In Young Rock, a future Dwayne Johnson is on the presidential campaign trail and uses interviews to reflect on the influential experiences from his youth that helped shape who he is and his values. On the previous episode, he announced his running mate, General Monica Jackson. Though they don’t always see eye to eye on all the issues, Johnson appreciates a different perspective and believes they share the same goal in doing what’s best for the country.
It doesn’t take long for the media to dig into Jackson’s past and find some controversial skeletons, particularly while writing for the weekly newspaper during her time at West Point. Many factions within his party think Jackson lacks the credibility to be Vice President and call for the candidate to replace her. However, Johnson is loyal to his pick and recollects to his college days when he refused to leave a partner behind.
The partner is the second name in the episode’s title, “Johnson & Hopkins.” The pair work for the University of Miami making sure campus emergency phones are working but since no one ever checks, they spend their time goofing off and bonding over cheesy 80s action films. Then one day, the quality assurance officer follows up on their work and they’re forced to rush to inspect every phone before the officer gets to them.
What follows in Young Rock is a cute little take on the buddy comedy filled with the same amount of corniness as the films the titular pair enjoy watching. There are plenty of cliches, versions of familiar action tropes, and a rocking soundtrack that brings this high octane but low stakes action to life. There is a surprising amount of suspense as well. Combine all that with the quick-witted banter and attempts at one-line quips, and there’s much to love for any Stallone or Schwarzenegger fan. Although, they could have made it less stressful by splitting up and covering more ground.
Back at the Johnson household, Lia is able to return to the United States and Ata and Rocky host a welcoming barbecue with the old gang. Her humbling time in Samoa makes her reflect on her life and the disappointments of not maintaining her wrestling organization. These scenes stress the importance of family, regardless of blood, and the support and forgiveness they provide.
There are some nice Slim Jim/Macho Man jokes and it must be said the impressive job the hair and make-up people do on the show. They are really able to capture the likeness of the real-life counterparts and match their different looks throughout their careers. Matthew Willig’s André the Giant is the one with the most noticeable changes.
The very format of Young Rock can make it difficult to follow. It’s logical that the campaign is the main storyline and all the flashbacks inform the current episode’s themes. But the jumping from different time points and leaving some threads on cliffhangers can be distracting.
For example, last episode ended after the Hawaiian screw job between Lia and Rocky and the wait learning how it’s resolved loses that arc’s momentum. “Johnson & Hopkins” picks up from two episodes ago after Dwayne goes on academic probation and that delay can muddle the flow of the series. It’s difficult to a better solution for their storytelling so it seems as though they’re doing the best they can.
The episode is an amusing homage to the action buddy comedies of that era but it also highlights the overall structural problems the series has in maintaining all its different timelines while telling an easy-to-follow seasonal story.
Young Rock airs Tuesday nights on NBC.
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