Adultery, cover-ups and greed are running rampant at Calvary Worship, a mega church in Memphis Tennessee. It was her sister’s suspicious death that brought Grace home after 20 years, but there’s much more that moved her to stay; this is what we find out early in OWN’s new series, Greenleaf.
Greenleaf premiered June 21st with a 2 day event. With this new addition and the announcement of shows to come this fall (like Queen Sugar), it feels like OWN is evolving; it feels more “grown up”.
The show is sure to be controversial, exploring the scandal that at times comes in the black church- or any church really. The idea that culture is relevant to this story is founded. Often, misdeeds in the black church are often covered up and overlooked I'm sure that other cultures aren't exempt. From my perspective, this is the only time we've seen it play out on television. Notably, what comes to mind are the Curtis Black series book, by author Kimberla Lawson Roby.
The cast is strong with this one, with Oprah lending her own star power as Aunt Mavis, the family black sheep. Grace Greenleaf is played by Merle Dandridge, the central character. Keith Davis is Bishop James Greenleaf (dad), Lynn Whitfield plays Lady Mae Greenleaf (mom), Lamman Rucker is Jacob (brother) and Gregory Alan Williams is Uncle Mac; all the helm of a great extended cast.
WARNING: Spoilers of episode one ahead.
Episode One: A Time to Heal
In episode one, we learn that Grace Greenleaf has been estranged from her family for 20 years. She is unmarried and lives in Phoenix with her daughter, Sophia. Although she used to preach at Calvary Church, alongside her father, she doesn’t preach anymore. In fact, there’s a possibility they’re moving to New York, as Grace has interviewed for a job with 20/20.
Grace and Sophia are home to honor her sister, Faith, who has passed away. We learn that even though it's been a long time, not everyone is happy to see Grace. The only people who seem genuinely happy to see her are the Bishop and her Aunt Mavis. Her mother is cautious, thinking Grace has only come to cause her problems (nice to see you too, Mom!). Lady Mae is relieved when Grace assures her she’s only there for two days. Her brother, Jacob, is too self involved to care either way, since he spends most of his time at the dinner table texting. Jacob’s wife, Kerissa, seems to care TOO much that Grace is home. Kerissa has big plans for her husband (like taking over the church one day) and Grace is a threat to those plans. Grace’s youngest sister, Charity, wants nothing to do with Grace; not even for her to side with her on trying convince her father to preach a series to the congregation. Even Uncle Mac has issues with Grace. but she isn’t standing for any shade from him; making it well known that he is the reason that Faith took her own life.
Sophia makes fast friends with her cousin, Zora. We quickly learn that Zora is into some shady things as she offers Sophia Ritalin to snort practically the first moment they’re alone. While Sophia and Zora are off (unknowingly to Grace) getting high, Grace goes over to Beale Street to see Aunt Mavis.
Through Aunt Mavis’ and Grace’s conversation we learn that Faith committed suicide. No doubt the act stemmed from the fact that Uncle Mac molested her as a child. Not only that, another 15-year old girl came forward just recently accusing Mac of rape. However, she ended up recanting her story to the police and the family left the church. Mavis tells Grace that everyone knew about Faith, and they know about this new girl, too. 190You are the only one who can do anything about it Aunt Mavis tells her.
As if that isn’t enough scandalous mess going on with this family; Calvary is being investigated. All Tennessee megachurches are being scrutinized over their tax exempt status. Bishop isn’t trying to hear any of that, though. He’s going to stonewall the authorities any way that he can. Meanwhile, Jacob is having an affair with Bishop’s secretary…right in the church. Like service has started, Charity is singing her heart out for the Lord…and Jacob’s in the backroom getting his freak on. I guess we know who he was texting during dinner!
During Bishop’s sermon, Grace is reminded of her relationship with God. What her Dad is saying is reaching her, connecting with her to the point that she comes to the altar; finally accepting what she’d been running from all these years. Her father is thrilled and as he’s talking to Grace, Uncle Mac comes to whisper in his ear.
Bishop leaves Grace to announce that they have new members who’ve just so happened to win the Powerball. They’ve donated a generous $250K to Calvary. Suddenly, Grace is pulled back to her harsh reality. ALL. THIS. HAPPENED. IN. ONE. EPISODE! This show is worthy of a weekly recap. I've already followed the cast on Twitter and I'm ready to see how this story unfolds. I just know it's going to be good and step on some toes!