Three episodes into Greenleaf, this much is certain: Lynn Whitfield will steal each and every scene she’s in. It’s a testament to her performance that Lady Mae is so compelling, since we still don’t know if she holds any deep, dark secret beyond avarice. Everyone is hiding something under the surface, but we haven’t been able to see what’s beneath hers yet. Surely, it’s coming and will be worth the wait.
After Mavis confronts one of her staff about stealing, Uncle Mac pays her a visit. He lets her know he has friends in high places who can stop her planned renovations. All she has to do is tell Grace to back off from her investigation. Mavis isn’t sure how Mac turned out the way he did — and she doesn’t understand why he seems to take pride in his sickness — but she assures him he won’t win. “You’re going down,” she says. Mac responds with evil laughter. Actual maniacal laughter. It’s as if the show wants us to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we’re watching a soap opera.
Grace has dinner with Noah and his fiancée Isabel, who plies Grace with probing questions. Isabel covers her inquisition with the sugar of self-deprecation, telling Grace she’s envious of her ability to pack up and leave her life behind. When she pointedly highlights Grace’s independence — Grace never married Sophia’s father — she skillfully manages to turn the compliment tart. Isabel makes it clear how different she and Grace are; she wants to make it known that she’s not a substitute Grace, but a better, improved model. Too bad, girl. Noah still has a soft spot for Grace.
As her awkward dinner with Noah and Isabel winds down, Danielle calls Grace. They meet and Grace tries to get Danielle to confirm her original story that Mac raped her. Danielle is too afraid to do so and weakly claims she lied about the whole thing to get attention. Obviously, Danielle has been coached. Grace tells her that her late sister Faith also recanted her story. If that hadn’t happened, maybe Mac wouldn’t have had the chance to hurt other girls. If Danielle tells the truth now, maybe they can finally stop him, but she’s just too scared.
Mac has used his association with the Greenleaf family to build connections to cover his tracks. It’s a sad, familiar tale: Man abuses his power and wealth to get away with heinous crimes, especially against women. He’s even willing to harm his sister and niece to get away with rape and molestation. So far, Greenleaf has handled this storyline with far more delicacy it has for Kevin’s sexuality, which is a clumsy mess. Kevin becomes nervous when a gay male couple pays too much attention to him during his karaoke performance. When he learns that Charity is pregnant, he tells Adrian, the man who works with him with the homeless outreach (and with whom he’s had some charged moments), as a way of indicating he’s super straight. Adrian gets the message and backs off, but Kevin looks torn.
At this point, it’s not clear if Kevin is gay or bi, if he’s questioning his sexuality or if he’s closeted. Whatever is going on, he’s living a lie, and it’s only a matter of time before the lie is exposed. Grace, who knows the truth can’t remain hidden forever, tells Noah the real reason why she left 20 years ago: She could no longer stand to be around Uncle Mac and the things he did. She told her parents about his assaults against Faith, but they didn’t believe her and Faith refused to tell the truth. She and Noah hold hands as he realizes she came back for revenge against Mac.
Meanwhile, Sophia and Zora sneak out during a lock-in and get high with a couple of boys from school. Jacob drinks before and throughout the dinner Kerissa arranged with members of the deacon board in order to win them over to their side. Kerissa realizes that her ambitious and controlling nature has ruined her marriage. During their karaoke date, Charity gets sloppy drunk and Kevin has to hold the pregnancy test as she tries to urinate on the test strip. Grace is the only Greenleaf sibling who doesn’t get drunk during the episode; perhaps that speaks to her level head and the control she must maintain to take down Uncle Mac.
Keith David infuses Bishop James with affability and power. It’s easy to see why Bishop is such a well-respected figure. He knows how to bring a smile to the faces around him, but he’s quick to impart wisdom laced with Biblical verses. Bishop James knows he can no longer afford to ignore the senate’s investigation into his finances, so he plans a trip to Nashville to talk to Senator Banks. Or maybe not: That private jet Lady Mae keeps talking about has too many problems to make the trip. Bishop James postpones his flight until he can get a new jet. The irony is as rich as the Greenleafs appear to be.
This episode slows down considerably, building more character background as it unfortunately leans into Kevin’s weak storyline. However, we did get confirmation that Bishop James and Lady Mae were told about Mac abusing Faith. How many more of Mac’s victims do they know about? I hope Greenleaf delves into the harmful nature of these secrets held for the sake of social status. After an episode that’s so heavy on exposition, the show will need more of that southern shadiness to keep its audience’s attention and reassert its soapy flavor.