Greenleaf Recap: Rome Is Burning


Veni, Vidi, Vici
Season 1 Episode 12
Editor’s Rating *****
Merle Dandridge as Grace, Desiree Ross as Sophia.
Merle Dandridge as Grace, Desiree Ross as Sophia. Photo: Eli Ade/Oprah Winfrey Network

From the beginning, Greenleaf has been a soapy good time, a summer escape while shows like Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder are on hiatus. It goes toe-to-toe with those heavies, and Lady Mae’s righteous rants stand up against Papa Pope’s preaching any day. But strong characters like Lady Mae, Bishop James, and Uncle Mac come with a downside: It’s harder to make the audience care for less influential figures like Kevin and Charity. Greenleaf is struggling to give equal time to its ensemble, and it might be time for the show to move someone along.

In “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” Kevin and Adrian go to dinner, and Adrian thinks Kevin is moving forward with his previous flirting. When he backtracks instead, Adrian confronts him, asking if he is gay. Kevin says he’s never done anything with another man before finally claiming, “I’m straight. And married,” and it’s as if he’s convincing himself. Adrian walks away, unwilling to assist Kevin in his need to prove his sexuality. At home, Lady Mae tells Kevin he needs to make things right with Charity so their children won’t be born into a tense household.

As much as Kevin’s story frustrates me for its lack of nuance, it was difficult watching him build up the courage to tell Charity he’s confused about his sexuality. Tye White does an excellent job of capturing Kevin’s fear and need as he tells Charity he has feelings for men, but that he also loves her and wants to be a father to his children. Kevin is scared of rejection, but in need of help and support. He’s not sure what he’s feeling, but he knows there’s a desire inside of him, and he’s been taught to believe that desire is wrong. Somewhat predictably, Charity lashes out at this news, hitting Kevin then falling to the floor in anguish. She ends up at a hospital and her doctor tells her she’ll need to be on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy. Charity sends Kevin away, and he looks so torn.

And that’s another downside of soap operas: They can be too predictable. It was only a matter of time before Charity’s pregnancy ran into some kind of physical turmoil, and of course, it’s triggered by Kevin and his confession. Much like the “bury your gays” trope, it seems like any non-heterosexuality has to come with some kind of punishment. Instead of Kevin being able to come to terms with this knowledge about himself, now he’s forced to wonder if he should’ve stayed silent. With one episode remaining this season, Greenleaf could easily continue down this predictable road: It wouldn’t be surprising if Kevin attempts suicide, deluded into thinking his death would make things better for Charity and their unborn twins. As much as the show needs to trim story lines, doing so with a gay character’s suicide would be wrong. I hope my prediction doesn’t come to pass.

As “Veni, Vidi, Vici” continues, Jacob’s transition to associate pastor at Triumph becomes official. He and Kerissa both assumed they’d have to move out of the house once Lady Mae found out, but she insists they remain. I can’t help but wonder if she’s looking to get dirt on the rival church. In the meantime, Kerissa worries if her school will get accredited. She and one of her teachers, Mr. Dorsey, discuss what accreditation would mean for the school, but beneath that, there’s tension between them. He looks jealous when she accepts a call from Jacob, and after Jacob confirms he’s moving to Triumph, Kerissa warns Mr. Dorsey he’ll be seeing her husband more often at church. When she told him to be cool about it, my eyebrows almost launched off my head. Has Kerissa had her own affair this whole time?

Unfortunately, this juicy tidbit isn’t quite as shocking as it could have been. We know Kerissa likes to note what’s happening around her without drawing too much attention to herself. She knew about Jacob’s affairs long before Alexa was the last straw. She was willing to go along with the swingers’ proposition if it gave Jacob the chance to gain some professional clout. Make no mistake: Kerissa has fire beneath her cool, calculating demeanor. There’s no telling what she’s been doing while Jacob was distracted by his own mess.

While Charity and Jacob work on getting their lives in order, Grace loses her custody battle with Ray. A judge orders that Sophia has to spend the summer with Ray back in Phoenix. Grace wants to appeal, but Sophia doesn’t want to go through court again. Upset about the decision, Grace wonders if she should go back to Phoenix to remain close to her daughter. Aunt Mavis, who lost her bar thanks to Mac’s machinations, tells Grace she has to make sure the church shuts down. The church changed Lady Mae and Bishop into the people who let Faith suffer all those years. Grace needs to help close Calvary, even if she isn’t sure it’s the best course of action.

Speaking of Calvary: Lady Mae’s Women’s Day program is crumbling around her, and deacon Connie tells her she can’t stand around fiddling while Rome burns. Lady Mae counters that Grace is the reason why Rome is burning, but deacon Connie reminds her that when Grace preached, she brought their largest offering tally of the year. Grace needs to preach again if the church wants to refill its coffers. Lady Mae refuses and announces she’ll preach instead — although she’s willing to let Grace preach if Bishop tells her what Mac has on him. Bishop refuses.

Although Kevin’s confession to Charity means there’s one less secret in the Greenleaf family, “Veni, Vidi, Vici” doesn’t provide much relief from the show’s many other mysteries. It doesn’t seem like Charity told her mother why she and Kevin were arguing, so Kevin still has a ways to go. And Charity finally noticed her father’s shaking hands, too. That’s one more rising to the top. Let’s hope the season finale uncovers all of these secrets; it’s about time for this family to face its inner demons. And what will happen if Grace manages to burn down the Greenleaf empire? Will she survive her mother’s wrath? We won’t know until next week, but Lady Mae will certainly make it worth the wait.

Greenleaf Recap: Rome Is Burning