East Los High finale: Are You Not Entertained?

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It seems like a lot of East Los High fans are disappointed with the series finale. Some say it ends on a cliffhanger. Some say it’s sloppy and all over the place in regard to plot. Let’s not pretend that East Los High was ever more than a PSA masquerading as a high school based soap opera. It always had an element of messiness, packing numerous messages in each episode, and giving some entertaining dance scenes along the way. No, the finale wasn’t perfect, but the only thing people should be disappointed about is that the finale gave us a glimpse of what could have been.

As an African American male, East Los High gave me an inside look at latino culture. The show was the first tv series with an all latino cast that I really dug into. (Well, maybe after The George Lopez show.) The teen drama and occasional dance sequences offered something interesting as far as entertainment. Yet, truth be told, the subliminal PSAs helped me respect what was going on with the show from a critical perspective. East Lost High did its best to present scenarios that high school students face, while showing both positive and negative outcomes in a real way. 

East Los knocked out tons of issues in its 4 season plus one run! Domestic abuse, sexual health, immigration, incest, LGBT issues, dance competitions, teenage parenting and so much more got tackled on the show. That’s what I loved about it! It could speak on so many topics through characters that you could relate to or grew to understand.  

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Overall, the writers of the finale did their best to close out the character stories in a way that was true to their established storylines. Should Camilla have died? I think so. However, she represents the person who has been through major trauma as a child and adult, yet kept fighting. Should Ceci never have hooked up with Prince Royce and stayed with Jacob? YES (we know what that was about, aka cross-promo money grab). But Ceci went from being an underling to being a boss literally on equal footing with Vanessa. There are plenty of missteps, but the reason we’re mad at the finale’s shortcomings is because we were invested in the characters. That should say something.

Here are some of the characters I grew to love:

Gina: Gina is the girl you take home to mom. Ride or die from the beginning, Gina only grew in her greatness as the seasons moved forward. She was probably the most level-headed and likeable character. She didn’t stay mixed up in beef and wasn’t looking for trouble. She knew what and who to fight for and when to fight for it. Plus, Alexandra Rodriguez could do a lil’ something something on the dance floor! Can’t beat that.

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Eddie: Eddie was my eyes into the plight of the undocumented in America. He was the kind-hearted guy that everyone liked in high school. He was talented but humble and hard working. He just happened to not be an American citizen. His character gave me a better understanding of something I didn’t know much about, or maybe care about before. I’m more empathetic now.

Ceci: Ceci did the most adulting in the series. If someone were to watch the book ends of the series alone, they wouldn’t recognize the person Ceci became as opposed to who she was. Having a child forced her to grow up and be responsible. Being in an abusive relationship forced her to be strong and stand up for herself. Yet, she was able to still make mistakes along the way, and that’s life. Danielle Vega always brought the emotion to the dance sequences. That final black and white wardrobe dance scene is memorable because of the look on her face alone!

Vanessa De La Cruz: Vanessa is another character who had a nice arch over the series. She went from Queen Bee to living with HIV (something that used to be a death sentence back in the day). Regardless, Vanessa used every bit of her scrappy, must win at all costs attitude to continue to evolve herself. While she didn’t get as much love with screen time post season 1, but I dare you to name a line Tracy Perez didn’t nail. Perez made Vanessa an atmosphere changer on the show, demanding you pay attention to her. I want to know what she’s doing next!

Here are the characters I missed:

Season 1 Mya: Ya’ll just wrote her out? Strong as she was, ya’ll just weakened her character post season 1 and wrote her out eventually. Come on bro!

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Season 4 Jacob: The dude was Ceci’s match. He was looking out for her. Just when his character gets a good arch w/ dealing w/ alcoholism...War for The Planet of The Apes comes through and mucks it up. I won’t blame that on the writers, but I missed that dude!

Jocelyn: She started out with so much promise. She put the act in activist. Andrea Sixtos brought a grounded calm to Jocelyn that would have been nice to see more of in the land of East Los High. I’m starting a theory that the Sixtos sisters got written out because they were just too good. I dunno, somebody tell me what happened to Mya and Jocelyn?

Conclusion:

Sometimes a tv series doesn’t find its’ rhythm until a few seasons in. I really feel like East Los High didn’t come into its own until this series finale. Why? The ride was over, so there wasn’t a subliminal push to promote sex education, immigration, domestic abuse, etc. The writers wrote to the strengths of the characters they had and tried to round out everyone’s story to the best of their ability. The issue is, the simplicity in this feature film was what East Los High should have been all along and I wish we could see more of the world they put before us in the finale.

As the lowrider pulls off into the sunset in the final scene, so did the possibilities. I’ll have to find a new guilty pleasure to watch. Hopefully, Hulu will continue to give us some diversity in what it has to offer in viewing, but we’ll always have Skonkas, the Bomb Squad, and the fight that people of color constantly live but don’t get to see lived out on the big or small screen as much as we should. Thanks for the good times East Los! May your legacy inspire some kid who was watching to tell their story!

Let me know your thoughts, favorite characters, and what you loved about East Lost High below!

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.