Black Cake: Season 1 – Review

While “Black Cake” does have its lulls, when focused on the lead character’s children, outside of those two, you have one of the best Hulu releases, if not shows, of the year.


Community Rating: 88% (2 votes)

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CCH Pounder as Etta

While “Black Cake” does have its lulls, when focused on the lead character’s children, outside of those two, you have one of the best Hulu releases, if not shows, of the year.

Read our Editorial Guidelines regarding how posts are written and rated and our use of affiliate links.

General Information

Network

Hulu

Genre(s)

Drama

Romance

Young Adult

Noted Characters

Eleanor Bennett

Chipo Chung

Coventina Lyncook

Mia Isaac

Byron

Ashley Thomas

Benny

Adrienne Warren

Mabel

Sonita Henry

Bunny

Lashay Anderson

Etta

CCH Pounder

Plot Summary

Eleanor Bennett was a mother, a wife, a friend, and a woman with a massive secret. Her real name is Coventina Lyncook, though she has also gone by Coventina Brown. In the first season, viewers explore what led to the name changes and all the secrets Eleanor held for survival.

Review


Community Rating: 88% (2 votes)


Our Rating: Positive (Watch This) | Mixed (Stick Around)

Notable Performances, Moments, or Episodes

Mia Isaac

Mia Isaac as Covey
“Mia Isaac as Covey,” Black Cake | Season 1/ Episode 7 “Birth Mother” | Directed by Zetna Fuentes | 2023 | Hulu

What makes “Black Cake” is Mia Isaac. Despite only having a handful of projects under her belt, the actress finds herself thrust into a lead role and presenting the kind of performance that feels like a breakout.

Playing out Eleanor’s time as Coventina, or Covey, everything rides on Isaac as she is the foundation for Eleanor’s performance and the answer to Eleanor’s children, Byron and Benny, learning about their mother, as the audience does. And it is with every scene where we see Covey be a teenage girl back in Jamaica, to the culture shock of London, hiding out by making herself small to taking over a dear friend’s life to damn near be reincarnated, that Isaac delivers the type of performance few young actors, especially women of color, get the opportunity to deliver.

Truly, I cannot overstate how there are times when you become frustrated when the show lacks Isaac as Covey and focuses on others, for while the show is technically about Eleanor’s children, Isaac damn near pushes you to think they are disposable catalysts to tell a story about a far more interesting character.

Episodes To Anticipate

  • Episode 3, which is almost purely about Mia Isaac as Covey.

Highlights

It Knows How To Present A Mystery That Doesn’t Feel Over The Top

As you can imagine, a show focused on someone who changed their name, left their home country, and more will have to answer some questions. Never mind, with every question answered, it has to present a new mystery.

Now, for many shows, as they do this, there is an escalation, almost as if they fear losing viewers’ attention if there isn’t a constant flow of mystery. When it comes to “Black Cake,” it doesn’t push the idea it feels the need to throw everything and the kitchen sink at viewers. Yes, as one mystery ends, a new character is introduced, and we’re told there was a time jump that requires some fill-in to provide backstory.

Yet, even in doing so, with each character introduced, as it becomes clear Eleanor can’t be spread too much beyond one season, these new mysteries push the idea that the show could at least carry over for a second season.

Mabel and Older Bunny

In some ways, you can see the potential of “Black Cake” mirroring “13 Reasons Why” in terms of the first season being the peak, as it dives into the mystery of what happened, who died, who killed them, what led to this, and etc. But, rather than be a mini or limited series, it is clear “Black Cake” wants a second season, which you might be unsure about.

CCH Pounder as Etta
“CCH Pounder as Etta,” Black Cake | Season 1/ Episode 9 “Nine Night” | Directed by Zetna Fuentes | 2023 | Hulu

I know we were, but then came into play Mabel and Bunny, Eleanor’s childhood friend, comes back into the picture. With them, you can see that an extension into season 2 may not be ideal, as 12 episodes instead of 8 could have easily made this a one-season show. But, between Mabel’s connection to Eleanor and the desire to catch up with Bunny, who goes by Etta as an adult, it helps you deal with the transition of Eleanor’s exit.

This isn’t to say that as individuals or together, either character presents the same level of intrigue as Mia Isaac or her older counterpart Chipo Chung give as actors or in their portrayals of Coventina/Eleanor. But, they are the saving grace compared to Eleanor’s children, who don’t have enough to sustain this series.

