Greenleaf S2E1: A House Divided [Recap]
“I Think We’ll Continue this Conversation with Our Attorneys Present”
In the first few minutes of the episode we find the family patriarch, Bishop James Greenleaf, in a heated confrontation with the police who entered his home at the end of last season. The police, led by Lady Mae’s brother and resident pedophile Robert “Mac” McCready, have stormed the Greenleaf estate with an investigation into the ashes of Bishop’s first church, First Baptist, which met its demise by fire. Unfortunately for the Bishop, it’s much larger than a case of arson. The church caretaker died in the basement of First Baptist during the fire.
Once told he’s under investigation, Bishop questions if Mac is now free in exchange for his testimony against him. (Note: Mac was arrested last season in connection with child sexual abuse charges. It is revealed in S1 that Mac sexually abused Faith, Grace’s sister, who died under mysterious circumstances.) Bishop then learns that it is actually his dying father in law, the elder Mr. McCready, who is willing to drop dime. This is not surprising as it was the elder McCready who revealed the church fire and caretaker death in S1E12. Furious, Bishop begins to lay into the police about their willingness to pursue him while allowing a sexual predator to walk free.
“I Did What I Needed to Do”
As the police exit the Greenleaf estate, Grace confronts her Uncle Mac. Mac informs her that he tried to avoid doing this but after Bishop refused to testify on his behalf, he used his trump card in order to save himself. Like the sleazy slime ball he’s always been.
Away from the listening ears of the law Lady Mae confronts Bishop, asking him is this is the secret he’s been keeping from her all these years. He tells her that he had to as he didn’t wish to implicate her but maintains his innocence of intentionally killing the caretaker. Lady Mae glares at him in her signature icy stare before striding away from him, undoubtedly to plan her next scheme in order to protect her investment.
We exit the Greenleaf home and find Mavis McCready, Lady Mae’s sister and arch nemesis, awakening from a drunken stupor. After having been forced to close her blues club in season one, it appears that Mavis has fallen into a deep depression replete with alcohol abuse. She receives a call from a former beverage distributor and she snaps and tells him that she no longer has a club before hanging up the call. Seems like the bottle isn’t the only thing Mavis is taking comfort in. We’re introduced to Alonzo, the man keeping her body and her bed warm. Alonzo, an aspiring blues musician, seems to be nothing but bad news and an apparent OxyContin user. He offers Mavis a pill before he pops his own but she refuses, seeming to draw the line of her dependencies at alcohol and sex.
“I’ve Never So Many People Forcibly Uninspired”
Another sermon, another serving of shade by Lady Mae for her daughter Gigi. Gigi has just wrapped up another service at the helm of the Calvary pulpit while her embattled father watches from the sidelines. We learn that it has been three months since the police began their investigation of Bishop and since Calvary has been under Gigi’s temporary leadership.
Pledges and offerings are down 40% and not a single deacon board member has made a financial pledge to the church, a fact that Lady Mae places squarely on Gigi’s shoulders. Grace contends that it is not her but her father’s refusal to speak clearly and publicly about the allegations against him. Lady Mae tells her “it’s your pride, your terrible pride, that will be the ruin of this family.”
“He Wasn’t Supposed to Be There”
We return to the Greenleaf estate and find Lady Mae in her daily ritual of beautification in her bathroom. Even in this scene, we are not allowed to see Mae beyond the well-made exterior. Despite being early morning, she’s already fully dressed and made up with no place in particular to go. Bishop joins her in the bathroom and asks why she’s up so early. Lady Mae replies that she couldn’t sleep due to a reoccurring nightmare. I presume the nightmare is Bishop being convicted and their entire lives falling apart. Bishop tells her “he wasn’t supposed to be there,” referring to the caretaker who perished. It’s revealed that Bishop intentionally set fire to the previous church for the insurance money. Despite his visible distress, Lady Mae snatches away from Bishop’s physical touch and offers no consolation. Ever concerned with keeping up appearances, Bishop and Lady Mae join the rest of the family for breakfast as if nothing has happened.
