Greenleaf: Season 1/ Episode 1 "A Time to Heal" [Series Premiere] – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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Overview

Despite all the programs currently on OWN, for the most part, if it didn’t have Oprah’s name on it, if she wasn’t interviewing someone, I honestly felt it wasn’t worth watching. Yes, there are a million and one Tyler Perry shows on the network, but there is something about his brand that I just don’t feel compliments, Oprah. However, Greenleaf, as messy as it is, as religious as it is, and as much as this seems to be something Shonda Rhimes would advise the writing of, it seems to fit what you’d expect from OWN. Which may not make much sense in hindsight, but considering Oprah’s acting choices and what her brand is, it comes to make sense with time.

Trigger Warning(s):
Topic of Molestation & Drug Use

Major Characters

Grace (Merle Dandridge) | Kerissa (Kim Hawthorne) | Jacob (Lamman Rucker) | Charity (Deborah Joy Winans) | Kevin (Tye White) | Sophia (Desiree Ross) | James (Keith David) | Lady Mae (Lynn Whitfield) | Mavis (Oprah) | Noah (Benjamin Patterson) | Uncle Mac (Gregory Alan Williams)

Main Plot (with Commentary)

It has been sometime since Grace has been home. In fact, it has been so long that Sophia, a teenager now, is almost treated as if she hasn’t been seen at all. Almost like she was born, maybe a picture or two was sent, but seeing the child in the flesh was a rare privilege. One perhaps only Aunt Mavis may have seen, but then again Aunt Mavis is the only one of the family who isn’t in Poppa James’ ministry. She owns a bar and everyone else is a strong part of the church. Though, that is part of the problem.

Don’t get me wrong, though, Grace loves the lord. She maybe a bit less religious now than when she used to preach, but her daddy’s sermons can still bring her to tears. Unfortunately, though, while Grace maybe the blessed child when it comes to her daddy’s eyes, everyone else seems to either pity how she is treated, are slightly indifferent to her, or are outright antagonistic. Her mother, for example, Lady Mae, Whitfield damn near brings out her Madea’s Family Reunion character with how borderline nasty she is to her child, making her seem like the blame for some of her sorrows.

But it doesn’t end there. It seems most of the women in her family, again with the exception of Aunt Mavis, are ready to get Grace a verbal whiplash. Her sister, I assume by marriage, Karissa, basically questions her faith and tries to smear Poppa James’ memories of her at the dinner table, and then Charity. Lord, Charity. This child, like seemingly all of Poppa James’ biological and spiritual children, she is in the shadow of Grace. Which leads to her perhaps being as cruel to Grace without even trying to read her. All Grace tried to do was support the girl who wants to go from singing in the choir, as lead mind you, to doing a sermon. Something which when Grace supports, Charity tells her to stay in her lane and to not try to join her team. A hilarious moment, but it really leads you to question if all this animosity is really necessary?

Though while the women are the ones primarily cruel to Grace, don’t think the men are saints either. Poppa James about to deal with some serious tax issues for, with pretty much owning a mega church, so comes the question if that tax exempt status should apply? Thus bringing in what I sort of thought fit the Oprah brand. We have these fictional, high profile people, and they are Christians, the owners of a mega-church, and it is like we are watching as Oprah interviews them and we are given a dramatization of their rise and fall.

There is the fall of Jacob, Kerissa’s husband (who I was about to type “wife”) and his fall from grace thanks to him messing around. You got Kevin, Charity’s husband, who she has been married to for 3 years and they seem happy. Seem being the key word. Then there is Noah, a past love who, like Grace, is uncommitted, and even little Sophia can see there remains chemistry. However, what past lies there? Then there is uncle Mac. The resident R. Kelly who no matter how many times accused, or whispers go about, no matter how many times a child may say he did this or that, he still moves amongst the gen pop – and not in a prison.

And with that, these varied and interesting characters, a part of me feels like you can imagine each one on Oprah’s couch, sitting across from her, and her picking apart their lives with a few pertinent questions. Some small, like them talking about their marriage, how is the church, but then doing some investigative journalism which begins to pick at old wounds. Avoiding one named Faith, yet making sure the name is brought up for ratings. All the while, in Shonda Rhimes fashion, the drama is slowly being mixed and brought to a boil, and little air bubbles are popping up. Oh, this is going to be one hell of a series.

Things To Note

The drug use trigger warning comes from Sophia and her cousin Zora (Lovie Simone) snorting Ritalin.

Grace’s aspirations switched from preaching to being a journalist. In fact, she recently interviewed to be on 20/20 as a reporter.

The show takes place in Tennessee, and Grace went out to Arizona to get away from her family. The only thing which seemingly brought her back was Faith’s death – which they make seem Uncle Mac caused.

Mavis is Lady Mae’s sister and Mac is Poppa James’ brother. Yet, with the way Lady Mae defends Mac, you’d think that was her biological brother. I don’t think they doing anything unbecoming, though.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

Everything involving Faith.

Review Summary

Highlights

It feels rare, especially for someone like me who consumes way too much media, to really take a vested interest in nearly every name, every backstory, and wonder what each character’s future may hold. Yeah, usually the lead is interesting to me, and their supporting actors are alright, but this show doesn’t feel like it has a lead and a bunch of people there to boost their story. Yeah, Grace’s siblings may have made a name for themselves by stealing her thunder, but they ran with it. They didn’t just get a moment in the light and then went back to being in the shadows.

On top of that, there is just something to interesting about the idea of watching a show about a corrupt megachurch and the family which owns it. Just with what is happening with Poppa James, Uncle Mac, and even the children, it feels like we are touching taboo subjects. Things never really spoken of openly and exposed, but usually shared in rumors and whispers. I mean, it feels almost scandalous and this isn’t even a real church! Yet, there is this feeling that this could represent any church, big or small, and all the drama and scandal going on behind the scenes.

Low Points

This isn’t really a low point for the show, but more so Lynn Whitfield. Now, it isn’t her acting, nor necessarily her character, but I am starting to wonder if she might be type casted because her roles are starting to seem like different parts of the same person’s life. A woman who ain’t trying to live that poor life she grew up in and will put up with any man, and whatever drama he brings, and will even sacrifice her child for some comfort. Which isn’t to say every last role she has ever done has been like this, but it seems she has become comfortable returning to this type of character over and over.

Is it wrong that I hate the fact Jacob is messing around with a white woman? Couldn’t have been a Black lady, huh? Got to pick what likely will infuriate Kerissa the most and insult her.

On The Fence

I honestly feel like Zora and Sophia could become the low points of this show if they are featured too much and mishandled. For Zora doing Ritalin to keep her grades up is a decent story, but watching Sophia fall from Grace (HA pun) and become a Faith in the making, I’m just “eh…” about the idea.

How Would You Rate This?

Negative Mixed Positive