The Real Housewives of Atlanta Set The Scene In An Unfinished Home
Kenya's housewarming party makes for a lukewarm premiere episode.
The Ingredients Don't Add Up
Things seem promising enough as the opening montage segues from Porsha on Dish Nation, talking about Brad and Angelina's divorce, to Cynthia, who's separated from Peter. Regrettably, the montage ends with Kandi and Todd in bed with baby Ace and opts to start from there instead. At five months old, Ace is admittedly adorable, and Kandi seems happier than ever. (Or as happy as a person getting twenty-some-odd-hours of sleep or less a week can be, at least.) However, potato-sack-baby-cuteness and new-parent contact highs don't measure up against a storyline involving divorce.
The scene's worth watching for a few reasons: Kandi discussing motherhood in a talking head, more bothered by the division of parental duties than by the twelve-pound ball of hair of her head; a reminder that Todd will always be kind of a jerk; and, most importantly, the chance to see one of the stranger (and strangely logical) child-rearing moments in Housewives history, as the pair holds the Ace over the toilet in the hopes that he'll make.
It's not necessarily essential viewing, but we have to start somewhere.
Over at Less Is Moore Manor, Kenya's busy renovating her 6,000 sq. ft. home to meet the self-imposed two-week deadline she's set for her housewarming party. She's made a lot of progress, but it's still an essentially half-finished space. The real hook is her relationship with Matt, whom she's on the outs with after just shy of a year. Turns out Matt's crazy too: after going through her phone on a trip to Mexico, he got into a fight with her, kicking in their hotel room door and breaking a ton of her things. Kenya says she's determined to get this part of her life right, and done being around people who can't control their anger. To which I say: good for you, and offer up an eye-roll so intense all my blood vessels pop.
Across the street at Chateau Shereè, the lady of the house continues to haunt the grounds and roam the 10,000 sq. ft. home's somehow sharp, angular halls. "Check your gag reflexes at the door," the spirit demands. Much like the unveiling of Al Capone's vault, the walkthrough with her interior designer is split evenly between an exhilarating experience and a completely underwhelming one. Cynthia's joked that Freddy and Jason would be right at home in Moore Manor, but the Chateau seems far more accommodating, and on-brand.
"Better Than Chick-Fil-A"
Make no mistake: Phaedra's the show's star, so even a moment like introducing her new "governess" Lisa or fixing something to eat in the kitchen works when, with anyone else as its focus, it'd fall flat. Add Bosom Buddy Porsha into the mix for another one of their classic Kitchen Counter moments, and the end result's as close to legitimate fun as the episode (and lately the series) comes.
Porsha brings over toy swords over for the boys to play with. (There's a nice shot beforehand of a plaque that reads, "Pardon the mess, my children are making memories.") Over lemonade (dubbed "better than" Chick-fil-A's by Porsha!), Phaedra and Porsha cluck in the kitchen like hens in heat as they discuss Phaedra's divorce from Apollo. Porsha says Phaedra has that "divorcée glow" and "is just waiting for someone to knock it all down." Phaedra replies that she's ready for some "hard love." It's magic, really; Bravo's lightning in a bottle.
Then a man Kenya's hired arrives in a horse-drawn carriage in the style of Cinderella to drop off an invite to her party and ruins everything. Luckily, Phaedra decides to bring Porsha as her "hot, not thot" date, as suggested by the invite, to piss off Kenya and get back at her for not inviting Porsha in the first place, just as any other mature woman would do.
Great Hair, Bad News
Ready to set her divorce in motion, Cynthia meets with an attorney to figure out next steps. It's a sad and awkward scene -- like divorce -- while she fields questions about infidelity and desertion and lays claim to the house, though it's in her name and there's a prenuptial agreement in place. Afterward, she has a nice cathartic moment in the car as she braces herself for what's to come. It's no Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole, but it's a touching moment and emblematic of who she is -- someone who's more resilient than she seems. I still don't think Cynthia's quite right for Housewives, but I do like the shading she's bringing to it, even if it is doom and gloom. This sort of approach to divorce is something that we haven't really seen on Housewives, especially with the woman initiating it and talking about it so matter-of-factly. Could this be the "storyline" that finally permits her to connect with viewers? We'll see.