We finally see Jacob Greenleaf, the prodigal son with a loose trouser snake, for the first time in the episode. At the close of last season, Jacob accepted a pastoral position at a competitor ministry, Triumph Church led by Pastor Basie Skanks. The tension is thick between the elder and young Greenleaf men and Lady Mae attempts to cut it with the knife of idle conversation to no avail.
We also finally see Charity, the youngest daughter of the Greenleaf clan, who is well into her pregnancy. We learn that she’s going to be induced soon during her breakfast conversation with Minister of Music Carlton Cruise and his husband (played by T.C. Carson, best known as Kyle Barker on Living Single!!). Charity, at the close of last season, was hospitalized for stress and possible miscarriage. The stress? She learned that her husband is (at least) bicurious and has been on dating apps cruising for men to (possibly) explore his sexuality with. Tragically, only one twin survived her medical crisis and hospitalization.
Forgive & Forget?
We return to Grace and her daughter Sophia engrossed in conversation. I assume Sophia has returned for a summer break to be with her Mama since her Dad was awarded custody last season but this wasn’t addressed in the episode. Sophia questions if Gigi believes in the possibility of Bishop’s innocence in the ongoing investigation. Gigi retorts that it’s not about her belief but rather his silence and unwillingness to seek forgiveness. Sophia challenges, stating that you cannot seek forgiveness for something you didn’t do.
“I’d Rather Eat Glass”
Grace and Sophia bump into Lady Mae on their way to the groundbreaking ceremony for Triumph 2, the second location for Triumph Church which *happens* to be across the way from Calvary. When asked if she’d be attending, Lady Mae walks away, retorting that she’d rather eat glass than attend the ceremony of the rival ministry. Messy.
The groundbreaking ceremony is in full swing as Bishop, Gigi, and Sophia join the crowd. “Intentional” by Travis Greene is performed by a Great Value Bruno Mars praise team leader [fun fact: my girl Tina of Stage Ready is in part of the praise team in this scene. With the big hair. YAAAAS HUNNY!] before Jacob gives a rousing introduction to Pastor Skanks. Basie Skanks then makes the surprising announcement that Jacob will actually be serving as the campus pastor of Triumph II. The ceremony is then closed out by Kirk Franklin singing “1,2,3 Victory” from his album “Losing My Religion”.
After Lady Mae declines to attend the groundbreaking, we find her exiting Calvary and heading to her car where she’s confronted by Mac. Mac, already pissed off about finding a sex offender flyer with his photo on his car, is all too happy to inform his dear sister that Bishop will be officially charged in the coming days. Mac states that he’s only here to tell her since they’re still family after all. Furious, Lady Mae exclaims “Family? After what YOU did, we’ll never be family again.” Mac wryly responds that her claims are true “until you need me again.”
Mavis, looking for round two of her drinking binge, goes to the bar of an old friend with Alonzo. We learn that her friend isn’t there but that he’s instructed the bartender on duty not to serve her anymore. Like a true alcoholic, Mavis finds a loophole. She asks the barkeep to serve Alonzo instead and “make it a double.” She drinks herself into another stupor and we see her slumped over. After presumably being stirred enough to leave the bar, we see Mavis back at home with a sleeping Alonzo. She picks up the bottle of OxyContin on his night stand and appears to contemplate taking the pill.
“I Don’t Preach Perfection, I Preach Grace”
Bishop, like a true preacher, is chomping at the bit to preach the gospel again. Confounded, Grace asks her father how he expects to get up there and make an impactful sermon in the midst of his troubles. Bishop responds, “I don’t preach perfection, I preach grace.” It is an amazingly poignant moment that invokes reflective thought for the in-tune viewer.
