R29Binge Club: She's Gotta Have It Season 1

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Finally, after months of anticipation, spicy trailers, and hype from the cast and director, Netflix’s She’s Gotta Have It is here. For his first ever television series, Spike Lee is revamping his very first film and bringing his provocative female protagonist, Nola Darling (originally played by Tracy Camilla Johns), into 2017. It’s bold, colorful, and different than any other show out there.
We can all agree that HBO’s Insecure changed what it meant to be Black and in love on screen. From the realistic sex scenes to the relatable, but hard conversations between lovers, it created a whole new lane for Black and sexy TV. She’s Gotta Have It is headed down a similar path, and going even further by centralizing female pleasure and decentering monogamy as the norm. In the updated version, Nola (DeWanda Wise) is still juggling three lovers to the best of her ability while trying to establish her own space in the world.
Actually, expanding on Nola’s world is clearly a positive outcome of Lee having the space of an entire series as opposed to a 90-minute film. Wise’s Nola has friends, a clear vision for her artwork, and a life outside of her lovers that is on full display during this season. The other thing on display? Lots of skin. But you’ll have to watch the series to see for yourself.
Episode 1: #DaJumpoff
Here’s something you should know about both versions of She’s Gotta Have It: aside from the commentary on women’s sexuality and autonomy, the film and the show are both odes to Brooklyn, a place dear to director Lee’s heart. For the Netflix version, Lee has combined elements of the film’s opening credits — black and white snapshots of life in Fort Greene, Brooklyn — with newer color versions that show a gentrified community. The jazz composition will flood anyone who saw the original with a sense of nostalgia, but the message is clear: Brooklyn ain’t what it used to be.
It’s a theme that repeats itself as Nola introduces herself in one of what I’m sure will be many direct address confessionals. She is an artist living in a huge studio and the question of how she affords it will come up more than once. But first, you should know that rejects singular labels like “freak.” She’s just an independent woman who isn’t ready to be tied down. She’s also constantly subject to street harassment as she walks the New York street. A montage of both men and women dropping pickup lines that range from corny to violent illustrates her experience with strangers.
But the premiere episode is mainly about the people she shows intimately, like her three lovers. Jamie Overstreet (Lyriq Bent) is a mature gentleman and established professional. He believes in soulmates and thinks that Nola is certainly is his. Mars Blackmon (Anthony Ramos) is the exact opposite of Jamie. He’s younger, and acts it, and from the projects. But he’s both fun and funny as hell. He is enamored with the sexual chemistry he shares with Nola. Greer Childs (Cleo Anthony) is enamored with himself. He is a self-centered model and a bit of a muse to Nola. (He’s also the best in bed — just saying.) His ego tells him that Nola should be head over heels in love with him.
Thankfully, in between her art, her three suitors, and her side hustles as a dog-walker and art teacher, Nola still has time for friends. One of them is Clorinda Bradford (Margot Bingham), Nola’s bougie former roommate who can’t help but judge her friend’s sexual choices. Oh, and Clorinda has a sore spot for Mars. Around the way girl Shamekka Epps (Chyna Layne) is also in Nola’s crew.
By my standards, Nola is living a pretty amazing life, but there are some clear signs of trouble. Nola and Jamie enjoy a romantic evening in her apartment for her birthday. It’s interrupted by back-to-back calls from Mars, and Jamie feels some type of way about it. He has agreed to the terms that Nola has set for their situationship, mainly that he isn’t the only one, but he is clearly not okay with it. He is pressing her about when she might figure out what she wants and storms out when he doesn’t like her answer: “I’m just living my life.”
Mars thinks Jamie is too mushy and shares his own hopes of locking Nola down. He hopes to buy her brownstone building so that she no longer has to rent it out, even though he currently still lives with his family. Meanwhile, Greer goes so far as to suggest that Nola might be a sex addict when they hang out. Clearly none of these men are perfect, but they aren’t as bad as a man Nola encounters on the street leaving Clorinda’s apartment.
Minding her own business, she ignores a catcaller on the dark street. Unphased he grabs her ot demand her attention but she fights him off and runs away. She smokes a joint to calm her nerves and cries. Apparently the topic of street harassment is not simply a passing moment. During the final few scenes, Nola prepares a street instillation, a series of posters with women’s faces and text that reads: MY NAME ISN’T… [insert any number of things street harassers have called her].