Porsha meets with Dr. Matt Smith (who seems like the real deal) for what I have to assume is anger management therapy the show forced her into for legal reasons, but anyway, here we are. That she's using air-quotes around "anger-management" doesn't have me too optimistic about her recovery. Nor does her placing the blame on others as the reason why she's there, saying her friends are starting to label her "angry" and that she wants to nip it in the bud. This feels more like a primer of what's to come than anything else, so I'm going to suggest skipping it. Which makes me feel bad -- since she talks about being bullied growing up and struggling with depression as a result -- but not that bad, because it's delivered in such a way that it doesn't really feel genuine?
Phone Calls & FaceTime
Kenya calls Shereè to
gaslight her invite her to the housewarming. It's a another strange moment that feels just right given that Shereè's standing in an empty room in a "Who Gon' Check Me Boo?" t-shirt.
Elsewhere, Cynthia calls Peter via FaceTime. (Which she probably wouldn't do if the cameras weren't there, right?) Peter dismissively says that he's with his new girlfriend, and my and Cynthia's hearts stop until he owns up to being an asshole and says he's referring to his job, whatever that is. Cynthia's calling because she says she can't find the prenup, which is such a Cynthia move it hurts. (CUT TO: Hundred-millionth use of footage from her wedding when her mother and sister "hid" her marriage license. Enough.) Don't lawyers keep copies for themselves? Anyway, Peter stars trying to make Cynthia feel guilty so she hangs up on in him and stares off, probably considering texting from that point on.
Todd and Kandi stress over Ace's outfit even though he does not appear to be going anywhere. Any questions?
Moore Manor Problems
Cynthia shows up to Kenya's to help out before the party (with more fabulous hair!), and it's immediately clear that the house isn't ready, from little things like fixtures to the bigger things like entire rooms being closed off. So naturally, we get a heart-to-heart between the pair instead of a montage of them screwing in light bulbs and sweeping up the 100 pounds of dust around the house. Kenya talks about Matt and tears up because she always thought he'd be there for this moment; she had pictured them living there and starting a life together. And it's sad, but it's not write-off-his-rage-issues-and-suggest-getting-back-together-sad, Cynthia.
Soon the guests are arriving and making their way through the peaks and valleys of Kenya's (new) driveway. Shereè makes a big scene out of changing her shoes for the journey, and honestly I can't really blame her. Inside, she listens to Cynthia talk about her separation and offers some kind words that are in a talking head, not to Cynthia's face. Eh, close enough. At this point, Kenya's done crying in her room and has joined the guests, one of whom is Matt, who's either on better terms with Kenya and the producers than we're led to believe, or legitimately insane. Probably both, but either way I'm into it.
Instead of confronting him and opening up that can of worms, Kenya decides to find Shereè and torture her instead. Which sucks for Shereè, because she's in the middle of her daily core workout of double-fisting drinks and holding a rather large purse in the crook of her arm. It's stressful on Shereè's part, because she's really getting a good workout, and even kicks it up a notch with wild gesticulation, spilling some water and/or gin or whatever onto what I assume is a bit of plywood covering up a portion of the floor, but keeping arms like those isn't easy, so whatever.
Once Kenya's tired of making digs about Chateau Shereè and Shereè's moved on to her cooldown, the conversation turns to Porsha, who wasn't invited because of her rage issues. Though it's safe to say she mostly likely wouldn't haven been invited even without those rage issues, given that Kenya's always pretty much hated her.
Kandi shows up with some woman named Lena (is this leading us to why they call her a lesbian in the trailer for the season?), and Kenya decides it's time for a tour of the house, which provides Shereè with enough ammunition to shit all over Moore Manor in a talking head: the house is extremely hot, dusty, and barely complete. Outside, Porsha and Phaedra walk the red carpet (which is rolled out on dirt) and shimmy down the driveway like they're escaping hillbillies that live in the woods or scaling Mount Everest. An hour or so later, once their trek is complete, they enter the house. Over by the bar, Shereè has multiple orgasms at the sight of them. You might think that's going too far, but the way Shereè reacts is reason enough to reconsider killing Vine. It's also a perfect way to end the episode, as Kenya realizes what's going on and everyone who's wearing a mic in the room breaks out in gooseflesh as the scene fades to black.
Lopsided as it is (Kandi's scenes continue to feel like they're from a different show, and Cynthia's leaning into her divorce narrative the wrong way if she's looking to create drama via missing document again), it's a season premiere, and those are required viewing. They've done a competent enough job establishing where everyone is and what the majority of their stories will be this season -- which, judging by the trailer, has a lot of potential.