Late last season on Greenleaf, Lady Mae, in the midst of a heated clash with Tasha Skanks, notices a painting of three women over Tasha’s desk in her office. It’s almost an overhead angle with the women’s stately, wide-brimmed hats figuring most prominently in the foreground. They are leaning slightly forward solemnly, almost in prayer. As season three of OWN’s upscale drama opens, Lady Mae, Charity and Zora are all at crossroads in their lives which threaten to destabilize not only them but all who surround them. Figuring prominently in the foreground, leaning into the future, they need the best prayers the black church can offer!
Lady Mae is reeling from the revelation that Bishop had an ongoing affair with her sister, Mavis. The veracity of Mavis’ account of her history with Bishop eventually comes into question. But, it is a moot point for the stubborn and strong-headed Lady Mae. She has decided she wants a complete life overhaul. She not only wants out of her high-profile marriage but may be starting her ministry, as well. Adding more fuel to the proverbial fire is the specter of the young, smart, well-heeled and well-off Rochelle Cross who is hellbent on getting her tentacles around the Bishop, who is doing a good job of resisting her charms so far. Bishop’s spirit is willing, his flesh, however, won’t hold out for too long. Lady Mae’s recalcitrance and constant displays of contempt may push him right into Rochelle’s waiting arms in the end. It’s never a good sign when a husband increasingly invokes the word “crazy” in reference to his wife.
Charity, newly divorced after discovering devastating news about her now ex, Kevin, is spiraling downward. Having not dealt with the emotional fallout of Kevin’s particular brand of betrayal, the loss of one of her children and the continuing subtle rejection and lack of respect from her family, she is increasingly erratic and spinning out of control. Now that she is responsible for the welfare of baby Nathan, as well, the consequences of her existential crises take on far greater importance.
Teenager Zora, who inexplicably took up with bad boy Isaiah last season, continues on her road to perdition; going from the run-of-the-mill teen rebellion into scary delinquency. It will be interesting to see, as the season progresses, why the writers chose Zora to be the exemplar of teen hormones and hubris run amok. After all, compared to her cousin, Sophia, she was much better off. Sophia spent much of her social life cruising the mall with frenemies before her move to Memphis. And, she came from a single parent home with a father who was only sporadically in her life and a distracted mother dogged by the trauma of her toxic relationship with Sophia’s maternal grandmother. Zora grew up in a wealthy two-parent household with an extended family rooted in the church and numerous substantial connections to the community. It’s Zora who displays the characteristics of the girl from the fractured household and increasingly so at the beginning of season three. Zora’s once close relationship with Sophia sadly continues to fray in the third season, even to the point of violence.
Greenleaf has always been one of television’s highest quality programs, but season three promises to top itself. One of the best things about the new season is its expansion into distinct households and clear antagonists in the vein of classic nighttime TV drama. Kevin has moved out and begun a new life apart from Charity with hunky lawyer Aaron in their apartment in Montgomery. Jacob and Kerissa continue to fashion a new life outside of the Greenleaf mansion and Calvary Church. Jacob has come into his own as head of his household and leader of his church, Triumph. And Grace spends a great deal of time at Darius’ place as they begin to solidify their relationship, while she simultaneously grapples with her position as a church leader and continuing an intimate relationship with Darius outside of marriage. In the periphery of it all, Tasha and Rochelle are positioned as a villainous duo. All these different locations enrich the dynamics of the show and provide fertile ground for the type of contrast and conflict between characters that Greenleaf does so well.
Dialogue has always been one of the biggest strengths that Greenleaf has; from the lowliest guest character to the grand monologues of Lady Mae, Bishop and Jacob. Greenleaf, this season though, seems to be giving its sister show Queen Sugar a run for its money in the visuals department. More of a cinematic feel marks season three of the epic series; the sets have always been wonderful, but the choices of camera angles, lighting and costume are spot-on as the season opens. Decked out in a rich panoply of greys, the ensemble of characters convey the death of multiple relationships and connections and the muddled states of mind as they each try to figure out their purpose and direction in life. Also, there are some incredible shots of Charity, Bishop, Zora and Lady Mae that magnify their states of loneliness, confusion, frustration and anger. The camera, in particular, adores Lady Mae, deftly capturing her disillusionment, isolation, rage and grief.
Bishop, meanwhile, is battling between love for Lady Mae, fear about the implications of a divorce from her and contempt for her seeming hypocrisy and recalcitrance. He’s also beginning to sense that although Ms. Cross is stunning, she is also a danger to the Greenleaf family. The question is, will that knowledge be enough to stem his overwhelming attraction to her? In addition to playing with fire with Rochelle Cross, he is also battling a $2 million bill for back taxes, a fact that becomes a crucial variable in how his relationship with Lady Mae plays out.
Bishop’s father/son struggle with Jacob also continues as the junior Greenleaf minister steps up his efforts to carve out an identity, sense of value and self-worth apart from his father. Finally getting some wins on his terms, Jacob has less need for approval and acceptance from the bishop. And, while he has toppled Basie Skanks, last season’s antagonist, he may have a much more formidable opponent in Tasha, Skanks’ beleaguered and estranged wife. She, along with Rochelle Cross, holds a deep grudge against the Greenleaf family. Jacob’s relationship with Kerissa, for the moment, is stable. Kerissa, for her part, has shed some of her defenses and grown less brittle and much warmer toward Jacob.
From what we can see so far, Greenleaf season three will be stronger from a cinematic and dramatic perspective than its previous seasons. No doubt Bishop and Jacob will continue to play pivotal roles in all of the developments. However, season three seems poised to have the female characters be the driving force in all that transpires in the Greenleaf mansion and beyond. There is a great emphasis on strong story arcs for the women with the potential for a lot of character growth. With Grace, Kerissa and especially Charity, expect some issues dealing with changes in the way they approach and handle motherhood as their circumstances and children evolve. These ladies are sowing high drama, and viewers will reap a blessed harvest!