In a final camera address, Nola reminds us that she is no one’s property and that Black lives do indeed matter.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Episode 2: #BootyFull
It turns out that Shemekka and Nola met at a house party when the latter spilled her drink on the woman that would become her friend. This is the story Shamekka recounts as she poses for one of Nola’s paintings. Not only has Nola always wanted to paint the charismatic, Jamaican Brooklynite with baby daddy drama and a really nice hip roll, she is hoping to submit the final product to an art contest that could win her $15,000. Shamekka likes where the painting is headed, but not the way her booty looks in it, or in real life. She is considering plastic surgery to remedy what she sees as a problem, even tinkering with the idea of a game show called “She Assed For It,” where contestants compete to win a booty makeover. Nola, whose wrist is still injured from her street attack, disagrees with the Shamekka’s decision but makes a point to be supportive.
Meanwhile, the owner of the Hot ‘N’ Trot doesn’t like the political statement in Nola’s street art and rips it from the door of his club. His name is Winnie Win (Fat Joe) and it turns out he is also Shamekka’s boss. She’s a cocktail waitress at the Hot N’ Tot, but she has bigger dreams that explains why she thinks she needs a bigger butt. She wants to join the Moulin Rouge-esque gaggle of dancers who make more money than her performing for the crowd. However, Winnie refuses to give her a chance because of the way her body looks.
And he isn’t the only one with an opinion about Shamekka, Nola joins her parents for dinner. They’re charming and, like the rest of Brooklyn old timers, are fighting off bids for their property. Her mother Septima (Joie Lee) thinks that Shamekka is shallow and basic because of her background and love of weave. Luckily, both of them are much more supportive of Nola and her art.
Her lovers are also supportive of Nola following her attack. She finally tells them about the attack to mixed reactions. Jamie thinks she should call the police. Greer thinks she should learn martial arts and teaches her some self defense moves. Mars wants to beat the guy up. In fact, Mars’s anger leads him to question Nola for being out late. But he quickly softens up, empathizing and giving her some pepper spray.
I already mentioned that She’s Gotta Have It is an ode to Brooklyn, and Lee has introduced an array of characters that paint Nola’ neighborhood. Her nosy neighbor Bianca (Kim Director) purchased the brownstone next to Nola’s and feels empowered enough to question Mars about his presence on the block. Pablo is a local fixture in the neighborhood who annoys Bianca, but bonds with Nola over their love of art. This is her Brooklyn.
Anyway, Nola still hasn’t made up with Jamie. She’s ignoring his call. And it might be for the best because he has more pressing concerns. A woman named Cheryl (Sydney Morton) lives with him. And although they don’t appear to be sleeping in the same room, why else would they live together?
Well, it turns out that Jamie is married. Clorinda spills the beans after an AfroCaribbean dance class that she, Shamekka, Nola, and Rachel attend. But Jamie does take care of Nola and considers himself in transition. During this post-cardio chat, judgy Clorinda also makes her ideas on body alteration very clear when a billboard for “She Assed For It” passes them on a bus. Even though Nola tries to help, Mekka is clearly offended and I don’t blame her. But that’s it for the friend drama.
In better news, Clorinda is opening a gallery space and will be bringing Nola on board to show off some of her pieces at the opening. When Nola snaps at the building supervisor unexpectedly, Clorinda suggests that some therapy might be in order. It’s not a bad idea, since earlier Nola pepper sprayed a man who was simply trying to compliment her artwork on the street.
But Nola isn’t the therapy “type,” she says. Instead, she goes to a psychic, a reiki practitioner, and finally, Mars’ sister, who is a priestess. She advises her that something is holding her artwork back and Nola interprets this as a sign to update her portrait of Shamekka. She gives her friend curly, natural hair in the painting.
In the final scene, Mars sees something on his way home from work at the bike shop that clearly upsets him. Before the credits roll he exclaims, “O hell to the naw!”
Episode 3: #LBD
I figured something happened to Nola’s art that caused Mars to react so strongly in episode 2 and I was right. Someone named Onyx painted words like ‘slut,’ ‘hoe,’ and ‘cunt’ over Nola’s ati-street harassment posters. She is upset to the point of sickness and Mars promises to help her figure it out.
