Greenleaf Recap: Black and Blue


Behind Closed Doors
Season 1 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating *****
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network
Lynn Whitfield as Lady Mae. Photo: Guy D'Alema/Oprah Winfrey Network

Greenleaf needs more Lady Mae and fewer scenes with the teens. It’s commendable to reveal how police brutality and the resulting civil unrest affects everyone, including kids like Sophia and Zora — children of all ages hear and see things their parents try to shield them from — but it’s annoying to watch their story devolve into yet another plotline about peer pressure, rebellion, and disrespect. Too much time with bratty teens is what brought down Homeland and the latter seasons of Nashville. If Greenleaf wants to take a page from another prime-time soapy drama, it should be Scandal, a show that’s kept the Grant children largely offscreen.

This may sound like I hate children, but I assure you that’s not the case. It’s just that teens on prime-time dramas are the Worst. It doesn’t matter if they’re dealing with crushes, smoking weed, snorting Adderall, sneaking out, or talking back to their parents who practically cower — any of these routes ultimately slow the action down. While pressure builds about Bishop Greenleaf’s controversial stance to support police officer David Nelson, we’re stuck watching Sophia act incredibly rude to her mother because Grace won’t let her attend a Black Lives Matter protest. Of course, Sophia and Zora still sneak out. Greenleaf finds them at the protest and what he hears helps him prepare his own sermon, which is little more than a publicity stunt to support Nelson and the Memphis Police Department. So the problem isn’t that the teens are completely separated from the larger stories on Greenleaf, it’s just that they’re not doing anything fresh.

Bishop Greenleaf gets into a lot of hot water in this episode. Deputy Mayor Baldwin Leonard (Arnell Powell) makes him an offer: If Greenleaf does a “Back the Blue” sermon, he’ll help him get land for the church expansion. Meanwhile, Senator Banks is tired of all those dodges to his financial requests, so he begins auditing Calvary. Neither Lady Mae nor the deacon board think the bishop should throw his support behind the boys in blue, but he’s determined to make his own decisions. Later, as he preaches that it’s not just black lives that matter, but also black love, black hope, and black success, several members of the congregation walk out, including the deacon board.

It doesn’t help that a line of police officers march into the church and stand behind Greenleaf. It’s actually a pretty tense moment: We don’t know if the officers are there as a sign of support or as a threat. Honestly, it might be both. Their rigid stances don’t really say, “We’re here to protect and serve.” They look very intimidating, even in the house of the Lord. Of course, the last few years have highlighted the reasons why many people of color, especially in the black and Latino communities, tend to distrust police officers and the judicial system. When cops march into a black gathering space, it doesn’t make one feel as safe as it should.

While Bishop Greenleaf grapples with his conscience, Noah tells Grace about the archival video footage of Uncle Mac driving to the fishing cabin where Danielle claims he raped her. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if anyone else is with him in the car, and it would be easy to rip holes into Grace’s theory since the cabin is church property, and everyone knows Mac loves to fish. Noah also presents Grace with a flash drive full of provocative pictures of her late sister, Faith.

A man named Breezy attempts to blackmail the Greenleafs for $5,000 in exchange for not leaking the photos. When Grace and Noah meet this guy, she offers him $500 to reveal what Faith was involved in. While scratching his neck to oversell the fact that he’s an addict, Breezy tells them that Faith would do anything, including videos, to get drugs. Grace presses him, asking if he previously tried to blackmail Faith. Is that why she killed herself? Breezy dismisses the idea, claiming Faith didn’t have any money and didn’t know herself, that she was dead inside. It shocks Grace to hear this, but it’s been 20 years since she left Memphis and her family behind. No one remains frozen in memory.

It turns out that Kerissa and Jacob end up in marriage counseling, although Jacob is obviously resistant to it. He only goes because Kerissa would make his life hell if he didn’t, and he refuses to answer any of the therapist’s questions. When Kerissa says the main problem of their marriage is his infidelity, she turns to ask him why he cheats. Jacob remains quiet, but his eyes dart frantically around the room. He’s panicked, like a mouse caught in a trap. He wants to talk, but resents being forced to do so. Later, when he’s with Alexa, he asks her why she doesn’t mind knowing he’ll never divorce Kerissa. Alexa responds that she’s just having fun, which hurts him. During another tryst, he explains that people always just see him as a body — from the security guard who follows him around a store to the sales clerk who flirts shamelessly. He wants to be more than a body to Alexa. She lets him know that she’s not going to stroke his ego by begging for something that won’t happen, but she hears him nonetheless. Alexa thanks Jacob for opening up to her, a stark contrast to the way he acts around Kerissa.

The entire story line of Jacob’s love triangle has been about contrast: His dark-skinned, short-haired, controlling black wife sees him as a means to achieving upper-class success, while his long-haired white mistress puts no pressure on him to do anything but be in the moment with her. With Kerissa, Jacob is a petulant child, rolling his eyes and going along with her plans to avoid her scolding. With Alexa, he is a man, desired and trusted. Later, Kerissa tells Jacob they no longer have to attend the counseling sessions, but he surprises her by saying he wants to continue. Kerissa thinks she gets to decide what happens in their marriage, but Jacob reminds her that he plays a role, too. Borrowing words from his mistress, he tells her, “I’m here.”

The Greenleaf men assert themselves in this episode, and the results, while yet to be seen, may not go over well. Grace also reestablishes her presence at Calvary by giving another junior pastor his own office, despite the fact that no one else in the church has done so. This act of support seems like something else that will come back to haunt her. The episode ends with Bishop Greenleaf telling Deputy Mayor Leonard this will be the only time he’ll back the police. He knows there will be a next time. Leonard agrees they shouldn’t meet again, and the threat hangs in the air. The bishop doesn’t seem to acknowledge it, but Uncle Mac hears the grudge. The Greenleafs’ good standing in the community has begun to crumble.

Greenleaf Recap: Black and Blue