Greenleaf has picked up so much steam, it’s on the verge of becoming a runaway train. It’s great that we don’t have to suffer through ridiculous obstacles or drawn-out storytelling before the family learns the truth about Mac, but there are still four episodes left in the season! How much story is left to tell? I’m worried about filler from here on out. With “The Broken Road,” two of the show’s most interesting story lines explode, while a third sets off a lonely firecracker.
Let’s get that little firecracker out of the way: Charity walks in on Kevin as he’s scrolling through the gay dating app. He’s so focused on the digital men in his hand that he barely has time to tuck the phone away, but Charity is still suspicious. After breaking down during a rehearsal, she confronts him in the church hallway, demanding to see his phone. She causes a bit of a scene and Kevin dismisses her outburst as being pregnancy-related. He manages to get away without giving up his phone and immediately deletes the app (which was on his home screen!) when he walks away.
Kevin is almost as sloppy as this subplot. It’s frustrating that Greenleaf doesn’t treat this story line with the same care it deploys when confronting intimate partner violence or sexual assault. Kevin hiding his sexuality is done in a more lighthearted way, like when the gay couple comically waves at him at karaoke and sends him a drink, or the way he helps Charity weed out choir director résumés by telling her to swipe right or left. It’s not funny that Kevin can’t be himself. It’s not funny that he might be ostracized for his sexuality. We’ve seen Charity support the gay choir director, but how will she react when she finds out her husband has been lying to her about himself? I doubt she’ll be as gracious and understanding.
Power dramas often have life-changing action happen at characters’ main place of business, like a law office, hospital, or newsroom. In Greenleaf, Calvary is the family business, which means drama happens all over the church as they prepares for David Nelson’s memorial. Deacon Connie expresses concern about how the shooting has affected the congregation. In a strangely prescient moment, Noah suggests having a law-enforcement friend from Orlando come up to provide training for mass shooting and hostage situations. This episode was filmed before the Pulse club shooting in Orlando, and the training is mentioned in reference to the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s a sad testament to how frequently these kinds of mass shootings occur.
Lady Mae wants all the armed security the church can get, but Bishop doesn’t want to fight fire with fire. She points out that he owns a gun, but he’s uncomfortable with the idea of an armed congregation. He agrees to Noah’s suggestion about mass-shooting preparedness and seems heartbroken to have to consider such an option.
Meanwhile, Noah tries to get Grace to lock down a date to give the police all the evidence she has on Mac. Basically, he doesn’t want it to ruin his wedding, which is mere days away. Grace assures him she’ll wait, but that flies out of the window when she shows Danielle’s taped testimony to Bishop. Noah tells Isabel about what he and Grace have been doing, and then Isabel goes to Grace’s office to express sympathy. She also admits she thought Grace and Noah had something going on, and Grace promises her that’s not the case at all. Despite those assurances, her tell-tale heart beats too loudly and Isabel listens. She goes back to Noah with an offer: If he admits he slept with Grace, they can go into their marriage with honesty. Noah hesitates, and the pause confirms Isabel’s worst fear. She tosses her ring at him and says the wedding is off. Isabel doesn’t want anything more to do with the Greenleafs, and it seems like she’s out of the picture for good.
In the meantime, Bishop is distraught after seeing what Danielle had to say, and it’s the finest acting Keith David has done on the show so far. It’s not often that David gets to show this level of emotion in his work. With that commanding voice and six-foot-two frame, he’s usually the omniscient narrator or an authority figure, even in comedies like the gone-too-soon Enlisted. Greenleaf gives him a chance to play a grieving, conflicted father, and it’s glorious to see him use the full range of his abilities.
From there, Grace tells Jacob, who immediately wonders about his own daughter. He admits he always knew Grace was telling the truth, but she tells him there was nothing he could do. He was a child. Jacob and Kerissa ask Zora if Mac was ever inappropriate with her. Zora is her usual carefree teenage self as she denies it, more concerned about being able to eat the pizza her parents offered to soften the subject at hand. Again, it’s a strange choice to introduce levity in this moment, but the show works hard to show Zora as a lovable scamp, so it follows her characterization.
It’s interesting that both Bishop and Jacob immediately believe Grace and Danielle’s testimony. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen play out far too often in high-profile cases of rape and abuse with female victims, the women’s lives are questioned more intently than the accused. In this case, it’s Lady Mae who needs to be convinced. She rushes off to see her brother, and he trots out a quick explanation for each woman and girl he’s been accused of molesting. Emotions run high as the turmoil brings them both to tears. Mac lays it on a bit too thick when he says he thinks of Faith every day, and that it’s a crime Faith is dead instead of Grace. Once again, Lynn Whitfield gives a beautiful performance as Lady Mae realizes her brother committed all of these horrible acts. Lady Mae never reveals her hand. She tells him she believes him and that she will work on Bishop to clear the air. When she leaves, though, both of them know he’s not the only liar. Mac breaks down as he realizes his life has come undone, and Lady Mae can barely walk, the weight of her brother’s deeds almost crippling her.
Lady Mae returns to Bishop, who declares they’ll wait until after the memorial and the wedding before they turn Mac in. (They still don’t know the wedding is off.) Lady Mae’s poker face is so strong, it’s hard to tell how sincere she is about handing her brother over to the police. Did she find out the game plan just so she could warn Mac? Or is she still in shock?
It’s unclear, especially when Bishop decides he doesn’t want to wait and grabs the gun from his desk. He goes to see Mac in his office, and tells him that he couldn’t fool his sister. It’s a tense scene: Bishop pulls out the gun, points it at Mac, and the episode cuts to black. Will Grace save her despicable uncle from her father’s bullet? Given how quickly Greenleaf tears through plot, we’ll find out soon enough.
The season has focused on Grace and her burden to trap Mac, but all the while, Bishop has grown overwhelmed. He is racked with guilt, obsessively thinking about how he could’ve saved Faith — and maybe all the other girls — had he listened to Grace. His personal and professional finances were almost exposed. His health is a major concern. And on top of all of that, he’s worried about the safety of his congregation. A person can only stand so much before he wants to take matters into his own hands.
Lady Mae warned Bishop that Grace would be the cause of his downfall, but hopefully she will be his savior. If anyone can stop him from committing an act of violence, she can. Greenleaf has done a good job of depicting the domino effect of violence. One cruelty leads to another, and faith alone cannot stop the cycle.