Dr. Jamison is the therapist Clorinda recommended for Nola and she finally paid her a visit. Which is good because Nola has a lot to unpack. She starts to cry at the beginning of their session, still feeling violated by her attack on the street. She is confused about work and wants to hide from the men in her life. Dr. Jamison gives her some tools to help her move on, which include retail therapy.
I don’t think she meant a $500 dress, but that’s what Nola purchases during her shopping trip with Clorinda. Her friend thinks it’s way too expensive (which it is), but makes an offhand comment about Nola’s impulsiveness getting her into trouble. This seems to only make her more determined to buy the thing and Nola splits the cost three ways on her credit cards.
Feeling like a million bucks in her little black dress and heels, she gets ready for a romantic evening with Jamie. He has a car pick bring her to a fancy restaurant, and while he appears to be turned on by her looks, he thinks she is showing too much skin. In the corniest move ever, he tries to covers her with his jacket.
Confirming my assumption that he is the most annoying of all of Nola’s lovers, the very married Jamie wants to address their relationship, but Nola is trying to enjoy their present moment. Meanwhile, Jamie feels very comfortable evading questions about the progress of his own separation from his wife and why Nola has never met any of his friends. A groupe of them spot Jamie and dinner and he’s weird about it. But somehow, they get back on track, and champagne drunk. Any negative feelings about Nola’s dress go out the window as he tries to convince her to let him back upstairs into her apartment. She is resistant, and Jamie suggests that she shouldn’t have worn the dress if she didn’t want the sexual attention. Not only is this a asshole thing to say, it’s extremely triggering for Nola. She leaves him hanging outside.
Meanwhile Mars, who is quickly becoming my favorite of her three suitors, has been working to find out who ruined Nola’s anti-harassment art installation and wants to hang out. Having ended the night with Jamie sooner than she expected, Nola swaps her pumps out for Jordans and a denim vest on top of her dress. Mars is more appreciative of her shoes than her body and they dance the night away at a reggaeton club. When a male partygoer gets too handsy with Nola, both she and Mars land some licks on him before stumbling out of the club with a laugh. But all good things must come to an end. Mars implies that it was Nola’s black dress that prompted the problem, which was the wrong thing to say.
Mekka is having another conversation with Winnie about financing her plastic surgery. He finally acquiesces and gives her an envelope full of cash. It looks like she won’t have to do any squats after all.
Nola’s last hope at not being completely disappointed by all the men in her life is Greer. She visits the photographer at his home studio where he’s shooting a group. He makes them all leave after seeing her in that black dress. He’s actually inspired to take pictures of her instead. But things quickly go south when he starts to use hypersexual language to guide her through the shoot. Nola feels objectified and finally snaps, tired of being boxed in by men.
Finally, she is taking some alone time. Jamie, Mars, and Greer all miss her, but she’s at her wits end.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Episode 4: #LuvIzLuv
Now that the men in her life have proved to be more of a headache than she bargained for, Nola is on a cleanse. She is giving up weed, alcohol, social media, and sex… with men, that is. Opal Gilstrap (Ilfenesh Hadera) is a woman that Nola dated once upon a time. They have rekindled their sexual relationship while Nola rids herself of masculine energy, and it’s pretty intense. Opal is a single mom who owns her own nursery, and despite her insistence that she isn’t going to catch feelings, she appears to be leaning in to Nola.
And this time, it’s mutual. Even though she declined dinner with Opal because of previous arrangements, Nola gushes about Opal to Dr. Jamison. And although she rejects labels, we also know that our protagonist identifies as a sex-positive, polyamorous pansexual. But none of this stops Nola from getting emotional talking about how the men in her life have made her feel like she’s in a constant uphill battle. She is relishing not having to “fight back” with Opal. She might, however have to fight to continue seeing Dr. Jamison because she can no longer afford sessions.
