WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Set 18 months after the events of the first series, season two features Nola Darling no longer in three relationships with three different men, but in one relationship with her girlfriend. She wants to become a better painter, be a better romantic partner and to make more money.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
This season sees protagonist Nola Darling dealing with some of the same issues and a whole of different ones from the first season, but season two is problematic in a lot of ways and feels more like director and creator Spike Lee is using Nola as a poor disguise to express his contempt with the world than a true reflection of an independent black woman in modern Brooklyn.
I loved the first season of the show, which is based on Spike Lee’s 1986 film of the same name and adapted for a modern audience. It featured Nola in a polyamorous relationship with three different men (Greer, Jamie and Mars) and a dalliance with a woman named Opal.
This season, Nola has actually formed a relationship with Opal and been with her for a while, seems very happy and is a secondary parental figure to Opal’s daughter Skylar. The season starts off with showing how fun it is now that it’s summer in Brooklyn and the joy their little family is having together.
But then the relationship ends pretty early on in the season, which feels like Nola was given a happy ending and then had it taken away for the sake of a script. You get a sense that Nola has developed as a character, but is still fundamentally a work in progress, but you never get to see any of her development on screen and are just left with the fact that she’s not as put together as she seems. It seems an odd angle to take with the character, but with Spike Lee behind the direction of every episode and involved in all of the creative writing process, it doesn’t surprise me that this man who has mostly used women to create storytelling opportunities for the men in his works and not as fully fledged people didn’t get it quite right.
I expected a bit more from a woman who is openly polyamorous, pansexual and sex-positive, but Nola still seems like she’s the mouthpiece for an angry, sexist black man who doesn’t quite know about unlearning, toxicity and being problematic yet.
I do like that Nola uses her break up as a catalyst for her journey of self-expression and didn’t just go back to sleeping with one or all three of her former lovers simply to find comfort.
Unfortunately, the men who were previously in Nola’s life don’t feature as much (except for Mars) and don’t have much to do with the storyline, leaving you wondering why the writers bothered to include them at all.
Clorinda and Shemekka also make a comeback this season, and Clo is still pandering to men she shouldn’t be, while Mekka gets a little bit of justice for what happened to her in season one, but unfortunately, the show still fails to develop either of the characters properly.
The politics in the show are messy, at best. The show steers away from witty satire or using comedy as art and instead focuses on Lee’s issues with politics and gentrification, etc.
The show treats non-American black people weirdly. While there is a beautiful episode where Nola goes to Puerto Rico, and you get to experience some wonderful culture through the screen, there are issues with other characters. The character formerly known as Papo now wants to be called Divine after his stint in prison and says he realised he was "more than Dominican, but also a black man". This feels like an odd statement for this character to make and also it isn’t explained how prison made him come to this conclusion when he’s probably lived his entire life with people who are from similar backgrounds as Brooklyn is known for being multicultural.
Then, there’s the really big controversy from this season.
This tweet went viral:
It shows a scene in the show where Nola is talking to a British Nigerian artist about how British black actors are "cheap" and how they basically steal roles from American black actors and also says some very problematic things. She also makes fun of Chiwetel Ejiofor and John Boyega’s (who responded by calling the show trash on Twitter) names.
Now, this conversation could have highlighted the fact that there is very little space for people of colour, especially women of colour, in Hollywood and tried to discuss the issue. Instead, it again seems like Lee is using Nola to air his grievances. In fact, one of the lines feel like it comes straight out of Spike's mouth verbatim.
Let’s not even get started on the horrible "British" accent that this actor tried to pull off and the fact that they made him terribly cliché and nearly worship Nola instead of calling her out on her bullshit.
While I still love certain aspects of the show and how it celebrates blackness, it tries and fails to bring queer black women to the forefront and needs some work (and perhaps more female voices) before it really reaches the potential that season one showed and also failed to grasp.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: