The Real Housewives of Potomac
At long last, we have arrived at the finale, and, more than anything, I am feeling a sense of relief that this experience is over. This season was easily the third worst of the franchise following one and five. The biggest problem with this season, however, is that it was largely unpleasant and unenjoyable. It has become so palpable that these women barely tolerate one another and navigate a hierarchy of alliances for camera time and favorable story lines that there is no longer a show worth watching. It’s just vindictive, cyclical arguments that go nowhere, and no amount of White Lotus–style gimmicks from the production team in post can salvage that reality if they don’t get the cast back on track.
Of course, the two-ton elephant in the room is newlywed Robyn Dixon. After all her evasiveness and nonchalance over the years, she wasted our time all season pretending to plan a wedding in Jamaica that she, of course, ended up not doing. Instead, she reverted to her original plan of a wedding on the Maryland shore, going so far as to craft invitations despite no one being invited other than her parents, children, and the hired talent and event staff. I can’t even finish rolling my eyes at the charade of it all when we are hit with the breaking news alert that Robyn had not only been aware of Juan’s alleged indiscretions before season seven but it had also delayed their original wedding planning, and they chose to handle it privately with Gizelle’s knowledge. The podcast duo chose to make the details a Patreon exclusive — meaning most of us just waited until someone spilled all the details on Reddit — which stated that Juan was communicating with someone during the pandemic on Instagram because he was bored and needed attention. The woman messaged him about losing her wallet while she was in town … and Juan allegedly put his credit card down and walked away from the hotel.
That is the story Robyn is choosing to tell us, or the story she is choosing to believe, and it’s as flimsy as all the stories Karen invents about her personal life. But, honestly, if Robyn wants to recommit to a serially noncommittal partner who has less money than when he was an NBA prospect, who am I to stop her? The tragedy of this show is that all the women value partnership above self-empowerment and weaponize singlehood as a failing, and I can’t lead any of them to the light. What is more critical to me is how this crisis in Robyn’s life drastically affected the show and exposed its weak points.
It is now clear that Robyn’s uncharacteristic activation this season was her being on guard against her personal life being exposed, and Gizelle was also working on running cover and ensuring that other story lines moved to the forefront. As a result, Chris and Candiace, Wendy and Mia, and Karen all got collateral damage. They are responsible for handling their stories appropriately, but the implications are still frustrating. Karen’s story line was essentially a rehashing of years-old drama spiked up for extra sensation; Chris and Candiace took on collateral damage and were told they were being dramatic for laying out the implications of what was being said about Chris Bassett among the women; Wendy would get iced out over minor indiscretions while Karen would be harangued over her refusal to engage with Charrisse. Meanwhile, Gizelle, who was dealing with a legitimate health crisis that affects a significant amount of Black women, barely acknowledged her real life whatsoever, as is par for the course. It’s an elaborate game of reality-TV three-card monte, in which Robyn is the shill and Gizelle is the dealer. Moreover, Robyn’s preeminent season-long fear that she would be “exposed” showcases just how the format of the show has devolved. The women are no longer interested in taking control of their narratives and setting up organic stories that humanize one another and endear fan bases to them; they are exclusively focused on setting one another up for nasty reads and takedowns. It amounts to a tension that is increasingly void of any camaraderie to balance out the harsh moments.
This conundrum seeps throughout the finale. Everyone is supposed to be celebrating Candiace’s video-release party, but no one seems to care except Candiace’s actual friends (and Askale, who originally came on the show as Robyn’s friend but doesn’t acknowledge her at this point). It’s a triumphant and emotional moment for Candiace and an opportunity for her and Chris to show a united front. Gizelle can barely contain her pettiness over the whole affair; she is expecting this to be a moment for her to get an opportunity to get Chris to genuflect to her on-camera before the season wraps — as is Ashley, which is the most bizarre read of the room possible. Ashley defies Candiace’s wishes to have a conversation that Chris is not prepared to have in a celebratory environment. Saying that Chris “would be open to having a conversation” does not mean “The next time I see you, I will run you down and demand that you address every single gripe I have right this second for the cameras with the intent of squeezing a confession out of you.” It is purposely attempting to antagonize someone who has been defending their reputation under the guise of semantics, and it is such a terrible tone to end the season on.
Karen is in a never-ending paradox. Somehow her marriage deeply matters to the group, though it does not matter whatsoever to Ray, who couldn’t find a fuck to give about any of the allegations they hurled his wife’s way for years. If it didn’t matter to him, and if none of these girls trust her, why did they bother her when she doesn’t want to talk to them? The group pestered her about Charrisse, which is beyond silly. How do you prove you didn’t go to town with someone in the bathroom? Time-stamped CCTV footage? Mia is choosing to jump ship and plant her flag with the green-eyed bandits for now despite Karen being the one who consistently gave her a heads-up as to when they were trying to set her up earlier in the season over her health issues. Unluckily for her: Her final screen says, “Mia’s health remains stable — unlike her finances.” Maybe Robyn can help guide her back to financial success again.
I sincerely hope Potomac takes the time to do some tinkering in the off-season. I am not in the camp that is foaming at the mouth for Robyn to get fired (though I wouldn’t be opposed to a demotion), largely because a season of her reaping just desserts next season might be worth it. Another year of vendettas, agendas, and manipulation, however, is just unwatchable television. It made Beverly Hills nearly unbearable, and I am sorry, but if the women cannot find common ground, then they some need to move on to greener pastures and start doing sponsored IG posts. Being on a cast is a collaborative dynamic, not a self-promotional tool. Shows like Married to Medicine and The Real Housewives of New York, at their best, understood how to navigate the ebbs and flows of friendship dynamics. It is what is making Miami work so well on Peacock right now: The devastating story line of a crumbling marriage is not sucking all the air out of the room because the group is still invested in connecting over absurdities and low-stakes escapism. Those minute details help round out the women as humans. Potomac (and the other franchises) would all be well served to remember that and stop reaching for extreme reactions from the fan bases out of a viral read, accusation, or moment.
• I mentioned that the two worst seasons are one and five. The first season required a reboot after being bogged down in etiquette nonsense, and the fifth (despite the attention it brought to the show) was weighed down by the fracas of the Monique-Candiace fisticuffs and castmates refusing to film with one another.
• Gizelle desperately needs to put her daughters in sex-education courses. They have a shockingly sparse understanding of their reproductive systems. I audibly gasped when one of the twins asked how she peed from her fibroids.
• Ashley making every terrible choice possible in her divorce continues to shock me. I convinced myself she had to have a strategy in mind or some upper hand or leverage over her controlling ex. I was so wrong. What a shame. I’m happy she’s out of the house, at least.
• Mia misrepresented the incident with Wendy. What a shocker.