I confess the episodes of "Greenleaf" stayed stacked up on my DVR for a bit and I only just finally got the first season completed last week, so I have not yet watched the start of season 2. "Greenleaf" is about the Greenleaf family, who happen to be headed by a Bishop James Greenleaf and let's just say, the family business is church. The catalyst for the first season was Grace, the lone Greenleaf who left not only the family business, but the family home and the town, but has at long last returned for her sister's funeral and bringing her daughter with her. As you might suspect, since there were thirteen episodes in the first season, she and her daughter do not immediately return home, as Grace discovers that her sister's death was, as she had suspected, tied to having been sexually abused by her uncle, who was recently accused by another young church female.
There are lots of other family secrets, affairs, conflicts about one's sexuality, jockey for coveted positions in church, and a secret illness. Grace has two more siblings, both married, and they are all living in a large house together, which is very convenient for awkward family dinners. As with any family drama, there were storylines I cared more about than others, but, with the exception of Mac - the sexually abusive uncle - most of the people mean well. They don't all want their secrets out sure, but they want good things for each other and the church, their approach to getting these things differ. But Merle Dandridge, as Grace, is an amazing performance. In fact there really isn't a weak link in the cast, which is full of faces that are familiar (Lynn Whitfield, Keith David, Gregory Alan Williams, Oprah Winfrey) and those that are likely new (Desiree Ross, Tye White, Benjamin Patterson).
The other thing that I find clear, is much as USA had a run of lightly serialized shows that all took place where you might want to vacation, this fits well in the OWN brand. The show is full of fully realized characters, and there is time in the show for characters to fully react to things. There are moments where they sit, and process what is happening in their lives without talking.
One of my favorite moments of the first season, happens with very little dialogue. First season spoiler's ahead.
Grace, before she left, was considered a wonderful preacher by many, including her father. In her absence her brother Jacob has been taking on the role of the preacher in the next generation. But Bishop James is worried Jacob's not being leaderly enough. Then, James shoots uncle Mac in the church, and well, you can understand that the church board thinks James should take a little leave of absence. Once of the church matriarchs suggests that Grace should step in to Grace's mom Mae, who has been convinced all along that Grace's return would spell ruin, so is not on board with the idea. At her lady's day, Mae makes a speech, addressing the church's recent troubles and leading up, the audience knows, to her suggestion of herself for the new church preacher in the interim (she even points to herself as she references the need for a virtuous woman). However, said church matriarch jumps to her feet in applause and turns and smiles at Grace, who is sitting in the audience, and many of the other women follow suit. It is hard to say who is more uncomfortable, Grace or Mae as they both try to smile like this is what they wanted.
So, I am in for the next season and ready to see what happens.