In New York City, 4 friends, who have known each other for years, find themselves on the verge of starting new chapters in their lives. Ella is beginning a new job at HotTeaDigest.com, ran by a friend, potentially mentor, named Barb. Sondi is still trying to navigating pursuing a Ph.D. in African-American studies, dating her advisor Matthew, and helping him raise his adorable 6-year-old Amari.
Alongside those two are Whitney, the bougie one of the group, who is soon to be married to her college sweetheart and is a boss at the company she works for. Lastly, there is Renee, who might be married and have a stable career, but all bets are off if she walks into a club and gets a drink.
Together, this group laughs together, cries together, and sometimes gets their friend together when they do something stupid. Which, in the first episode, includes people sleeping with people they shouldn’t, overstepping, and being reminded the troubles which come from people thinking you are too much.
After her last book bombed, Ella finds herself working for a digital magazine doing celebrity interviews and pieces that may not fulfill her but do pay the bills.
The editor of HotTeaDigest hired Ella because she loves her work, and while Ella is a bit whiny, as if she has taken a step back, being that Barb has been a formidable name in the industry for some time, she gets it. She doesn’t support Ella drowning in self-pity, especially in her office, but she gets it.
Sondi is a Ph.D. advisee who is very much pro-Black, to the point she gets on some people’s nerves, like Renee. However, while Sondi has social justice warrior qualities, she can hang and not make everything a racial thing. But, it is her intelligence that her advisor, Matthew, loves, and perhaps why he also adores the relationship Sondi and his daughter Amari have. Though, with their relationship going on for 2 years and Matthew still uneasy about Sondi asserting herself at times, there is the need to question what may come long-term?
While he may not have published a book like Ella, one of his essays continues to get him speaking engagements and makes him a notable name on Black identity in America. At least in the New York City area.
Amari is Matthew’s six-year-old daughter whose mother isn’t mentioned in the pilot, but it appears Sondi has stepped into a maternal role. The two even have a secret language that Matthew has yet to decipher.
Whitney is the bougie member of the group. Alongside that, she is currently drowning in a combination of work, prepping for a wedding that grows by the hour, and wondering how much she might have missed out on by dating her college sweetheart?
Like all of her friends, Renee is a formidable woman. However, unlike her friends, Renee is married and isn’t selective about when she will speak up for herself. She will tell off anyone and everyone, but she also can be sweet too. Which makes Renee the one you only really come to when you want the realest opinion in the room and not when you want someone to piss in your ear.
Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered
So, what happened to Amari’s mom?
How is Whitney’s relationship with her dad, considering her mom seems to drive her crazy?
Does Renee’s husband know she be out here having a GOOD ASS time like she does? Also, does he care?
What’s Anderson and Ella’s story? Is he the one who left, got away, or was there some serious cheating or other drama involved for him to earn the nickname “Satan?”
Collected Quote(s) or .Gifs
Be as committed to grateful as you are self-pity. — Barb
It’s Familiar, Yet Still Feels New
A lot of what is presented in “Phenomenal Women” may seem familiar if you’ve watched Girlfriends, In Living Single, and other classic shows focused on the Black experience, with the Black experience for women prominently featured. As the bougie girl, Whitney easily fits in with your Whitley Gilbert, from A Different World but is by no means as bougie or rude as Toni Childs from Girlfriends. Yet, she still fits this familiar archetype that makes her quickly identifiable.
Mind you, this isn’t to say any of the women feel like a rip-off. More so, you can just see they share a pool of basic traits, and in the pilot, you may not feel like you get the kind of specifics needed to see the characters as individuals. Sondi, for example, with her being so strongly for social justice, to the point of pressing that onto Amari, you can see a bit of Nova Bordelon from Queen Sugar. Heck, even to the point of her getting overtly academic to the point of rolling your eyes.
Which, for us, makes Renee a god-send, for she calls this out, and between her and Ella, they are the ones who, I feel, make the show. Renee, while she has a bit of a hood chick vibe to her, she is the kind we don’t get to see too often. For while the representation of Black women has expanded, I would submit when it comes to Black women who have an edge to them, there are still limitations.
With Renee, however, as much as she can bust it down on the dance floor and is the funniest member of her group, you can see she also fits the big sister role if she needs to. Not to the point of being the aunty or mother of the group, because she will curse any and all of her friends out if she needs to. However, there is something about the way Bresha Webb plays her that pushes you to recognize there is more than meets the eye.
Then, with Ella, we like Ella because she is the role we traditionally see white women play. She failed at something yet is having this unexpected come up and gets to be messy without necessarily being damned for it. Rather, it is written off as being young, in New York City, and still finding oneself. And to see a Black female character given that same freedom to explore and adapt without a crippling fear of failure or judgment is refreshing.
Now, this isn’t to downplay Sondi’s reality check that Ella has to work like she wants to conquer the world, but Sondi’s reality check doesn’t take away from the dreams and love you can have from Ella standing out to the point of being hard to compare.
Iffy On The Drama
Between this episode and the previews, it seems Renee may get divorced, and Whitney cheated on her fiancé. Now, the divorce thing is unfortunate, just because seeing someone like Renee married and either happy or working on it, would be a nice change. However, Whitney cheating on her fiancé is just trash.
I’d like to dress it up and try to be fair, but, as much as people do cheat, women and men equally (though some may say otherwise), it’s weird to watch it happen and be expected not to hate the character. Never mind, the show try to throw every which reason the action was justified. As if cheating should be treated at the same level of playing politics at work, and it being a necessary evil. No, it isn’t, and here is hoping Whitney doesn’t get off lightly, even if her man, Olabisi, is trash.
Also, can we just say, there has yet to be a couple you want to root for? Granted, the only couple we see is Matthew and Sondi, but it seems clear that he likes the power dynamics in his favor for that relationship, hence him talking about Sondi needing to “Grow up.” But even when you think about Renee and her husband, Ella and her ex Anderson, and how Whitney presents Olabisi, you don’t get a match worth investing in. Rather, it makes you wonder if this is going to be another show where you keep thinking to yourself, “They’d be better off single.” Especially as you watch them get into one lustful relationship after another.
Is Run The World a new flagship for STARZ? Potentially. It has the drama needed to gather a fan base and characters who are familiar enough to hook you but have the potential to develop into unique individuals. Add in that Run The World benefits from a lack of competition across most known platforms in terms of stories focused on Black women in modern times? Well, while it may not be something that would have survived in the 90s, because of how scarce the landscape is now? It’s a welcome addition.
Run The World: Season 1 Episode 1 – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)
Who Is This For?
With the end of Insecure nigh, Run The World can carry the torch in terms of presenting Black female friendships, the drama which comes from the late 20s to 30s and trying to make it in a world that wasn't built with your success in mind.