Later, Nola finds herself drinking and dancing her life away. So much for her cleanse. She’s unknowingly playing beard for her gay friend Terrell. He is secretly engaged to a man but won’t come out to his parents. Yet, he still finds a way to judge Nola’s sex life when she suggests that he should grow up. Nola is extremely drunk by the end of the night and gets to her apartment only to find herself locked out. When her landlady doesn’t answer she finds herself walking the streets with Pablo to her parents’ place. But once she gets there, she can’t bring herself to wake them up. After buying one of the paintings Pablo made from trash, Nola goes off on her own to figure out another plan.
Clorinda is having sex with her white boo, so her house isn’t an option. Taking a break from Mars, Greer, and Jamie means they can’t help, either. Opal, the woman she declined to hang out with that night, is the only option. She stumbles in with her literal trash painting and admires Opal’s home. The next morning, Nola meets Skylar, Opal’s daughter. They make fast friends and the girl wants Nola to come back the following night.
Anticipating her first day of teaching, Nola and Opal have early morning coffee at the nursery when they run into Greer. Things are tense between him and Opal, as expected. The latter storms off annoyed while Greer inquires about how long Nola plans on keeping him at bay. Thankfully, he doesn’t press the issue. But Opal is not so gracious. She thinks Nola is ashamed of her, when in actuality, Nola is simply private. At least that’s what she says.
Anyway, despite arriving 16 minutes late — an anecdote that co-teacher Raqueletta Moss (De'Adre Aziza) doesn’t let her forget — Nola’s first day teaching at the new school goes off without a hitch. Afterward, she shares the good news with her mother while retrieving her spare key. On the way back home, she runs into her godmother/landlady and gets a lecture about losing her keys and paying her rent. Nola promises to pay upon receiving her first check from teaching. I personally think a call to Jaime is in order, since he’s the unofficial sugar daddy, but I digress.
After what has been a pretty shitty day for Nola, things turn around when she finds out that she made it to the next round of the grant process she applied for. She’s one step closer to $15,000 — which is great, because she desperately needs it.
Unfortunately, things aren’t looking so great with her new fling with Opal. She returns to Opal and Skylar’s home as promised. But it’s late and Skylar has fallen asleep after waiting up for Nola. When Nola reveals that she wants to try to commit to Opal, the woman refuses. Nola is too unpredictable, unreliable and yes, uncommitted to anything. Nola doesn’t argue with her, and accepts her defeat.
Episode 5: #4MyNegusAndMyBishes
If you learn nothing else from Nola Darling, pay attention to her self-awareness. In the aftermath of being cut-off by Opal, she admits the ways in which she may have acted impulsively in the past. Moving forward, she wants to do something about it. The first step is ending her men cleanse. The second is adding some structure to the art class she teaches. This shift has created some blurred lines for Nola, but it might be for the best.
Raqueletta Moss wants to follow up with Nola about the provocative nature of the artwork some of her students are producing, but Nola can hardly capture the details because she’s distracted by a text from Jamie. She rushes home to see him, and it appears to be worth it. She cries some pretty happy tears while he goes down on her. The problem is that she also mistakenly calls him Mars. Luckily, Jamie thinks this is an outerspace reference because his cunnilingus skills are just that great. Nola dodges that bullet, and then another when she still refuses Jamie the commitment that he so desperately wants. He is married, after all.
Anyway, in her professional life, Nola has found teaching to be particularly taxing because the art program at her school, Harriet Tubman Elementary, is underfunded. And while her concerns aren’t the same as Raqueletta’s — who fears that Nola lacks the skill to deal with the emotional trauma that some of the students face — Nola also see’s the flags in a little girl like Reggie recreating a provocative Lil’ Kim cover as the album to describe her life. She shares all of this with Jamie as they pillow talk and it prompts him to discuss his own son, Virgil.
The investment banker is working hard to keep his son away from the project conditions he himself grew up in. Virgil attends an elite private school and Jamie brags about all of the middle schooler’s accomplishments. What he does not know is that his son participated in a viral rap video featuring white boys in blackface and excessive use of the word “nigga.” But he is about to find out.
Here’s what you should know about Cheryl Overstreet: Jamie’s wife is the definition of bougie. She is condescending and overbearing. So, when they finally meet to discuss Virgil’s behavior, she blames it on Jamie’s street background. This says more about her than it does Jamie or their son, but regardless, their marriage problems are clearly having an effect on Virgil. Coming to common ground about this fact allows them to unite as one front and threaten the school with an expose. Apparently this video was the result of a school assignment and teachers approved it. Nervous about the fallout, the principal agrees to have it removed from the internet.
