At long last, we have made it to the season finale, and not an episode too soon — I feel like every Real Housewives franchise filmed in the middle of the pandemic has been unable to escape a crawl to the finish line, and the ladies of Potomac are no exception. I have a fair bit of empathy for production here — COVID-19 compliance has limited their filming capabilities and they are doing the best to make compelling programming out of what they’ve been given, and considering the fact that Robyn has committed to being Squidward all season, it was no small feat. That said, whatever psychedelics they were on convinced them that Potomac merited a four-part reunion need to be abandoned immediately; they are barely justifying it in Beverly Hills and this season was basically a True Crime docuseries. Welcoming a highly controversial (to put it lightly) entertainer to ask the cast questions is not a substantive enough reason to cut the episodes up outside of the ad sale revenue. But I digress.
It is finally time for Karen’s vow renewal, which is only highly anticipated in the head of Our Esteemed Ambassador of Surry County. By my estimation, half of the cast had to be blackmailed into entering this abandoned warehouse lot in Sterling, Virginia. Everyone else, however, is largely cringing at the idea of sitting at the same table with people they have lingering issues with. Candiace and Chris are on the outs with Ashley and Michael; Robyn and Gizelle are on the outs with Wendy; Robyn is also on the outs with her fiancé/roommate/shared-partner Juan at the moment. It’s a setup for another dinner party from hell, except now the food is mediocre wedding reception fare, which makes everyone all the more upset.
Before the festivities, Ashley and Michael get together with Robyn and Juan in a cursed attempt to reintegrate this six-foot gecko back into the series. Personally, if Michael does not want to be around these women, I am more than fine with that; the less screen time that sentient chalk outline has, the better. Nevertheless, we continue to be regaled by how insulted he is by his treatment from the rest of the group — save, of course, his good buddy Juan — without a hint of introspection of his own behavior. Yet again, we have a scene piling on Chris and Candiace’s financial dynamics, which Robyn tries to poo-poo as elitist but really doesn’t work on a show built on luxury and escapism. Plus, her best friend was just on The Real calling Candiace broke.
Inevitably, Ashley puts the brew down and begins earning her paycheck, digging away at the situation between Robyn and Juan. Listen, if it is a year later and you haven’t had a substantial conversation about the wedding or baby planning, then you probably don’t really want to do either, and that’s more than fine. But continuing to make this charade a plotline is a waste of all our eyes and ears. Juan, on his end, is really rankled at the reminder that he wasn’t a present father for his son’s infant years. While I get that he resents being beat over the head over things he wants to move past, part of family planning involves discussing active parenting, which includes making a renewed commitment to the life you want your partner to push out of their vagina. While Robyn may have been a season-long bathroom break, I am not so irritated by her as to forget that the man was unemployed for the first few seasons of this show.
The Bassett household, on the other hand, is busy helping Candiace chase her mid-thirties pop star dreams. Dorothy put on her best wig and wrap dress and went down with the couple to sign a distribution deal with Entertainment One. I’m a little perplexed by Candiace choosing to work with Omega, though — he has a reputation in the gospel circuit, so unless she is trying to collab with Mary Mary sometime soon, I’m not really clear how this is supposed to jump start her career.
The wedding renewal itself is chic enough, despite the exterior looking like a Home Depot Grand Opening and the stairs threatening to cause an epic fall à la Jason DeRulo at the Met Gala. Gizelle, for once, is not the worst dressed woman at the party; that trophy goes to Ashley Darby, who seems to be dressed for a night at The Park at Fourteenth. Wendy isn’t all that far behind, waddling around in a dress that is a size and a half too small. Candiace’s running commentary on the run of the show — the exterior, to the lack of a jumbotron, and acknowledging the dynamics at the table — is a welcome break from the tension; when wielded correctly, her witticisms can be quite enjoyable.
The Caucasians at the table, however, are never going to be able to come to terms. Michael doesn’t respect Chris whatsoever, and Chris can feel that, and therefore won’t bother to give him an apology for manhandling him last season (nor do I think he owes him one). Thankfully, everyone’s favorite boyfriend Juan comes in to broker an uneasy peace accord before sneaking off into a Lyft, leaving his fiancé to play her Squidward clarinet solo for the rest of the reception while Candiace and Chris get into yet another squabble about nothing.
