Last night, Being Mary Jane creator Mara Brock Akil dropped the pen and walked off the proverbial stage with a smile… or at least that’s what I hope, as her show—the highest-rated cable drama debut of the 2013-2014 season—came to a close. What began last summer as a sexy BET movie became a much-talked-about series and in just eight hour-long episodes that sparked equal amounts of obsessed fans and anti-Mary Jane dialogues.
While Mary Jane, played convincingly by Gabrielle Union, is a beautiful, poised, wealthy TV anchor living (both literally and figuratively) in an exquisite glass house, her chaotic life—replete with family drama, major struggles at work, an affair with a married man, and stealing sperm from her other man—made her a downright hot mess.
She’s the unlikely central character who’s not only creating the brew, she’s stirring the pot, and then throwing in some extra spices for good measure. Mary Jane isn’t always easy to love, but she’s funny, talented and endearing. We wanted to have her back, but damn, Mary Jane kept letting us down. Time after time, she was quick to provide all the answers for her 19-year-old niece (with a second child on the way), her brothers (who either do or sell drugs), her parents and her girlfriends, but she couldn’t seem to get her own act together.
But isn’t that how life goes sometimes?
The show’s detractors weren’t sympathizing with Mary Jane’s complexities. They were yearning for a Black woman who has it all, always chooses right over wrong and without a hair out of place. Mara Brock Akil writes no such one-dimensional woman; she builds characters with layers, and knows that the best writing stirs good and bad emotions. Just check her previous shows including Girlfriends and The Game (along with her producing/directing partner-husband, Salim Akil).
So, as hard of a pill as it may be to swallow, Brock Akil wasn’t going to take the easy way out and make Mary Jane a simple sister. While taking the show at face value, some viewers were missing the point of Being Mary Jane. Like the rest of us, Mary Jane had to go through the rough stuff, the mistakes—yes, even in her late 30s—to get to the great place she appears to be headed towards at season's end.
Mary Jane had to hit the reset button and begin healing, which started in hour one with an apology to her niece for being so judgmental about her life choices. The young mom really needed her aunt’s love, not finger-waving. Her news show gets pulled off the air when her involvement in a story results in a suicide, but she had to make an on-air statement about the situation. She had to wrongly accuse Nichelle of telling David about stealing his sperm, so that her friend Lisa, the doctor, could confess that she was the one who spilled the beans.
Mary Jane brings her co-worker Kara (played by Lisa Vidal) along to apologize to Andre’s wife for having the affair, and on the way out gives the wife a few pointers on pleasing her man (oops). Andre (Omari Hardwick) ends up going back to his wife. Mary Jane confessed her “ride or die” status to David, the good guy, but he’s already decided to move on with his new love, and what do you know? They’re now expecting a baby.
“Stay grateful,” says the car service driver to a barely sober Mary Jane in the last few moments of the finale. “Even when faced with the storm of life, everything you are going through is preparing you for what you asked for…”
Last night’s two-hour season finale did exactly what it was supposed to do: it answered questions about whether Mary Jane would finally get her life together, and it also left enough of a carrot dangling for a lovely set-up for season two.
“When I see you Black girls and Black women, you have been and remain to be my muse,” Brock Akil said in her stirring speech at the 2013 Black Girls Rock ceremony. “Even if nobody sees you, I see you… When we dare to walk this earth unapologetically as the complex, beautiful women that we are, we are not only reflecting each other’s beauty, but it’s how we put our own pictures up and validate ourselves.”
We’re not all normal and perfect, and as hard as it is to see our own complexities played out on-screen, I think it reinforces the fact that whether crazy, sexy, cool, sloppy, sensitive or conflicted, we’re not alone.