But obviously, a conversation with Virgil is in order and Jamie handles it pretty well. He reminds his son that his Blackness doesn’t have to be proved to the rich white and Asian kids at his school. And perhaps most importantly, Jamie reassures Virgil that no matter what marital issues he and Cheryl face, Virgil will always have his love and support.
And Virgil isn’t the only child that has a breakthrough this episode. Nola finally has a sit down with little Reggie, who drew the Lil Kim picture. But before the adult can give her spiel about representation and objectification, Reggie throws a curveball. She has an amazing analysis of how consumer and capitalism influence how women are portrayed. She understands why women like Nicki Minaj and Amber Rose make a profit from being sexy, but she also recognizes that it isn’t what works for her.
Ironically, this conversation applies the most to Nola’s friend Shamekka. The single mom has used the money from her boss to receive illegal butt injections. She has her “procedure” done in a shoddy motel room by a woman who isn’t very compassionate and only gives her a single hydrocodone for the severe pain. The scene is unnecessarily intense, and Spike Lee is making his view on the issue very clear. There is a broader conversation to be had about women’s bodily autonomy and how selective body enhancements play into it, but Lee isn’t there yet.
Episode 6: #HeGotItAllMixedUp
If you think that Mars is totally immature and shallow because of his love of basketball streetwear, prepare to regret that position. Via a selfie video undoubtedly being uploaded to some social media site, Mars shares a beautiful story about how his late father helped him get a signed pair of Jordans 13s Michael Jordan himself. Mars is still affected by his father’s death and honors him whenever he can.
However, Mars also wants to honor Nola. He is still set on finding the person who defaced Nola’s street campaign. But in the meantime, Nola needs help transporting some of her artwork to a gallery. Remember the opening show that Clorinda is hosting at her new art space? Today is the day. But Mars doesn’t know that. His only job is to get the paintings from Nola’s house to the space on his bike while Nola catches a cab. If you’ll recall, Clorinda hates Mars, so this probably isn’t the best idea, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
During her cab ride over, Nola and Shamekka get into a huge fight. Mekka’s dance debut at the Hot ‘N’ Trot is the same night night as Nola’s opening. Some unidentified miscommunication has caused both women to miss the others big night, and Shamekka is hurt and offended. She makes a low blow comment about how her dreams have come true without the help of three men, and my heart breaks at how quickly their friendship has spiraled out of control. But there are only two things that really matter: First, Shamekka is going overboard with her butt injections. I’m not saying that to be judgey, but she is back outside the motel to get “topped off” for the night. The second thing is that the night is going to be disastrous for both women, one more than the other.
Mars arrives at the gallery before Nola does and comes face-to-face with his ex, Clorinda. They bicker back and forth and in the process, Mars realizes that Nola has no intention of inviting him to her show. By the time Nola shows up, Mars is rightfully offended that she didn’t think he was refined enough for an art show. And he isn’t the only one with an issue. Having reopened that relationship wound, Clorinda makes it clear that even though she gave Nola the greenlight to date Mars, Nola still broke the girl code. And I hate to admit it, but I kind of agree.
In a really smart move, Nola makes time to squeeze in a therapy session with Dr. Jamison to talk through her jitters before the opening. Apparently the therapist took Nola up on her offer to pay for her sessions with art work. A lot is at stake for Nola tonight, who is trying to break into the art world professionally. She is uncharacteristically nervous about it and per usual, Dr. Jamison tells her to rely on the tools they’ve discussed to make it through the night. But there are things that Nola could not have predicted that are going to throw her way off of her game.
Nola is almost immediately confronted with the reality that white people have colonized Black art spaces and become gatekeepers for what authentic expressions of Black art looks like. She meets a white artist named Dean who claims to also specialize in the Black female form. He performs a minstrelsy of “hood” Blackness and parades around his Black wife in a way that clearly makes Nola uncomfortable. Much like Brooklyn itself, white people have taken over Black art.
