Episode 7 of Young Rock is titled “Johnson & Hopkins,” which may very well be a play-off Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs & Shaw title, or even a classic action flick like Tango & Cash. Either way, it’s apropos as this week’s episode humorously highlights Johnson’s early action heroics in an incredibly entertaining and nostalgic 30 minutes of Young Rock. “Johnson & Hopkins” sees us return to the ‘90s, as we witness Johnson continue to bounce back from his early football and university struggles, but due to him being on academic probation, he has to get an on-campus job at phone services. Here he meets his new partner-in-crime, Hopkins, and the two then go on a Sylvester Stallone-Arnold Schwarzenegger Esq. journey through their campus.
As always, the episode kicks off with an interview with Dwayne Johnson, the 2032 presidential candidate. Randall Park returns to interview Johnson about his new vice president, General Monica Jackson, who is in the midst of a “controversy” as the media have dug up her old college columns, which include inappropriate and poorly written jokes. The scenario is both a clever and fun tweak on a “political scandal,” and this also allows Park to make a joke that finally gets Johnson’s approval, a moment that’s so fulfilling for Park that he gets up to leave the interview. It’s a clever moment to highlight this small journey of Park’s character seeking the superstar’s approval, but the conversation then nicely sets up the story of Johnson’s adventure with Hopkins and the message of always sticking by the people close to you.
Throughout the series thus far, Young Rock has offered fans plenty of nostalgia. Whether it’s through the exploration of ‘80s wrestling or the last episode featuring Uli Latukefu (18-year-old Johnson) wearing the classic fanny pack outfit, there’s been plenty of elements for fans to smile about. Episode 7 is driven almost purely by nostalgia, and what’s more nostalgic for a ‘90s baby than a montage of Johnson and Hopkins sitting through classic Stallone and Schwarzenegger action films and trying to settle the debate of that decade, Stallone or Schwarzenegger? It’s fun and incredibly relatable, as we see ourselves through Johnson and Hopkins as they watch on in awe and attempt to imitate what they see on screen. In addition to this, it sets up a good use of reincorporation in the sequence that essentially carries the brunt of this story.
In traditional sitcom fashion, this episode plays with the cheesy action film tropes in a wonderfully entertaining sequence that sees Johnson and Hopkins desperately running to different areas of the campus after realising their lack of effort could potentially ruin their hopes and ambitions. The two unite and amusingly overcome a series of obstacles similar to the films they were watching earlier. A toy helicopter comes charging at them, close-ups during dramatic moments are plentiful, and Johnson even dishes out a one-liner that doesn’t quite have the same impact as Schwarzenegger’s. The sequence is utterly ridiculous but undeniably hilarious. In situations like these, the team has to go all in to make it work, and in this case, everyone is all in. Latukefu, in particular, is fully invested, and it shows as he continues to ooze that charm and charisma we associate with Johnson.
“Johnson & Hopkins” is very reliant on the over-the-top comedic elements, and it’s successful with this tactic. However, the story (or lack thereof) still maintains the series’ theme of having life lessons and a little bit of emotion. In this story, it comes through Lia Maivia’s return to her family after being homeless in Samoa and explaining how she failed her family during a BBQ with Rocky Johnson, Ata, and the wrestling gang. The scene provides audiences with a touching moment, where the wrestlers join Ata and Rocky in raising Lia’s spirits, a moment that hits home the episode’s message of sticking by loved ones during good and bad times, while also allowing the wrestlers to provide some heart as opposed to laughs.
Although this week’s episode lacks depth in its story and emotion compared to previous episodes, it’s easily the funniest outing of the series thus far. Episode 7 of Yong Rock is unabashedly bombastic, over the top, and allows audiences to sit back and have a damn good time with some action film nostalgia. One could say it’s akin to a good old fashioned Dwayne Johnson blockbuster that is proudly a popcorn entertainer for audiences.
Young Rock is created by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Nahnatchka Khan, and it airs on Tuesdays on NBC.