After a blockbuster episode 1 that earned both critical acclaim and over five million viewers, Young Rock episode 2 dropped this past Tuesday. Episode 2 dives deeper into high school Dwayne Johnson’s quest to impress “Fine ass Karen” by pretending his family is still a rich wrestling family. At the same time, it shows Johnson’s father, ‘Soulman’ Rocky Johnson, still desperately clinging to his glory days. It continues to explore the theme of being authentic and real and does so with more heart, humour, and plenty of extra touches that give this episode that extra spark of ‘electricity’ that The Rock was known for in the WWE.
The episode kicks off by continuing Randall Park’s media run with Dwayne Johnson during the star’s presidential campaign in 2032. It shows Johnson being honoured with a library in his name at his old stomping grounds of Freedom High School. The location, as well as the brief speech with a woman showering Johnson with praise, perfectly sets up the episode. It gives the period of Johnson’s life that the episode will focus on, and by him quickly acknowledging that the woman’s speech was kind but more of a political agenda, it allows him to dive back into being “real,” which again, amusingly upsets his PR man.
Along with continuing to be great set-ups and transition scenes for Young Rock, the interview scenes between Johnson and Park in episode 2 really prove to be great entertainment in their own right. Park’s quips and not-so-subtle attempts at fishing for compliments by reminding Johnson he used to be an actor were genuinely funny. However, the scenes also allowed the creators to play around with The Office-style sitcom tactics. During the interview, Park acknowledges the cameraman by encouraging him to move in on intense moments, but as the cameraman moves in, Park tells him he’s too late. It’s a different element that shows the nice range and playfulness that the series possesses.
Speaking of different, the spotlight and presentation of wrestling continue to breathe real life into Young Rock. Again, the show glides in and out of wrestling talk as if it were any old topic, which continues to be a refreshing feeling as a wrestling fan. In this episode, however, we also get to see countless snippets of very impressive recreations of Rocky Johnson matches with the likes of Ric Flair and Rowdy Piper. These moments help tell the story of the ‘Soulman’ clinging on to the past and help bring out a few laughs as he continues to try and bring up old stories. It also prepares the audience for a heartfelt and exciting finale that’s wrestling heavy.
In fact, it is the portrayal of the ‘Soulman’ that stands out more than anything in this particular episode. Joseph Lee Anderson not only looks the part with his physique, but he captures that charisma and energy Rocky Johnson brought to the ring in his wrestling scenes. In addition to that, his performance is so strong that despite Rocky Johnson’s obvious flaws, you can’t help but fall in love with his charm and feel heartbroken when he’s paid a measly 300 dollars for his wrestling match. It’s also thanks to Anderson’s performance that Johnson’s statement of “He’s my Dad” really hits home with you, as he responds to why he stayed to watch his Dad wrestle after realising he’s taken Karen to a flea market, with ten people, to watch his Dad wrestle.
Episode 2’s narrative ties around a fairly formulaic sitcom narrative of a young boy trying to win over the pretty girl, and the episode is also much easier to juggle thanks to only focusing on present-day Johnson and high school “Dewey.” However, it has enough clever moments and a fantastic wrestling scene in the flea market that provides the episode with a climax that has much greater energy and emotional impact than anything we saw in episode 1.
Judging by episode 2, Young Rock seems to be going from strength to strength. Episode 1 provided the necessary set-up for the series. Now it feels like Young Rock has found its true mojo, and it continues to give us everything we expect, and just that little bit more, which is again evident by a great closing moment (that wrestling fans will love) that uses the dreaded F word.
Young Rock airs on Tuesday’s on NBC.