The three other Black artists in the show don’t make things any easier for Nola. They intentionally exclude her and question the quality of her artwork alongside theirs. In the snooty way that only art snobs can, they pump Nola with insecurity. Her parents, particularly her father, try to defend their daughter. But her dad Stokely only makes things worse by insulting the work of the other artists.
And then there is the fact that all of Nola’s lovers, including Opal and her daughter, are in attendance despite none of them being invited. Jamie shows up with bulky flowers. Mars has made the connection that Dean is Onyx, the vandal who defaced her street campaign, but Nola doesn’t even care. Greer mysteriously floats about without saying a word to Nola. She is stressed enough without worrying about multiple lovers, and Nola completely shuts down. She can’t explain her art to an important critic and none of her pieces sell. Then she gets a horrific call that forces her to leave early.
At the Hot ‘N’ Trot, Shamekka nails her first performance, at least most of it. Her routine, and her new backside are both well-received by the audience. They throw hundreds of dollars at her while cheering her on. She even goes into the crowd to give one of their regular patrons a special lap dance. But as she returns to the stage, she trips and falls backwards. The impact literally bursts her butt open as she screams in pain. (To be fully transparent, it was the kind of cartoonish and immature scene that comes from people not trusting women to make decisions with their own bodies.)
Shamekka ends up in the hospital with a blood infection, being pumped with meds. It is a call from the woman’s mother that prompts Nola’s speedy exit from her own art show. To make matters worse, Shamekka’s mom thinks that she has been working as a waitress at Applebee’s, not a pseudo strip club.
It’s a sad episode. But on the bright side, it includes a cameo from Tracy Camilla Johns, the actress who played Nola in the original film!
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Episode 7: #HowToMakeLoveToANegroWithoutGettingTired
I had been wondering why we weren’t seeing more of Greer Childs, the model, photographer, and Nola’s metrosexual lover. Mars and Jamie have been taking up so much of Nola’s time and energy, and we haven’t learned nearly enough the third suitor. Now, Greer is getting his moment. Opening the episode with his own direct address, he spills the tea on what attracted him to Nola and how they met. They were at the same bar and Nola causally sketched him from across the room. But she wasn’t interested in him whatsoever, and that turned him on. Now, having seen her outside of their respective bedrooms, in her element during the art show, he feels even more compelled to try to make things official with his lover.
But Nola is in no mood. The important art critic that she failed to impress at her show gave her a bad review. He questioned her vision and suggested that she didn’t reveal enough of herself in the pieces that she presented. According to him, they didn’t flow well with the other artists’ offerings. This sends Nola into a deep depression and she holes herself up in her apartment.
When Greer shows up at her door, Nola doesn’t even answer at first. She actually removes her doorbell from the wall when he won’t stop ringing it. But Greer is persistent. He starts knocking on the door, forcing Nola to come out. After some serious convincing, she agrees for dinner and a movie. It’s technically their first date and it goes how you might expect a date with Greer to go.
He has no shortage of lovers himself, and as he walks into the restaurant with Nola, a gaggle of women vye for his attention. This doesn’t bother Nola in the least . It also helps that over the course of their meal, the biracial playboy opens up about his own vulnerabilities and fears in his creative career. They’re bonding and it’s great.
But even though Greer is charming and mysterious, he can’t help but be a bit of an asshole, too. He makes fun of Nola’s attempts at the French language. He doesn’t understand why Nola isn’t willing to drop everyone else to be with him. And the final straw happens when he takes a jab at Nola’s inability to sell art and she walks out.
Greer was wrong about a couple of things though. Nola did actually sell one of her art pieces. Jamie Overstreet purchased her self portrait and is storing it in the separate bedroom where he sleeps. He is torn between the passion he feels for Nola, the woman he believes is his soulmate, and the promise he made not to ever abandon his family. His son is in a better place and he even sleeps with Cheryl. The portrait of Nola helps Jamie feel closer to her, even though he knows it’s not enough.
In flashback scene, Jamie and Nola meet for the first time on a park bench overlooking the river. They chat about Jay-Z, poetry, and the takeover of Black slang by white hipsters and connect immediately. He asks Nola if she believes in love at first sight and her answer is predictably no. Obviously, none of that stopped him from falling in love with her in the present moment. He has a weird dream in which him, Nola, and Cheryl are all in the same ‘30s bar and he passes out from either too much alcohol or overwhelming emotions.
