The saving grace of the entire season is Lynn Whitfield as Mae. For while she is mostly relegated to the Greenleaf family mansion, nearly every interaction makes the episode. Be it facing off against Connie or Kerissa or, when she wanted to make James work for her love, elevating the show beyond its often soap opera style drama to something you could take a bit more seriously. Altogether, Whitfield often carried the show and the spirit which led to many initially investing in the program.
Throughout the season, the members of the Greenleaf family struggle or are humbled. By the end of it, only Charity remains at Cavalry, and considering all that happens this season, it is a necessary evil. Why? Well, the show has been threatening the idea of the Greenleaf family losing that church for ages, and now it has come to past. Leaving you to wonder, what can be next? Especially considering Charity, while a talented singer, gets played the entire season and isn’t that good of a strategist.
What Happened To Noah?
For a hot minute, it seemed Noah was returning, thanks to AJ, but then we don’t hear a word from him. Now, was the idea of Noah’s return necessarily welcomed? No. Exes cycling in and out are rarely a welcome sight, and considering we don’t see Kevin this season, at all, what’s the point of Noah showing up? Yeah, Grace is single, and Darius doesn’t make a peep, but even with Noah’s wife leaving him and how much we could have learned about Grace and Noah’s past, that seems like the type of information we deserved way back when he was relevant.
This season, Kerissa opens up about her negative relationship with her mother, and finally allows us some idea of who she was before she became a Greenleaf. Unfortunately, outside of one scene in which she talks about her mom, Kerissa doesn’t do anything else beyond stir up drama and add to the Greenleaf family downfall. But, to add insult to injury, they have Kerissa pursue an affair, get an STD, and learn that, apparently, Mac may have had the person who formerly owned the Greenleaf mansion killed. Which she uses as blackmail to keep Jacob from divorcing her. Because, yeah, why make a woman who has long shown potential to be more than be Jacob’s wife do anything but further ingrain herself? You know, rather than us meet this mother, see Kerissa’s family, or even spend a day with her at her job.
You know, the job where she is the head of a school, and yet the only thing we see is her reacting to Jacob’s actions.
Since Kevin left her for Aaron, Charity has been on a downward spiral with each season leaving us thinking she has finally hit rock bottom. In season 4, it seems Charity has still not hit rock bottom. For after betraying her family for a chance to humble Grace, she gets left for a white woman. Leaving you to wonder two things: The first, what happened to her working with Percy Lee? The second, if you fail the paper bag test on this show, and you’re a woman, does that mean your life is guaranteed to be hell, and you’ll struggle each and every season?
After Sophia tragically lost her ability to have children, and her faith was lost, she was left with so much potential for this season. Would she seek out other religions, maybe seek out Zora, who takes a backseat this season, and maybe take a gap year to travel?
Instead, Sophia goes off to college for a few weeks, gets dragged into her mother’s drama with her half brother AJ, and then decides she wants to be a bad girl. Why? Oh, because Zora has a new friend named Nikki who people are mistaking for her. So, to assert herself, she decides she is going to mess around and sleep with Nikki’s ex Dante. Because losing her virginity to a guy she barely knows, that’ll show everybody!
Lack of Information on the Connie x Mae Beef
To a certain point, as a member of the Deacon Board, you can understand what Connie may not like the Greenleaf family. Between Mac, the tax scandal, and so much more, they haven’t been the most virtuous family, and it has affected the church’s coffers on multiple occasions. However, there seems to be an issue beyond money when it comes to Connie and Mae. The type which pushes you to wonder was Connie, at one time, on the path to becoming a Greenleaf? Did she and Mae, perhaps as teenagers, have issues? Surely this woman’s hatred can’t solely stem due to the acts of Mae’s husband and brother? There has to be something personal there that leads to them having the kind of relationship where Connie thinks Mae would lie about being raped, right?
A child, now an adult, who either was never mentioned before or was once or twice and never again, they suddenly show up. Oh, and with their introduction comes another character we haven’t seen for one or two seasons who, honestly, wasn’t missed. But the kicker with AJ is, like so many, his addition wasn’t about fleshing out Grace or adding something real to the show. All AJ did was add drama and setup Grace. Further pushing the idea that a show which used to know how to integrate drama into the development of its characters, has come to the point all it knows is how to put its characters through hell with no real lesson when all is said and done.
