If the first episode of Young Rock was Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s tribute to his late father, this week’s episode titled “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” was his homage to his mother’s tough love that helped shape his future. In episode 5, we dive back into 15-year-old “Dewey’s” world as his bad behaviour spills over into his home life, and in the absence of ‘The Soulman’, Ata Johnson is left to pick up the pieces. What follows is a touching story with some more tweaks from the creators to keep Young Rock fun and entertaining like Dwayne Johnson himself.
Episode 5 resumes normal service with its opening as Randall Park is once again interviewing Johnson at his presidential campaign headquarters. As far as laughs go, this may be the best back and forth between the two actors thus far. From Park being unaware it’s a live feed to once again recapping his glory days in acting and Johnson again awkwardly reminding him they’re “live.” Their chemistry immediately brings the episode to life in a fun way. Of course, it then switches gears as Johnson is asked what sort of qualities he would require from his vice president, and this sets up a nice piece of continuity from episode 2 as we return to when 15-year-old Johnson knocks out a fellow student for calling wrestling fake. From here, Stacey Leilua takes centre stage as Ata Johnson.
Leilua, as she has done throughout the season, shows the loving and nurturing side of Johnson’s mother, but in this episode, she gets to shift gears and highlight the strong side of Ata that the former WWE Champion has always talked about. It’s an authentic and well-executed shift, as the actress effectively conveys a deep sense of struggle and self-doubt before becoming a stern and brutally honest figure that helps “Dewey” understand his wrongdoings. It’s also through Ata’s evolution that we get a nice injection of our legendary wrestling characters in a standout split-screen phone call scene, where the likes of Andre The Giant and The Wild Samoans give her a pep talk. The scene allows us to see the catalyst for Ata’s character shift in an amusing way, as we get a slightly drunk Andre (with his 1987 hairstyle) mentioning he saw Rocky Johnson in a dream as “a baby.” It’s a wonderfully odd combination of these big colourful characters giving Ata advice on parenting.
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” is an appropriate title, as this week’s story is all heart, and for long-time fans of The Rock, they’ll see some fun and some sweet references to key elements of his life. Fans see Johnson’s mother use his famous WWE catchphrase of “It doesn’t matter” on her 15-year-old son, as well as a young Johnson singing with his mother in a heartfelt moment, and they even witness an adorable cameo from the real Ata at the very end of the episode. Similar to last week’s show, Johnson’s life may feel oddly cliché, but it’s so relatable and charming that you cannot help but embrace it with open arms.
Overall, episode 5 maintains Young Rock’s track record of providing a strong half an hour of content that nicely balances humour and life lessons from Dwayne Johnson’s upbringing. The episode, more so than any other, also highlights the intelligent connections and setups from prior episodes. In addition to that, it freshens up the story by limiting Joseph Lee Anderson’s presence as Rocky Johnson and allowing Ata (both the real and fictional version) to shine, with a little support from the returning characters of Randall Park and the wrestling legends of Young Rock.
Young Rock is created by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Nahnatchka Khan, and it airs on Tuesdays on NBC.