Grace seeks to get to the bottom of the lack of pledges from the Deacon Board. We find her in a meeting with Deacon Connie Sykes who’s giving us First Sunday “new wig, who dis?” teas in this scene. We learn that the board is pissed and offended by none other than Minister of Music Carlton who is an openly gay man. Connie states that the board is upset because the silence of the leadership appears as a co-sign of something they “know is a sin.” In a later scene, we see Carlton and his husband hand in hand in a Sunday service. Before departing to join the platform to lead praise and worship, Carlton is kissed on the cheek by his husband. The deacon board looks on in disgust and Grace looks on at them in confusion.
“You Were Always Sweet to Me”
As the elder McCready lay dying, part of his last wishes are fulfilled when one of his “girls” shows up to visit him. Lady Mae, dressed to kill in all black, stands at the foot of her father’s hospital bed in thought before gently waking him from his slumber. Lady Mae, who vocally expressed her disdain for her father in prior episodes, is uncharacteristically kind to him in this scene. Gently wiping his brow, her father remarks that she was “always sweet” to him. He then pulls her closer to him and kisses her intimately, revealing the incestuous relationship of abuse between the two. Physically repulsed, Lady Mae rolls her eyes as the kiss begins but indulges him nonetheless for the sake of her ulterior motives.
“They Dropped the Charges”
Bishop gets the call he’s been waiting for. The District Attorney’s office informs him that they’re dropping all the charges. It appears that Henry McCready is no longer willing to testify “out of the blue.” Relieved, James turns to embrace and kiss his wife. The kiss between them, as with all physical affection between he and Mae, is strained and awkward.
In an odd turn of continuity, we see the Greenleaf estate alight with festivity to welcome baby Nathan. Who the hell is Nathan? Charity and Kevin’s son whom she apparently gave birth to during a commercial break. The housekeeper informs Mae that there is someone at the gate and, without asking who, Mae tells her to allow them in. As we await their entrance, we’re treated to another terse interaction between Jacob and Bishop. Mae implores Bishop to acknowledge his son to which he replies, “unless he’s apologizing, we’ve got nothing to discuss.” Well damn, Bishop. Tell us how you really feel.
“Get Out of My House!”
Our anticipated guest arrives and it’s none other than an inebriated Mavis. She comes in the door raising hell, confronting Bishop about attempting to intervene on her behalf. It appears that James spoke out against “Bad News” Alonzo and Mavis ain’t having it. Mavis tells him that maybe he just doesn’t want anyone else to have her, alluding to a former romantic/sexual relationship between the pair for second time in this episode. Nonetheless, that tidbit escapes Mae who’s seeing red at this point.
Mae goes off on Mavis, demanding that she leave immediately. Mavis, in anger, reveals the source of their rivalry and tension. Mavis rattles on about how Mae’s mother refused to intervene when her own mother was “beating my ass every night.” We learn the details of Mavis’ physical abuse in their childhood home. Mae responds that Mavis “had your hell and I had my own.” Mavis retorts that he certainly doesn’t seem that way since she was always “getting new dresses and taking trips to Nashville with Daddy.” It appears that Mavis is unaware that her sister was paying for those trinkets with her body, innocence, and sanity.
“Judgment Day is Coming.”
Free from the mire of litigation, Bishop resumes his role at the helm of the pulpit much to Grace’s dismay. After service, we find Bishop in thought and reflection his chambers. Shrouded in light, Pastor Basie Skanks bursts through the double doors of the office with a wry grin. Skanks greets him in no uncertain terms of disdain, stating that he’s “never seen someone go from the papers to the pulpit.” It is then revealed that it was Skanks’ father who perished in the fire set by Bishop. Hell-bent on revenge, Pastor Basie Skanks promises that smoke will be the only thing to rise to the heavens from Calvary once his mission is complete. The episode ends with a dazed and confused Bishop staring nervously at the closed doors of his office. We hear the opening lyrics of a song reminding us that “judgment day is moving through the land,” setting the tone for the tumultuous season that lies ahead.