Low Points

Benny

Adrienne Warren as Benny
“Adrienne Warren as Benny,” Black Cake, “Covey,” directed by Natalia Leite, 2023, (Hulu)

Speaking of Benny first, the problem with Benny is that you can tell there is a desire for you to feel bad for them. The character is written and portrayed to often be the victim, with the only time that is indisputable is when she is in an abusive relationship. However, outside of that, it is less people did her wrong or didn’t do enough, and more Benny not taking accountability.

Now, if Benny was a teenager, you could perhaps let it slide. However, Benny has to be in her 30s. So, to hear her talk about living in people’s shadows, not being supported, and you get scenes that don’t show Byron or Benny’s parents as bad as she makes them seem? At best, it makes Benny a character you could love to hate. Though, at worst, it makes her an insufferable brat who you hope is downgraded in season 2.

On The Fence

Byron

Ashley Thomas as Byron Bennett
“Ashley Thomas as Byron Bennett,” Black Cake, “Covey,” directed by Natalia Leite, 2023, (Hulu)

While Eleanor’s children are catalysts for her needing to confess her secrets, they don’t necessarily have lives outside of her that are a hook. Benny’s claim to fame is seemingly cutting her family off for eight years, but her demonization of her family doesn’t match reality, which lessens her value. As for Byron? It is slightly more complicated.

Byron and Benny are products of being first-generation Americans and their parents’ expectations. Benny, with wanting to be an artist, not pursue something structured and what easily can be seen as lucrative, is the rebel. Byron, on the other hand, is the dutiful son who did what he was told, had to learn that, as a Black man in America, he needs sometimes to keep his head down and soften his voice to be safe, and that story is a bit more interesting than Benny’s.

However, potentially, due to the book or Adrienne Warren having a bigger name and being a Tony Winner for the Tina Turner musical, she is given more investment. So, when it comes to Byron, unfortunately, his development is mostly in the back end and something that will have to unravel in season 2.

That is, whether we’re talking about his long-term relationship with a documentarian named Lynette, potentially exploring his problems with his parents, or his career, which takes a bit of a turn at the end of the season.

Who Is This For?

While on Hulu, “Black Cake” definitely aligns with what you usually see on OWN. It is very much about Black characters and their individual experience both as just human beings and human beings with brown colored skin. But, alongside that, there is a mystery, murder, closeted people, abuse, and all kinds of drama.

Mind you, it is not the kind of drama that is exhausting and gives off a sense of desperation but feels well crafted and rooted in the idea that, no matter how long you may know a person, including your mother, you may never know their whole story.

What I Hope To See

Sonita Henry as Mabel
“Sonita Henry as Mabel,” Black Cake | Season 1/ Episode 5 “Mother” | Directed by Tara Nicole Weyr | 2023 | Hulu

My fears regarding season 2 are based on what happens as Eleanor and Covey are no longer utilized, and characters have to move on? As much as “Black Cake” could evolve into an ensemble, I feel that, after what we got from Mia Isaac and Chipo Chung, either CCH Pounder has to take over as pseudo-lead, or the show will have to work on a tiered system where Mabel and Etta are the main focus, with a check in on Byron and Benny from time to time.

Renewal Status

(Series Page | Character Guide)

According to The Direct, as of December 6th, creator and showrunner Marissa Jo Cerar has plans for a second season, which she calls “Act 2,” but Hulu hasn’t given a green light yet.

Recommendations

If you like this show, we recommend:

  1. David Makes Man: I would say the first season matches the level of intrigue Covey gives
  2. Sharp Objects: If you enjoyed the murder mystery aspect

Check out our TV series page for our latest recaps, reviews, and recommendations.

Discussion Items

Let us know your thoughts in the comments:

  1. With various mysteries remaining unresolved, which are you looking forward to?

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Black Cake: Season 1 – Review

Summary

“Black Cake” is undoubtedly a breakout role for Mia Isaac and perhaps one of the best shows to come from Hulu this year, and potentially one of their top 5 ever.

Overall
80%
80%
  • Mia Isaac - 92%
    92%
  • It Knows How To Present A Mystery That Doesn't Feel Over The Top - 83%
    83%
  • Mabel and Older Bunny - 82%
    82%
  • Benny - 68%
    68%
  • Byron - 75%
    75%

Highlight(s)

  • Mabel and Older Bunny
  • It Knows How To Present A Mystery That Doesn’t Feel Over The Top
  • Mia Isaac

Disputable

  • Byron
  • Benny

What Would Your Rating Be?

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