In the real world, Nola visits Shamekka in the hospital, who is finally awake. They apologize to each other, cry, and make up. They are still friends and all is right in the world.
Episode 8: #LoveDontPayDaRent
You know what’s not right in the world? The current state of our presidential office. I thought She’s Gotta Have It would be a safe space where I could forget about the election. But in 2017, nowhere is safe. The first five minutes of episode eight are snippets and snapshots on how Nola, her friends, family, and the rest of the world deal with the shock, sadness, and anger of the 2016 election results.
After that political interruption, we are right back to our regular program. Greer still hasn’t given up on Nola, and to show her that he doesn’t take himself too seriously he comes to visit her in a pair of pants that have a designated dick compartment on the outside. He’s taking risks and making Nola laugh. It pays off for him in the immediate. They end up in her apartment having passionate sex, but Nola accidentally calls him Overstreet. And in the same way she did when she called Jamie by Mars’ name, Nola has a great excuse to play it off. Then she kicks Greer out so that she can get back to work.
Meanwhile, things are not that great in the Overstreet household. Cheryl has found the painting of Nola and the $10,000 check that Jamie wrote for it. She correctly infers that Jamie is having an affair and demands answers. The exchange between them gets nasty fast. Jamie doesn’t take kindly to Nola’s character being questioned and Cheryl drops a bomb on viewers when she reminds Jamie that Nola isn’t the first woman he’s fallen in love with and deemed his soulmate. Clearly his love for Nola is not as pure as he would make it seem. Him and Cheryl are almost certainly headed for divorce, though, and it is going to have consequences for Nola.
Nola’s debit card is unexpectedly declined at an art store and her rent check bounces. Cheryl has put a stop on the check that Jamie wrote for her painting. Nola calls him in a rage. She demands to have the painting back and cries at her sore luck. For now, she is back to walking dogs and selling art on her stoop to neighborhood tourists. But the hustle is weighing her down and she’s scared that she may have to move out of Brooklyn. Wanting to do something to help herself, she plans to see Mars’ sister — the Yoruba Priestess — for a spiritual cleanse.
She’s not the only one taking matters into her own hands. It turns out that Jamie and Winny, owner of the Hot ‘N’ Trot, are cousins. Jamie is a silent partner in the supper club. Now he’s threatening to sell Winny out if he won’t cough up, you guessed it, $10,000. He also wants out of the club business. The overemotional and highly dramatic Winny doesn’t take kindly to being blackmailed, but hands the money over to Jamie, anyway. Apparently, family is family.
And when Mars runs into Clorinda on the street, he thinks she can be of help to Nola in her time of need. He spills the beans to his ex that her best friend was responsible for the My Name Isn’t street campaign and that she could use some support.
We’ll have to wait to see how all of this plays out for Nola. But what we know for sure is that her hustling has paid off. It is only after she has paid rent on her own that she finds $10,000 in cash from Jamie taped to the back of her returned portrait.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Episode 9: #ChangeGonCome
Nola goes to Woodlawn Cemetery to pay homage to all of the famous people buried there that inspire her. There are quite a few greats that have been laid to rest there including people like Paul Robeson, Celia Cruz, and Jean Michel Basquiat. It’s not at all important to the story, it’s just another one of those moments that illustrates the richness of history and culture in Brooklyn. However, things are about to get pretty serious.
Bianca, Nola’s annoying white neighbor, is leading a town hall meeting and being the worse. She accuses Pablo, the “mayor” of the block who bothers no one, of vandalism and intentionally scaring newer residents. Things get tense between the native Black residents and the new white gentrifiers at the meeting. Groups start chanting “Black lives matter!” only to be met with “all lives matter!” from the other side. Things are eventually de-escalated but this is unfortunately not the end of Bianca’s bullshit. But more on that later.
In another session with Dr. Jamison, Nola is still worried about her career as an artist. Will she be able to make a living from her work? And more importantly, are her lovers distracting her from that work? As for the later question, Nola thinks that her unique set of rules — like never seeing any of them more than twice a week and only having sex in her own bed — helps keep the order. But Dr. Jamison points out how on the night of Nola’s opening, she spent the evening putting out fires instead of concentrating on her work. The doctor suggests that perhaps it’s time for some transparency with her lovers. And she’s right, because Nola’s career is about to get the boost it deserves.
