In season 2, Desna embraces that she isn’t a victim of circumstance but simply someone avoiding her calling and thanks to a woman named Zlata, she becomes the boss she was meant to be.
|Dr. Gregory Ruval||Jimmy Jean-Louis|
|Quiet Ann||Judy Reyes|
|Dr. Ken||Jason Antoon|
|Matilde||Sheryl Lee Ralph|
After years of being under bosses like Clay who didn’t mentor her and took advantage of her, with a bullet, Zlata kills Riva and takes over. With that, Desna finds herself tasked with not so much being an underling, with some crew, but a woman who gets things done and not always by asking nicely. As that happens, Desna finds herself becoming more and more in love with Ruval, while relatively ignorant to his part in the drug trade.
But, while Desna is on the rise, nearly everyone else is suffering. Clay and his boys are now subordinates and they don’t like it. Clay especially for, never mind Desna trying to boss him around, but the Russians who killed his Juanda? For most of the season he is planning revenge and when Desna catches on, she becomes a bit conflicted. Roller and Bryce, to a point, as well. And speaking of Bryce, him and Jennifer, thanks to that Hank situation, seem on the verge of divorce until Clay makes on Zlata and she nearly kills him. Thus leading him to reconsider his position in the Dixie mafia.
As for the rest of Desna’s girls? Well, Polly probably benefits the most because Zlata makes her into a madam. In terms of Ann? Well, it’s a mixed bag. For a good part of the season she is just lonely and miserable and then she learns her parents don’t look down on her over being gay, because they are gay. What they can’t deal with is that Ann doesn’t live to her potential. Which she truly doesn’t for, even after all Desna puts her through, and asks more of her, that’s her girl. She sacrificed Arlene for Desna! Which leads to, when Ann just explodes from stress and unhappiness, Ann hitting Desna!
Luckily, for a short while, they do get back together but it is all a ruse. For, to save her job, Arlene had to take down the local drug and prescription trade. Which she does thanks to Dr. Ken who becomes an informant and Zlata mentioning Desna’s name. For, combine that with Desna snitching herself, it gives the cops the power they need to arrest a whole lot of people.
However, of course things aren’t that simple. With learning Ruval and Zlata were playing her, her being Desna, she goes into her own little depression which leads her to look up a woman named Ms. Wallace – one of her and Dean’s foster moms. Being around her allows Desna to get herself together and embrace that she needs to accept being a boss is something she is good at.
This leads to a major conflict with the barely reconciled with Ann, and Dean comes to the point of having to leave. However, as Desna gets proposed to, and even is on the way to getting married, which is part of Ruval and Zlata’s plan to get the license for more clinics, Dean shows up. Not just for the wedding to give Desna away either, he shows up after Desna kills Ruval, in self-defense, and Zlata kills Ruval’s mother. But, before Zlata can kill Desna, who gained all Ruval had, and Zlata was going to force her to sign that all to her, Dean kills Zlata.
Leaving us, in the end, with Desna’s crew being thinned out. After Arlene and Ann ended once more, and Desna decided to go deeper into the crime world, Ann tapped out. When it comes to Jenn? With all she and Bryce went through due to Desna lying about the Coombses, Hank going crazy, and trying to kidnap her, and Bryce almost dying? They decide a new start in Tampa would be better.
Polly? Well, with her and Dr. Ken over, Marnie abandoning her for her biological mom, and a psychotic break which led to seeing her dead sister Lillian, she is also out of commission. Thus leaving only Virginia. Someone who may not have stepped up much for the gangster stuff but when it came to being a good girlfriend, eventual fiancée to Dean? She adapted and excelled. Something it seemed she wanted to do for Desna, as her eventual sister-in-law, but as Desna transitions from the drug game to the casino crime world, Virginia gets shot. Thus ending the season.
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- Where is Desna and Dean’s mother now? Is she still alive? Could she be dead or just dead to them?
- When it comes to the Haitian mob, was Gregory’s mother retired or still very much the head and Gregory her top general?
Dean and Virginia
Though not spoken of much in the season summary, their individual and shared story was one of the biggest highlights of the season. If only because it was consistently good. Dean was coming into his own, gaining independence, learning how to become comfortable with his body and combating his autism to create a life for himself and Virginia. One in which he could contribute and not basically swap Desna for Virginia.
