be in the same circles. So for that information to come out, it would feel like quite a betrayal.
The Chi concluded Season 3 Sunday; past episodes are on Showtime.