Photo: Screenshot via Netflix
I just finished watching season 2 of Spike Lee’s Netflix series, She’s Gotta Have It, and I truly enjoyed it. It was important to see Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise), who had a strong stance in her sexuality and independence in the first season, show moments of insecurity, imperfection, and vulnerability this time around. Although there were some scenes when I didn’t connect with Nola, the tribute to Puerto Rico, highlighting real-life artists, this season’s soundtrack, and expansion of dialogue from some characters made up for it.
If you are familiar with the first season, which I recommend you watch before watching this new season, we were introduced to a new highly melanated Nola Darling, who somehow made the rent and lived as a painter in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. With this season, we find Nola at a lost place; still in Fort Greene, but experiencing heartbreak, having moments of ignorance, and exploring with other mediums like photography. We also see Nola partner with a streaming service called earWave, who was interested in the street art that represented trauma we saw in season one. I have noticed many corporations begin to partner with local artists, so I’m glad that the process was portrayed in the series. It also ignites the conversation on people of color working in predominately white corporations and businesses, those who bring opportunities to fellow people of color, and not knowing the amount of power they actually have, or don’t have. We see that particularly in episode eight.
We also see Nola and other artists experience triumphs while finding their space in a harsh world. Small scenes like Nola’s mother, Septima (Joie Lee) getting cast in a play, Virgil (Brandon Niederauer) performing at the Prince Purple Party, and Desire (Elvis Nolasco) reuniting with his daughter and acknowledging his Black identity as a Dominican are powerful. The community around Nola is filled with people finding their space in the arts, and not many tv series tell these stories.
I also loved seeing the supporting characters, like Shemekka (Chyna Layne) Mars Blackmon (Anthony Ramos) and Clorinda (Margot Bingham). Within the season, we see that Shemekka still struggles with how she looks, and it’s very clear that it’s much deeper than her desires for a bigger butt. I got emotional during the scenes with her staring at the mirror because I have had those moments of body image. For some of us, we struggle to see our beauty, even if we’re told a million times that we look amazing. That’s when Winny (Fat Joseph Cartagena) played a great role in supporting her. She had a great scene in one of the episodes, which I will not give away, and I hope in the future we see this character reach a point of self-love and confidence she deserves.
It was also a real treat to see Mars in his element this season. Season 1 showed his obsession with Jordans, sexual behavior, and humorous moments, but this season gave us more of his talents. His performance in episode six, #WhenYourChickensComeHomeToRoost, was beautiful; at the Hot N Trot’s benefit show, which supported the Maria Fund, a real-life organization, that raised funds to re-build Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Also, the actress who played Mars’ mother took me by surprise, and I’m interested to see how his story will play out after the discovery of his father.
We also see Skylar (Indigo Hubbard-Salk), Opal’s daughter, and Virgil more in this season, which was important because as their parents go through issues, we need to see how broken relationships affects the children.
I was also very jealous watching episode five, #SuperFunkyCaliFragiSexy, because I remember when Spike Lee announced that he was taping the show at his annual Prince block party, and I really wanted to be there. Just know, if you’re a Prince fan, you will enjoy it.
Episode four, #NationTime, was one of my favorites because it highlighted black culture and history in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, and gave Nola a break from Brooklyn. As a creative myself, my goal is to attend a few retreats and fellowships because it gives space for artists and writers to create with no distractions. This episode featured incredible real-life artist cameos such as Juliana Huxtable, Titus Kaphar, UnCuttArt, Amy Sherald, Carrie Mae Weems, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and more. Most importantly, we are introduced to Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, who is the artist behind all of Nola’s art. The moment Nola and Carrie had at the gallery was important because even when we, artists fail…or at least feel like we failed, solidarity and reassurance from other artists is crucial. Carrie reminded Nola that she had a right to be in that space, and to enjoy it no matter what.
Although I enjoyed the episode, as soon as I heard that the retreat was called “Nation Time Black Artist Retreat” I immediately knew it was connected to the character, Dean, the very problematic white man who marked over Nola’s “My Name Isn’t” campaign in season one. It also brought out another conversation on donors and the importance of knowing the people who fund programs and retreats for black and brown artists.
Another one of my issues with this season is not knowing what happened within the 18 months when the season started. I would’ve loved to see reactions from Shemekka’s daughter, and how her mother’s decisions affected her. Mars and Nola were very close in season 1, and something must have happened within those 18 months that made Nola turn very shady and rude towards Mars. Their friendship started to form again while at Puerto Rico, but it didn’t carry that same hilarity and intimacy they had in the previous season. It was also unclear as to why Opal (Ilfenesh Hadera) was more upset at Nola reconnecting with Mars, and didn’t have a problem with Nola’s friendship with Greer (Cleo Anthony)…unless she didn’t know about that. When this show lands their third season, I hope there’s more clarification on the roles these characters have in Nola’s life and in the series.
Nola also didn’t talk much to the camera like she did in season one. I wonder if that was intentional, maybe the writers didn’t want us to have access to Nola like we once had.
Overall, I’m grateful that this show even exists because it not only highlights the triumphs of working artists, but it gave them permission to be lost. I saw myself in many of these scenes, figuring out how to make it as a writer and poet, and how to make my next poem more influential than the last one. Thank you Spike and Tonya Lewis Lee.
Like Prince said, “The beautiful ones always smash the picture. Always every time.”