Zoey Johnson’s War on Drugs

Review of Grown-ish 1×09 “Who Gon Stop Me”

By Lindsey Mutz

Grown-ish is back after a week off, tackling another big issue that feels all too prevalent right now: the war on drugs. Zoey and her friends hear of news that someone on campus was shot in a drug deal gone wrong, and they immediately fear for Vivek, given that he deals Adderall and other pills in order to make some extra money. His underground drug circle was first introduced in the second episode of the season, when Zoey tries Adderall for the first time.

Thankfully, Vivek is fine, but the incident causes the university administration to impose some new policies on campus: random searches and police frisks. This creates uproar among students, with half of the student body happy that action is being taken to keep people away from drugs, and the other half outraged over increased police presence on campus, fearful that minorities will be unfairly targeted.

These disagreements culminate in a school protest, with signs, cheers, and a frantic Dean Parker trying to soothe everyone’s nerves. Grown-ish didn’t dwell too much on the school protests itself, instead spinning off into Vivek’s dealing habits and how recent events have impacted him. I wish we had gotten more nuance in the student protests—obviously an issue that bears increasing relevance, especially in regards to gun control.

Nevertheless, I was happy to see Grown-ish put Vivek at the forefront of the episode, a unique character that up until now has largely been on the sidelines. Vivek, to the surprise of his friends, is not discouraged by the crackdown on drugs, but uses this opportunity to capitalize on his business, taking over for the drug dealer who was busted. Soon he starts making a lot of money and becomes a part of the upper echelons of California University, hanging with the richest kids on campus.

Zoey is concerned that Vivek is being used, but he disagrees. In a beautifully written scene, Vivek tells Zoey that when he’s dealing drugs, he doesn’t feel like a cab driver’s son anymore. He feels like everyone else. There’s a lot of depth and nuance in the implications of Vivek’s feelings towards his family—which Grown-ish doesn’t choose to unpack right here. I think that is smart—there’s a lot of opportunity to dig deep into Vivek’s character in future episodes. There are not many Indian American characters on television, and Vivek’s storyline is a welcome addition to the world of television.

Grown-ish ends with Vivek being jumped after a deal goes awry, and Zoey covering for him in front of his parents. She implores him to give up dealing, but he doesn’t, and instead, Zoey decides to give up enabling Vivek’s habits. She throws her Adderall away. A smart move for her, yes, but I have a feeling Vivek’s problems are far from over.

Thanks for tuning in! We’re about halfway through the first season of Grown-ish at this point! What are your thoughts? What would you like to see the show tackle? Let us know in the comments and tune in next week!

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