Thanks to Reggie’s Instgramming in class, Nola discovers a video uploaded by Clorina. It’s a glowing review of My Name Isn’t… that has amassed tens of thousands of views. But Nola is less than thrilled. Not only is this style of street art illegal, it represents a point in Nola’s art and life that she is trying to move on from, a violent attack from a street harasser. She lashes out at Clorinda and then sets her eyes on Mars. She breaks up with him for telling Clorinda her secret, but not before calling him Mr. Childs, which Mars doesn’t recognize as Greer’s last name. But that’s the least of Nola’s worries.
Things come to a head between Bianca and Pablo. She calls the police on him for vandalizing her property. Mars, Nola, and other members of the community witness the entire thing. When the police arrive, Nola insists that it was her and not Pablo who graffitied Bianca’s stoop. She is trying to protect Pablo but both of them are arrested anyway. Bianca is annoyed that she, too, has to come down to the station.
Opal bails Nola out of jail and her parents take her home. She didn’t call any of the men in her life because she doesn’t want any of them to have the satisfaction of “saving” her. But things are still looking up. Shamekka is out of the hospital and doing well. She got the $15,000 grant. So she returns the ten grand to Jamie. And she repurposes her self-portrait with that little black dress and my favorite Audre Lorde quote.
“If I didn’t define myself, for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies of me and eaten alive.”
Episode 10: #NolasChoice
Spike Lee put a lot of elements from the film version of She’s Gotta Have It into the series. But there is one scene from 1986 that I’ve been dying to see updated, and in the season finale it finally happened.
It’s Thanksgiving. Nola’s parents are out of town with family and she couldn’t get off of work to join them. So she is forced to make other plans.
Nola makes a feast and sets the table for four. Mars is the first guest to arrive, with gifts of cheesecake from Junior’s and her favorite Prince album. Jamie is the second person to arrive, and it’s clear that neither of the men knew that the other was coming. Greer wins for best dressed with a Prince style, sheer, purple number. Nola lets the men to get acquainted and comfortable with the fact that they’re all sleeping with the same woman. They realize that they’ve all met before at the art show and then the feast begins with Nola and her men.
It’s off to a rocky start. They say their prayers and the things they’re grateful for before eating. Most of them reek of sarcasm and not-so-subtle brags. Mars tells a story about convincing Obama to run for office, and in a room full of male egos, this is an invitation for the other two to start gloating as well. Jamie was a major donor for both of Obama’s campaigns. Greer is, you guessed it, a world famous model. Then Mars switches tactics and start roasting his competition. He’s pretty good at it too because I was crying laughing. Greer is defensive, Jamie is playing mature mediator, and Nola is surprisingly calm about the whole thing.
Then she finally reveals why she brought them all together. Part of it is because she is still standing firm in her own independence. She is the man of her dreams, and unwilling to act as if any of them are viable replacements. She also wants them to meet in order to introduce some peace into her own life. This is a demand for them to co-exist peacefully.
Later when the dishes are done and Nola has blazed a joint, she unveils a new work of art she calls the “Three-Headed Monster.” The name was inspired by a phrase Dr. Jamison used to describe the men in Nola’s life. The picture displayed the three men intertwined and completely in the nude. Having their respective penis sizes on display was particularly triggering for them. I thought it was the moment where Nola’s uniquely amazing night would come crashing down, but it didn’t.
Nola stops Greer from making a premature exit by putting on the Prince album Mars brought. The four of them danced together, at some points in full synchronized choreography. It’s one of the weird scenes that defined the film in 1986. Still, it’s hilarious, erotic, but not at all uncomfortable. The group falls asleep in Nola’s bed from the “itis” — which is explained in a Star Wars-like scroll. As the men wake up from their naps and leave one-by-one, Nola sleeps like a baby. She wins Thanksgiving.
But most importantly, she wins polyamory. In her last direct address of the season, Nola makes it clear that she has no regrets about who she is and what she wants. Then, at the last minute, in the final scene, Opal shows up at her door.
I need season 2 to be available by Christmas.

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