After a brief interval, Young Rock returned this week with episode 4, titled “Check Your Head.” The episode focuses on Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s freshman year as a football player at the University of Miami, but as Johnson looks to dominate the football world and transform his family’s fortune, he takes a big hit with a shoulder injury that sidelines him. It’s arguably the most relatable and human the superstar has ever felt on screen. Plus, the episode deals with a lot of familiar material for audiences while at the same time feeling quite fresh with a slick and more serious story throughout the episode.
Instead of a Randall Park opener, “Check Your Head” appropriately starts with a sports show titled Young Athletes and the Road Ahead. Here, host Kenny Smith interviews presidential candidate Johnson, and they set up the flashback for his University of Miami days. Although the interview portion of the opening scenes has the expected awkward humour between Johnson and the interviewer, it sets the sports vibe through the graphics of the show, the set, and even the cheesy mascot. This only continues as we enter the testosterone-fuelled football environment that shows Johnson showcasing his athletic prowess on the football field. Despite feeling like a lot of football films and shows of the past, it captures the necessary atmosphere with nice point of view shots from the helmet to make the episode feel completely different from its predecessors, all the while maintaining the charm of Young Rock.
Episode 4 may feel different due to its sports presentation (and lack of wrestling talk), but it’s arguably going to bring a source of comfort for audiences. Not only does it focus on Johnson’s struggles in football, which the superstar has publicly discussed on many occasions, but it also spotlights the Hollywood star’s now-famous turtle neck and fanny pack look. A small scene is dedicated to a young Johnson listing his wardrobe, thinking he looks as cool as he is today. Also, on a more subtle note, fans may later spot another reference to the famous picture of Johnson, as a scene shows him using a napkin when leaning with his elbow. The familiarity with the material, the smoothness in which it’s incorporated, and Uli Latukefu’s charismatic portrayal make the scenes all the more enjoyable for audiences. After all, there is a reason this moment was intelligently used to promote the episode.
Latukefu deserves a great deal of praise for his performance. Not only does he inject the right amount of humour into situations like with his cringe-worthy pick-up line, but his transition into portraying Johnson’s battle with depression after suffering a shoulder injury is very strong. Latukefu makes the often invincible former WWE Champion human because after hearing about his depression for so long, audiences finally get to witness it. Johnson is shown falling into the trap of lies, video games, and avoiding the difficult reality like we’ve all done, and it’s a powerful sight to see, and one that not only aids the fictional presidential version of Johnson to be “one of the people.” However, it also endears the real-life man to audiences even more as he feels just like us.
The episode does feel formulaic at times, as not only is Johnson’s comeback journey (although true) predictable, you also have the loudmouth coach and other cliché scenarios. However, again, it’s the familiarity with the material and the formulaic story that makes this episode so effective. In some ways, it is Young Rock’s most emotional episode yet, even though it does tease a potentially more emotional tale to come in the form of a story revolving around Johnson’s grandmother, Lia Maivia.
Young Rock episode 4 will no doubt hit the right emotional buttons and provide audiences with a lot of laughs, in large part thanks to that classic fanny pack and turtle neck. Ultimately, this episode of Young Rock, even more so than any other episode thus far, is a Dwayne Johnson buffet full of all his trademark looks, messages, and (Rock) eyebrows that audiences love.
Everything was edible in my college fanny pack 😜🙌🏾
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) March 17, 2021
Young Rock is created by Dwayne Johnson and Nahnatchka Khan, and it airs on Tuesdays on NBC.