When we last checked in on Young Rock, Dwayne was beginning his freshman year and a promising collegiate career and the University of Miami. An unfortunate accident sidelines him for the entire season and he spirals into depression knowing he can’t play football for the time being. After a pep talk from his old man, he seems to break out of his funk and resets himself on the correct path.
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” jumps back to high school and picks up right after episode two when Dewey clobbered a classmate for bad mouthing wrestling. He is suspended for a week and Ata (Stacey Leilua) becomes frustrated on how to get through to her son. She then tries different methods of discipline to varying degrees of success.
The comedy of this episode is on point. The depiction of the triviality and ridiculousness of high school romance is sweet but highly amusing including the long-winded way of communicating via hand written notes. Then there’s the scene with a young Rock looking for jewelry for his girlfriend and the types of stones his humble savings can afford.
In addition, we receive an exaggerated look at the unconventional family dynamic of the Johnsons. All of Rocky’s wrestling colleagues are extensions of the household even if they may not entirely be related by blood. The whole bit with caller ID and 3-way calling is absolutely hilarious and becomes more over the top as more people join the call. However, it also highlights how absent and distant Rocky is in this pivotal point in Dwayne’s life.
That leaves much of the responsibility of raising a teenage young Rock solely on Ata’s shoulders. The episode is a nice love letter to Dwayne’s mother. The main premise of the flashback is to spotlight the qualities the presidential hopeful looks for in a running mate.
Ata is no doubt a strong and admirable woman living a modest life juggling her own small business with raising a rambunctious son. As briefly touched upon, she also manages the microaggressions and subtle racism from other parents. The brief phone call with Rocky serves as a turning point when she realizes she does have the fortitude to handle things on her own and might be tiring of her husband’s lack of involvement in the family.
The ending ratchets up the cheese and schmaltzy factor as Dwayne and Ata come to an understanding and reconcile. She even busts out her ukulele so they can duet the titular song. It’s no Elton John and Kiki Dee, but cute nonetheless. It’s also endearing when the real-life Ata makes a surprise appearance and even though the Rock is an international superstar with such an imposing frame, his mom can still embarrass him.
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” is filled with great humor but more importantly, a token of appreciation for a loving, supporting, and strong woman. It might be a little corny in the end but that’s okay when dealing with Mom.
Young Rock airs Tuesday nights on NBC.
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