On The Fence
After the Skanks saga, H&H created a bit of a slump for Greenleaf. For while the actors who played Phil, Bob, and even Bob’s daughter Judy did their part in stirring up drama, as Karine notes, their inclusion, and everyone’s reaction, don’t make this feel like a church show anymore. Which is a shame since there are moments when you can see the benefit of H&H’s attempted takeover. Be it Mae talking about the place of church in the African-American community, or James speaking on the sexism and racism which prevents men of color, and especially women like Mae, to be in command of megachurches.
These missed opportunities become increasingly frustrating as Bob preaches about unity among races, and Phil barely seems like he wants to look out for his own people. Never mind anyone who can’t help him get out of Bob’s shadow. Then, when you add Judy and have her storyline be how she once had a thing with Phil? It makes you want to look into whether a showrunner changed, if a notable writer left, or whether, like Atlanta and Insecure, Greenleaf needs a year or more off to know how to proceed.
The Nikki Situation
A consistent issue with this season is characters, scenes, and situations being presented which could be interesting, but then they fall flat. Nikki is yet one of the many examples. For us, when Nikki was introduced, there was something about her interactions with Zora that lead you to believe she wanted to keep an enemy close since Zora seemed to have a thing for her boyfriend Dante. However, there was also this vibe that Nikki may have had a thing for Zora.
But, any sense of bi-sexuality didn’t come about. Pretty much, Nikki filled in for Sophia so Zora had someone to talk to her own age. For, after a certain point, it seemed Zora being forced to do early morning bible study with Mae, which was the original requirement to move into Noah’s old cabin, no longer seemed worth pursuing to the writers.
The Unknown Young Man
Theories vary about who the young man at the end of the season finale is. Some say it is the real AJ, others think maybe the young man could be an angel, spirit, or a biblical figure. Heck, there is even the idea of them maybe being Faith’s son. The ideas vary but it makes their appearance in the final scene yet another moment where it seems Greenleaf rather go for the short burst of emotion rather than show this program plays the long game.
Mae Not Exploring Her Options & Making It Easy For James To Win Her Back
When Mae came out in her negligee talking to James about earning her back, you’d think he would actually work to do so. However, between Mae barely leaving the house, outside of going to church, and being right next to James when she did, it didn’t seem like she wanted to make things hard for him. There wasn’t Mae going to the local social clubs, using what social currency she has left, there was no flirting with other men, or anything resembling seeing what single life is like at her age.
You know what happened? Because the church was slipping from her grasp, James was able to win her back by doing the most basic thing – just being there. Making it so, despite all that has happened which ruined them as a couple and the heads of the church, he is forgiven, and they end up engaged. Pushing the need to question if the issue with this season was more due to a limited budget than imagination? For surely, pushing the idea Mae, even now, is still vulnerable to be manipulated like this couldn’t have been the plan? Because James’ return as a partner damn near seemed predatory.
At this point, the team behind Greenleaf seem like they need a year or more to recoup and decide where to take this series. Season 4 feels rushed in ways that makes it seem there was a deadline the writers had to hit, and so they came up with something as a placeholder and didn’t have to the time to later revise. Instead, they just went with what they had, with fingers crossed that, if the show got another season, they could recover.
Leading to why the mixed label. As many of the topics show, there was a sense of potential. The problem is, over and over, the show never reached it. Be it using Nikki to maybe have a queer presence that isn’t easily discarded or Mae, after being married for decades, strutting out like a peacock and seeing what the single life is like. If not, finally, having Charity rebuild herself after multiple seasons of her being kicked around or Kerissa having something which isn’t tied to Jacob or his family.
But, unfortunately, season 4 ultimately tests viewers loyalty by going for dramatic scenarios that could produce a quick, social media, reaction than use any of the drama to produce growth. Leaving a possible season 5 as either a redemption season or what should be the coffin and nails for Greenleaf as a series.
Mae - 90%
Grace’s Resignation - 85%
What Happened To Noah? - 60%
Kerissa - 65%
Charity - 64%
Sophia - 63%
Lack of Information on the Connie x Mae Beef - 66%
AJ - 70%
H&H - 75%
The Nikki Situation - 76%
The Unknown Young Man - 74%
Mae Not Exploring Her Options & Making It Easy For James To Win Her Back - 73%
season 4 ultimately tests viewers loyalty by going for dramatic scenarios that could produce a quick, social media, reaction than use any of the drama to produce growth. Leaving a possible season 5 as either a redemption season or what should be the coffin and nails for Greenleaf as a series.