Then, when it comes to Virginia, while we don’t get the same level of sweet moments between her and Desna, as we saw in season 1, as it is revealed she is to become Desna’s sister, their relationship shifts. First when she got pregnant, before aborting the child, then when she got engaged. For, as can be seen, Dean was kind of holding Desna back. Because she didn’t want him involved or touched by all the illegal stuff, he was that outreached hand when she got in too deep. Yet, with Virginia showing she could give Dean love, confidence, support, and she truly loved him – Not just his penis, she let go.
And with that, while Virginia didn’t get the title of sister, they did continue to grow closer. After all, Desna is a role model, and the most nurturing figure Virginia had in her whole life. Making her getting shot in the end, not something you are relieved by or makes sense because the show does need to clean up shop. It was a shock you hoped, so badly, wouldn’t mean they really killed this character off.
(Most of) Desna’s Journey To The Dark Side
Clay spent nearly the entire first season holding Desna back. Based off how she met and gained her girls’ loyalty, the way she negotiated with Riva and the Russians, it was clear she had something. The problem is, she was never empowered. She was a quick thinker in the clutch but never allowed to put things in place to avoid having to make last minute decisions.
Then came Zlata and us seeing Desna come to life. To the point it was clear, early on, Zlata was going to take Desna to the dark side and she would embrace it. Unfortunately, then the show decided to have Zlata betray Desna, and threw a hard piece of crap in what seemed like a well-oiled machine, but the good was done. Desna was taught how to handle the men in her life who’d oppress her and even how to handle the women who’d underestimate her. Thus giving us an evolved form of Desna while still being that loving woman who will get you together as quick as she’d hug you.
Getting To Know Quiet Ann and Polly Better
With Polly having as many background stories as Batman’s Joker, there was a need to question if that would have been a running gag throughout the series. What is truly Polly’s background? Well, we get a large part of that in meeting Lillian in the last few episodes. Someone Polly killed out of jealousy and while it was an accident, the death of her twin might have been the catalyst for the life we know of Polly.
As for Ann? Admittedly, us getting to know her family felt like something rushed, in the grand scheme of things. Especially with how meeting Lillian was handled, even if she was a ghost. However, Ann getting an episode dedicated to her point of view was a serious highlight. To the point it made you wonder, with Virginia narrating the finale, why wasn’t she more of a focus?
Underutilized or Wasted
When it comes to Olga, Zlata’s daughter; Marnie, Polly’s sort of adopted daughter; and Matilde, Ruval’s mother, we have characters that could have meant more than they did. With Olga, one of Zlata’s original reasons for killing Riva was because she felt Olga’s mind was poisoned by her and that was the root of their lack of a relationship. Yet, after she coerces Roller to marry Olga, more so to try and create a political marriage than anything, she doesn’t invest in Olga anymore. If Roller isn’t with her, she just doesn’t exist.
Then with Marnie, honestly, similar to Matilde, it seemed like there was something planned but, as other characters had their stories developed, these two were left on the cutting room floor. Which makes sense for Marnie’s character but not so much for Matilde. After all, she was being played by Sheryl Lee Ralph – a legendary actress. Yet, despite her character’s relationship with Ruval and seeming formidable in her own right, us even learning she can walk in the end, she got killed off like she was some thug part of the Haitian mob. Like a nameless nobody.
We Got To See Little To None of the Haitian Mob
Speaking of the Haitian mob, considering how well we got to know the Russian mobsters and the Dixie mob, the fact the Haitian mob pretty much was surmised by Ruval and Matilde solely was a letdown. Especially since, at least in my experience, I’ve never seen or heard of a Haitian mob. Italian, Russian, Yakuza, different types of Latinx and Black gangs? Yeah. But a Haitian one was new to me. So with no lieutenants or notable soldiers, it feels like there was a wasted opportunity there.
When Dr. Ken revealed himself as a snitch, I wanted Desna and her crew to beat him so bad that while Polly was in a psych hospital, Dr. Ken was in the one most go to. Because the way he is played doesn’t even make him someone you love to hate. You instead are just praying for a brutal, but still quick, death. For the character barely brought anything to the show besides being a liability. One of the many characters used to initiate a cleanup.
