Y'all know how it goes: thoughts on episode 4 after the jump. As always, reviews of previous episodes can be found here.
I can't tell if the opening Nene fashion show scene is supposed to be over the top or if it's being played straight. Either way, it's an embarrassment, particularly for the sisters forced to wear "Nene's" tacky ass, ill-fitting clothing.
To be fair, Leslie Jordan's little fashion show is equally as tacky so it's not quite the typical make-fun-of-ghetto-black-people-even-as-you-want-the-audience-to-identify nonsense that is pretty much everything on television these days that has black women in it. Everyone, regardless of class, does get to be tacky tonight, which is just … irritating.
But, interestingly (if annoyingly), that opening scene encapsulates everything that is wrong with BET's version of The Game. Here we have an episode that tries to put both Melanie and Derwin in their place after they spent all of last season acting like completely different people because Derwin is now the franchise player – something that is actually quite necessary to resituate them as the heart and soul of the show and the audience's entry point into the world – but the show has such contempt for these characters now that it all just falls flat. Tasha Mack, in particular, has become a complete and total disaster of a character.
On the CW version, we were meant to identify with Tasha's ingenuity and her fierce determination to overcome all that she had been through. Her ghetto fabulous qualities were funny, but we weren't ever laughing at her. BET Tasha is the joke. Poor Wendy Raquel Robinson. Tasha is now always and only loud, abrasive, and a caricature. The show has lost sight of everything about Tasha that made her relatable and true and human. Tasha was ghetto, sure, but she was never tacky. CW Tasha would never have tried to put on a fashion show with Nene Leakes.
So as the "take Melanie down a notch" storyline progressed, I found myself not really caring about either one of these awful women – bastardized versions of beloved characters that they are. Ostensibly, we are supposed to be supporting Tasha because we know Melanie to be a passive aggressive, bougie princess who really isn't doing anything with her life other than Sunbeams and because Tasha is the serious business woman, but Tasha's such a cartoon now I just want to mute the television when she's onscreen. How can I possibly care about either of them?
The stench of that part of the A-story almost ruined the other part of it involving Derwin's struggles to be an effective Sabers' captain. This story worked in every way because it never lost sight of the fact that Derwin has never been a natural leader and has always been the corniest dude around. I buy totally that someone like Kwan Kirkland (played by the stunningly beautiful, and seems-to-be-able-to-act, Charles Michael Davis) would see right through Derwin's attempts to be big man. I also buy that it wouldn't take much for Kwan to punk him in front of the team. Pooch Hall had some nice moments in this storyline.
But will any of this stick? Are Melanie and Derwin gonna get off their high horses and be the people we fell in love with five years ago, but more mature? I mean, if not, then what's the point, right? There's a mean-spirited tone to the characterizations this season that is only surpassed by the nonsense they put Malik Wright through last season. If the characters don't change or grow from this stuff, then they are just being beaten to a bloody pulp by the writers for no reason.
Melanie needs to find purpose in her life. Derwin needs to recognize that though he's the franchise player, he still needs Malik (and probably Jason in some way) to really lead the Sabers.
And Tasha Mack just needs to be a human being again.
- Coby Bell sells every moment of his B-story even though the writing in it was a bit hamfisted. He has that great reaction to Kel Mitchell (who is disarmingly good playing a character straight) calling him a "brother." When he says he'd never been called that before, it was momentarily affecting. He's equally as good playing the joke – and the emotion underlying it – in the store scene, as well as the final scene with Brandy. Bell is doing amazing work despite everything going on around him. It's astonishing, really.
- That said, I am intrigued by Jason's newfound self-reflection on race, but I'm not sure it really made sense to play him quite so in denial. Not sure that's really who Jason Pitts has been, but I'll go with it for now.
- That cell phone gag really undercut Wendy Raquel Robinson's ability to play her final speech right. It was such a silly writing and directing decision, that she had no choice but to go broad. Writers – stop mistreating the lovely and talented Robinson.
- Always nice to see Leslie Jordan, even if this character is essentially Beverly Leslie. But who doesn't love Beverly Leslie?
- I said it above but it bears repeating: The actor, Charles Michael Davis, playing Kwan Kirkland is fine as frog hair.
What did y'all think of Episode 4? Do you care about Melanie and Derwin? What do you think about how Tasha Mack is being written?