‘Freeridge’ review: ‘On My Block’ spinoff presents sisterhood in all its messiness

Sisters are gloriously tough, powerful, complicated beings, especially when you’re both going through it. And on screen, representations of sisterhood have relished this complexity, a relationship that can be all things at once, a wash of misunderstanding, dramatic demands, eye-rolling frustration, and ultimately, fierce protectiveness, deep admiration, and resolute pride and love.

It’s actually one of the rare representations that TV often gets really, really right. Think Daria and Quinn Morgendorffer. Tia Landry and Tamera Campbell. Haley and Alex Dunphy. Fleabag and Claire. Lady Mary and Lady Edith Crawley. Brianna and Mallory Hanson. Blair and Sterling Wesley. Mashable’s Meera Navlakha wrote of sisterhood as seen in Bridgerton, represented by the deep and tested connection between the Sharma sisters, Kate and Edwina: “Sisters are partners in life and all that comes with it, against the rest and despite the noise.” It’s this long-suffering, valiant journey through life’s chaos that also fuels Freeridge, the smart, snappy, hilarious, and poignant spinoff of the excellent teen Netflix series On My Block.

Four teens sit on a bed looking worried.

Ciara Riley Wilson as Demi, Tenzing Trainor as Cameron, Bryana Salaz as Ines, and Keyla Monterroso Mejia as Gloria.
Credit: Kevin Estrada

Created by showrunner and director Lauren Iungerich with Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft, Jamie Dooner, and Jamie Uyeshiro on the writing team, the series picks up after the Lil’ Ricky-, gnomes-, and Rollerworld-fuelled events of On My Block, with a new squad, a new mystery to solve, and an equally Shazamable soundtrack. Returning to the show’s fictional LA neighbourhood of Freeridge, we meet sisters Gloria (Abbott Elementary and Curb Your Enthusiasm star Keyla Monterroso Mejia) and Ines (Bryana Salaz), who aren’t exactly each other’s biggest fans. (The first time we met them, they’re fighting each other in the playground, hard.) They’re also in the same friend group, much to Gloria and her friends’ Cameron (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), Demi (Ciara Riley Wilson), and Andre’s (Zaire Adams) dismay.


Netflix’s ‘On My Block’ is a teen story rarely seen on TV

Whereas On My Block delved into the complexities of brotherhood between Cesar and Oscar Diaz and the Santos gang, Freeridge puts sisterhood front and centre. Gloria and Ines are navigating adolescence and grief in their own ways, not really understanding each other’s means of processing. While looking after their dad Javier (JeanPaul SanPedro), they’re also figuring out big time crushes on sweet Rusty (Michael Solomon), their dear uncle Tonio’s (J.R. Villarreal’s) friend and personal assistant.

Gloria’s practicality and leadership tendencies both see her burn out, express severe anger on everyone around her, and demand impossibly high standards. Ines’ confidence, narcissistic decisions, and lack of focus see her underestimated, babied, and judged as toxic. But the two are trying their best to survive teen angst and school while dealing with adult realities: illness, responsibility, and grief infuse every day of their lives. As different as they are, constantly at each other’s throats, the series allows their relationship as sisters to flow realistically from sibling rivalry to sisterhood (and back again, multiple times). One minute they’re throwing barbs or fists, the next they’re having heartfelt conversations about each other’s strengths or text-bitching about their dad’s new girlfriend under the table.

Two teen girls look confused in their home.

There were never such devoted sisters. Not.
Credit: Kevin Estrada

Themes of sisterhood even fuel the main mystery of the series, where the other half of the core crew, Demi and Cameron, is able to shine. Freeridge channels On My Block‘s mystery-solving fun as a puzzling, possibly dead stranger arrives looking for a monogrammed box. Then, there’s the high possibility the crew might be all cursed.

Various throwbacks to the legendary lost Rollerworld money roam throughout and characters from On My Block pop up every now and then throughout the episodes, with satisfying connections to the core narrative. Paula Garces returns as Geny Martinez, Ruby’s mother, along with Eric Gutierrez as Ruby’s dad Ruben — they’re Gloria and Ines’ neighbors in Freeridge. And Peggy Blow returns, who played Ruby’s abuelita Marisol in the original series, and provides the strongest connection to the spinoff’s core mystery. Marisol’s partner in crime, Jamal, and his family come into it in episode 4 through a strange tech device, why not? 

Four teens stand in the street with a box looking worried.

What’s in the box?
Credit: Kevin Estrada

Freeridge’s core teens are as neurotic, smart, and hilarious as our protagonists from On My Block, overthinking things, bearing each other’s emotional loads, calling each other out on their bullshit, and figuring out their boundaries. While Gloria and Ines are figuring out their bandwidth for being assholes to each other, Cameron and Demi are navigating their feelings for one another. Demi, deeply spiritual and extremely online, who despises Halloween as “spiritual appropriation,” gets ideas for spirit cleansing from Reddit, and recruits a local bruja called Cinnamon (aka The TikTok Witch) to help them lift the curse.

Meanwhile Cameron’s confused about his own relationship with the confident, marvellous Andre, and his deeply held past feelings of hurt and confusion about his bisexuality. As Andre, Adams near steals the show with his infectiously grand personality and chatty podcast Brand New Dre, which might have the greatest self-sung theme song I’ve heard in an age. 

A teen boy hugs another teen boy who looks worried, sitting next to a teen girl who looks worried.

Zaire Adams damn near steals the show whenever he’s onscreen.
Credit: Kevin Estrada

After everyone grew up and moved on in the final season of On My Block, Freeridge is the perfect, fresh way to return to the neighbourhood, exploring new family relationships, the powers and perils of sisterhood, teen crushes, strained friendships, and good old-fashioned mystery-solving. It’s good to be back.

Freeridge is now streaming on Netflix.(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab)

#Freeridge #review #Block #spinoff #presents #sisterhood #messiness

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