When we last left Young Rock, Dwayne was on the outs with Karen and begging for a way to get back in her good graces. He wrestles with wanting to still date her but not reveal his family’s economic status. In the end, things don’t work out but the experience leads him to football. The main lesson he learns is that a person should not be judged by the mistakes they make, but how they respond to them.
“A Lady Named Star Search” picks up right after episode six. The Rock is deep on the campaign trail and participating in his first debate. He shares a story about his family’s fighting spirit. Lia sees the vulnerability in her main rival, Greg Yao, and looks reestablish her dominance in the Hawaiian professional wrestling scene.
Actress, Ana Tuisila, cuts an imposing figure and she really pulls off the “no mercy” attitude. Her bumbling assistant, Bob, provides some levity but also serves to emphasize how menacing she is by contrast. Lia’s threats towards Yao bring unwanted government attention and it should be interesting see more of this play out in the future. However, some of it may have already been tipped since we know that the young Rock’s grandmother eventually is deported.
The other main storyline, as the title suggests, deals with Ata. She receives a call back from Star Search and they want to fly her to Los Angeles to audition in person. The writing does a good job planting the seed of Ata’s doubt for leaving and it foreshadows her decision in the end.
What sells Ata’s choice is her own experience growing up on the road with her father and how much Lia served as the stable, grounding force as a child. She wants to be that for Dewey and she can’t do that if she’s touring as a singer. Though it’s touching how committed Ata is to her family, the execution felt anticlimactic especially since the arc was developed over three episodes.
Elsewhere, a young Rock and his dad spend some quality time together since Ata heads out on her trip. His conflict with the neighborhood bullies is another example of the Johnson/Maivia fighting spirit. Rocky coming to the rescue displays the familial bonds but it all feels generic.
It seems like a wasted opportunity to grow the father/son relationship in this time period. In 1982, we don’t have as many only Rocky and Dewey moments since the elder Johnson is focusing on his career. It would have been nice to have more intimate scenes between the two since there’s a reason for them to be alone together. Especially since André the Giant has been more of a paternal figure in the flashbacks of this era.
Other than Lia’s storyline, the rest of the episode has so much unfulfilled potential that could have further developed the characters and their relationships.
Young Rock airs Tuesday nights on NBC.
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