Since it’s the finale, it’s only fair that I rate everyone’s performances for the season.
• Karen Huger: Campy theatrics, freshened up facelifts, a friendship with Macy Gray, and a vanity position to boot — Karen continued to lean into equal parts absurdity and incoherence while remaining entertaining, one wick at a time. Her vaccinated delirium is one for the record books, and her rivalry with Gizelle — and the fact that they never stay on the outs for very long, even though they always say some of the foulest things about each other imaginable — is what keeps this show afloat. They are the soap opera archetypes of this show, anchoring this franchise for another season. 7/10
• Ashley: Mrs. Darby committed to a mommy and me rebrand for her and her husband, and I’m unsure how well it worked out for her. She was potent in drive-by moments, but lengthy attention to her marriage and life was draining, cringeworthy, and traumatic. I curse the production team for repeatedly showing that scene of her and Michael at the Watergate hotel. She may have more value as a friend of the show moving forward rather than a full-time cast member; she can pump-and-dump mess alongside her breastmilk. 5/10
• Askale: It was a very slow start for our East African newcomer, and despite a few high-action moments as Candiace’s lackey, we were never properly introduced to Askale and her family, which was a disservice to her run. I fear it may be a one-season stint for her, despite how perfectly meme-able her reaction faces were; being able to mimic Macaulay Culkin’s gestures in Home Alone is not just enough cause for a second spin around the sun here. 4/10
• Wendy: The reintroduction of Zen Wen was a rollercoaster journey. The fashions were chaotic, and the reads were uneven, but she truly came into her own when she handled the Green-Eyed bandits during the Reasonably Shady event. She is still struggling with defining a narrative that makes sense, but hopefully she takes the time between seasons to recalibrate. She really needs to lower the prices of her candles, though — $45 is highway robbery. 6/10
• Robyn: I think Ms. Dixon needs to go straight from the reunion chair to a therapist’s chair and stay there. But I don’t think she needs to necessarily be back on this show. I am sorry, but she doesn’t seem to be happy, and being Giselle’s lackey is not a compelling enough reason to collect a paycheck. I would worry about removing her source of income for her dream house, but she said her silk caps are booming — and as the LulaRoe documentary taught me, people will literally buy and wear anything. I just can’t take another year of her soccer mom moping; not even the go-go music transitions can help uplift the mood. 3/10
• Gizelle: Despite Gizelle not having a storyline beyond failing to teach her daughter to drive, she managed to remain as messy as ever. She even managed to sneak in one last jab about Karen allegedly sliding into DMs before the credits rolled, involving herself in both Wendy and Candiace’s marriage, despite putting her family up in a safety hazard. However, her willingness to move the plot forward is only bested by her absolute lack of taste or tact; Gizelle Bryant is truly the result of what happens when pretty light-skinned women are never told that they aren’t making sense. Now we have pointless podcasts, and some of the most unintentionally hysterical TikTok’s ever. 5/10
• Candiace: Arguably the most contentious cast member of the season, Candiace attempted a soft rebrand but was felled by her own temper. Depending on who you ask, she was triggered by deep injustice or consumed by her own immaturity. No matter what, her antics just aren’t a good look, and she is increasingly losing allies on the show. Part of that is undoubtedly strategic, but I hope she can also look back and realize that part of this was additionally initiated by the poor boundaries she has set with her mother and work that out on a therapist’s couch and not on Twitter. Otherwise, I don’t see her lasting much longer; she can’t be both Tony and Carmela Soprano. Either embrace being the villain or work your aggression issues out and move forward. 4/10
• Mia: The newest full-time cast member was highly controversial in her freshman run, with her questionable games of telephone and her willingness to start mess with any and everyone. I found it refreshing; she was able to get into low-stakes chaos that harkened back to the glory days of old Housewives years. Her husband, however, is a boor on the level of Juicy Joe Giudice. She will need to get an immediate handle on his on-screen presence if she wants to continue to stay on this show, especially if she plans to continue to standoff with Candiace. Otherwise, I embrace her, clitoroplasty, big feet, and all. 6/10.
That’s all, folks. Enjoy the reunion!