So, taking note Polly is in a psych ward, and Desna seemingly has better things to do than worry about Ken’s clinic, let’s hope he gets written off. For the love of the Black Jesus.
Hank Going Nuts
Maybe I missed something. I’ll admit that, when it comes to characters I don’t have an interest in, I allow myself to be distracted. However, with Hank, him going crazy didn’t seem to have any real precursor or warning. Pushing the idea that him going nuts was just a quick justification to kill off the character so everyone could be pushed to start a new life in season 3. Rather than people linger and be asked about, when the writers have no interest in bringing someone back.
On The Fence
Clay & Roller
Zlata utterly dominated these two to the point they simply existed. Yes, Clay did introduce more of the Dixie Mafia and when at his lowest conjured Juanda but even at Zlata and Ruval’s worse, they demanded more attention than Clay. As for Roller? He was just a named thug for a good part of the season. That is, until he started to get close to Desna again, distanced himself from Olga, and officially was back to freaking with Desna. A place he really does seem like he belongs, by her side that is, since without her the character just seems like they are heading for the chopping block.
That is, even with the last minute reveal, by Clint, that Clay may have caused, or personally killed, Roller’s parents.
Zlata & Ruval
I had such high hopes and expectations for Zlata. She seemed like a multi-season villain who would fracture everything Desna has worked for, especially her crew. Yet, in the process, building her up to her max potential. Yet, rather than cause rifts as she ushers Desna to the dark side, they paired her with Ruval and once that happened, both she and Ruval lost all their appeal. In that moment, you knew they wouldn’t last for how could they make two of the best things that happened to Desna betray her and live?
And it was especially disappointing for Ruval since, on top of wanting to see more of the Haitian mob, it was a dark-skinned Black man in love with a woman like Desna. Thick, may not pass the paper bag test, and loved wholly. Yet, instead, he loves some crazy Russian woman. Add on it was so easy for them to turn on one another and it makes you wonder who didn’t get along with someone and so they got the storyline they did.
Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)
With season 2, the main issue is that it largely feels like lost opportunities and that it tried to do too much and realized, for season 3, it needed to scale back. Making it strangely seem, as much as the writers knew what worked, and nailed that, because they also wanted to up the ante, they scrambled to find a way to do so which could be carried into future seasons. However, with realizing things were getting a bit too much, a clean slate was set up so between killing characters, them moving on, and a likely time jump, season 2 could be a setup for a whole new saga.
Leading to why the mixed label – Season 2 was a hot mess. One which seemed to have more ideas and characters than could be developed and fleshed out over ten episodes. So, at a certain point, it seems the writers cut their losses, since they didn’t have time to go back to where they messed up and rewrite multiple scripts. Instead, they salvaged what they could, gave meaning to Zlata and Ruval, and made it so whatever criticism people had of season 2, there would be a fairly fresh start in season 3.
Has Another Season Been Confirmed?: Yes
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|The Russian takeover goes disastrous, especially as Riva’s sister Zlata comes about and decides she doesn’t like the way Riva handles things.|
|Zlata continues to be an empowering force in Desna’s life. Something needed as Dean and Virginia present some surprises.|
|With the introduction of Ruval’s mother, Matilde, comes Desna questioning if it is over as it has just begun.|
|Quiet Ann comes into full focus as her family, inner thoughts, and a few things she has been holding back are revealed.|
|Desna comes to a crossroad in which her loyalties will lay and Zlata does something which makes the decision go from difficult to easy.|
|After Desna’s discovery in the last episode, and what happened to Bryce, she finds herself retreating to the last person who made her feel safe to rediscover herself.|
|Desna begins to make moves which will have dire consequences. Including possibly pissing off the wrong people.|
|With Desna hitting rock bottom, the question isn’t when she’ll pick herself up but how and whether her next plan actually succeeds.|
|We finally get to “meet” Polly’s twin sister Lillian as Desna makes her final plans for her wedding to Ruval.|
|The old saying goes, “You have to pay the cost to be the boss” and damn has/does Desna pay the cost for the title.|
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