Originally published on TheRoot.com
Being Mary Jane is back for a fourth season, and Mary Jane Paul is still pompously lacking in self-awareness. While we open to M.J.’s 6-inch heels sauntering down the hallway to a sexy song, it doesn’t take long for M.J. to almost completely unravel in her most vulnerable space: her sexuality and pursuit of love.
The show picks up by fast-forwarding a year from where the finale left off. The cliffhangers of Niecy’s assault by the police during an erroneous traffic stop and Patrick’s pill-popping straining his relationship with his father, Paul Sr., who is grappling with the financial strains of upholding the family, set up the fourth season to be a continuation of the complex motifs of black livelihood that Being Mary Jane is known for subtly tackling. But now we have a major shift in the new season, with Kara and M.J. relocating to New York City after leaving SNC amid scandal, one voluntarily and the other involuntarily.
What does this move to New York mean for Kara’s character arc? We last saw her walking the tightrope of balancing being a career-minded mother and pointedly passing up working on an additional project with M.J. so that she could spend more time with her two sons. But now she’s back in her hometown, missing planned weekends to see her sons, who stayed behind in Atlanta.
Will we revisit the contentious relationship Kara had with the new Latina in the office, Marisol, that had Kara being investigated by human resources for harassment? Or has the “You’re no longer a token; is this new girl a threat?” storyline shifted to M.J. as the newly minted segment host on the daytime talk show Great Day USA, with her longtime idol, Ronda Sales?
We were left with quite a few questions from the last season, but this season opener presented so many more scratch-your-head, “Is this chick serious?” questions that for now, we need to move on to the present.
M.J. is so lost in her pursuit of love that she’s willing to shell out $20,000 to a matchmaker two days after moving to NYC. Is she really begging ol’ girl to take her $20K with immediacy, turning down the advice to wait a few months?
With desperation and bountiful disposable income, M.J. cannot write that check fast enough. The prospect of working with a $20,000 matchmaker, whose services come with stringent rules, leads M.J. to the club with Kara to pick up a guy for the night. This scene was a caricature of itself, with two professional women, one with a highly public job, only needing a wink and a nice smile to bed a man. Anyone who has lived in NYC knows how quickly degrees of separation become nil, especially for those in media.
She’s turned off because one man recognizes her, so M.J.’s willingness to throw caution and concern for her public persona to the wind because of a British accent is quizzical. Somehow, M.J., after initiating with the Londoner with coy confidence, unravels in the midst of acting out her sexual fantasy, and when dude senses M.J.’s discomfort, we have a bright spot of consent in the fog of bad decisions. However, before we even get to a name, M.J. is asking the guy to “say you love me,” because … fantasy. He says it, and we all collectively sucked the air between our teeth.
With a cameo from New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and a nod to his failed 2015 Senate bill addressing the school-to-prison pipeline, M.J. is on her toes in the arena where she knows how to keep it together—her career.
The setup for a showdown with Ronda is obvious before she and M.J. ever have a real conversation, but, as with the ever-conniving CeCe (played by Loretta Devine) from last season, it will be interesting to see how this relationship challenges, helps and/or hurts M.J. Ronda may have “regrets that are older than Garrett,” but the young white boy is the executive producer whose moves are predictable to both us and Ronda.
The London lover pops up on M.J., on live television, on her first official day on the job. How far can one cock her head to the left and ask, “What you doing?” Unannounced and indiscreet, girl, nah.
Lee Truitt is persistent no matter the direct curves thrown at him, and M.J. is unhinged, self-centered and foolish enough to pop up on him at his comedy show, after the matchmaker denies her service.
If someone paid you $20K for your services and you’d already deposited the check, how far would that person have to go for you to voluntarily give her a full refund and tell her to go about her merry way? The matchmaker so succinctly read Mary Jane in a message she needs to hear—though it will probably take her all season to receive: “You got some blind spots when it comes to self-knowledge. […] you’ve got more work to do on yourself.”
M.J. decides to put in that work with Lee instead. Now that names are exchanged, the second night together isn’t such a bad decision. M.J. may let Lee linger.
Back in Atlanta, Niecy and family are dealing with the aftermath of the police assault. With the prospect of a hefty lawsuit payout, Niecy’s baby daddy appears to be doing just enough to be in her good graces. He was smirking hard for the swindle. We’ll have to pray over Niecy’s growth and maturity, hopefully spearheaded by her father, Patrick, who finally offers the apology and acknowledgment that Niecy spent the past three seasons pining for. Slow clap for the first appearance of emotional maturation on this episode.
For all that M.J. lacks in emotional maturity in the pursuit of love, Being Mary Jane always presents the opportunity for self-reflection on some of our bad decisions and less-than-emotional moments. Mary Jane pushes it so far that there’s room for all of us to consider when we’ve done something similar and how we can and should do better.
In the first season without Mara Brock Akil at the helm, we have to wait to see how this season, in its new city, sets up the bevy of complex characters to initiate dialogue and teach us some lessons.