Season 1, episode 2 of Fresh Off the Boat is very rich thematically. The theme of the episode, however cheesy and overdone it is, is that family is important. This episode is very early on in the series, so it makes sense that the Huang family dynamic would be explored in such an episode. This exposition of the family dynamic may also set the stage for further developments in the series.
This family dynamic is extremely relatable, serving to give the episode some pathos when communicating the theme. The Huang parents each make members of the family do things for their own good, which they don’t want to do. Jessica forces her kids to practice math and reading outside of school, something I know I wouldn’t have liked in the moment, but that I would appreciate now. Louis eventually tells his wife to stay out of his business concerning the restaurant to make it a more inviting environment for customers in the future, improving business. Throughout the episode, the Huangs tell each other “I love you” when they’re hiding something. This in itself isn’t a problem, as everyone has a different means of showing love, but it, too, serves to have the audience identify more with the main characters. In my case at least, this is something I can identify with. I actually texted my mom the other day to tell her I missed her, and she replied with, “What’s wrong?”
In this episode, the Huangs stand up for each other in many ways. Eddie’s parents defend him when the school tries to get him in trouble for fighting another kid after being called a racial slur. Additionally, Jessica deals with customers who dine and dash at Louis’s restaurant and she takes on teaching all of the sons outside of school.
The Huang family is repeatedly juxtaposed with that of their neighbor, whose dad is not around. This underscores that despite its dysfunction, the Huang family is always there for one another. This dysfunction manifests itself when Louis gets irritated with his wife at the restaurant. He half-tricks her into staying home and tutoring their sons. However, he eventually has to come clean to her. This reveals an important subtheme of this episode; that openness is important, especially through the lens of family concerns. Your family is meant to be there for you, but they can’t help unless you are open with them.
The episode ends with Louis playing basketball with his kids. This scene serves to drive home the theme, as everything is resolved because the family stuck together. This theme will likely be referenced again when members the Huangs go through hardship. They’ll turn to each other for help. As we’ve already seen, there is going to be a lot of conflict involving their cultural identity in the future, and they’re the only people they know with the same experiences.