Wednesday, June 29, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Upshaws' - A New Addition to the Family Causes More Stress for Bennie and Regina in 'Maybe Daddy'

Netflix's The Upshaws - Episode 2.01 "Maybe Daddy"

When a surprise comes knocking on the family's front door, Regina points the finger at Bennie and pushes Bernard to wise up.

"Maybe Daddy" was written by Regina Y. Hicks & Wanda Sykes and directed by Sheldon Epps

Coming out allows Bernard to have more fulfilling relationships with everyone in his life. It's no longer a secret that keeps him walled off from living his truth. He can be his genuine self at all times. And yet, he may be just like his father in a lot of ways too. He doesn't want to hear that. He never tolerates Bennie's selfish and destructive actions. But now, Bernard learns he fathered a child in high school. He's the parent Sydney came looking for at the Upshaw house. Now, it was perfectly reasonable to suspect Bennie once again cheated on Regina. He did so with Tasha after all. That's why Kelvin and Aaliyah are "Ghetto Twins." That story easily could have repeated. That's not the truth of the matter. Instead, Bernard is the absent father. He is exactly what he pledged not to be. He is ashamed of ghosting Monique after having sex with her in high school. He still saw that as a clarifying moment. It took going through that experience to solidify his existence as a gay man. It still took a decade for him to come out to his parents. They still love him even though they now have to adjust their expectations for the future. That's disappointing especially when others in the family always knew. Bernard was never great at hiding it. They simply waited for him to make that discovery and share it. Lucretia was relieved when she could openly talk about it. It doesn't change anything either. This new twist makes Bennie happy though. It proves he isn't always the one making bad decisions that come back to haunt him no matter what. He hasn't betrayed Regina in this way again. It's all about the actions he makes in the present that disappoint her. He still keeps secrets. He always promises to do better. He may learn his lesson eventually. That still isn't all that apparent. Meanwhile, Bernard is seen as someone who never could have abandoned his daughter. He didn't know. He ran away. That's a classic move in this family. When explaining the family to Sydney, Aaliyah and Kelvin want to be seen as classy and normal. They eventually just have to accept the overall trashiness. Drama is always happening. They are never certain about where they stand in each other's lives. That's more apparent in Bennie and Regina's marriage. They don't know what to expect at any given moment. They have nothing but great things to say about Bernard though. That's a huge benefit. He is willing to step up and be the father Sydney deserves. He accepts that completely. He doesn't need a paternity trust to prove this connection either. He trusts Monique completely. The rest of the family is skeptical. But again, Bennie is happy that his son at least gets to experience fatherhood as he feared a life of pain and compromises given his sexual orientation. That's not the most enlightened viewpoint. No one would expect Bennie to have that though.

Regina freaks out because she believes she's too young to be a grandmother. Bernard had a child in high school just like she and Bennie did. A huge age gap comes between Bernard and Aaliyah. That gave their parents time to get things together. It was still messy. It still is to this day. That hasn't changed. The love is still present. It can simply be too hard to find at some times. It's never great when a sitcom features a married couple that obviously hate each other. They are forced to ignore the troubling warning signs because the basic premise requires them to always be together. That's not a given here. Bennie and Regina have their issues. Sure, each season can't be built around Bennie doing something bad and Regina kicking him out. That was the narrative of the first season. These new episodes need to do something else. And so, Bennie is tempted by gambling at the casino and losing all his money. He needs friends to come in and back up his story of not actually gambling. He was eager to give Regina a reason to hate him instead of just assuming he fathered another child. He doesn't appreciate being blamed for that secret with no proof. It's silly given it has already happened once. Bennie seems to understand that eventually. However, he's right back to lying to Regina by the end of the premiere. Now that glimpse of him in a car with another woman is probably more complicated than it's suggested. It still looks pretty damning. That proves how Bennie hasn't really changed his ways whatsoever. That will only get him into more trouble. That's still the pattern of storytelling in this world. Lucretia has no tolerance for his behavior. She calls him out every time she gets. She doesn't encourage others to see the benefits of his love. She always expects the worst. She is right a lot of the time too. Bennie and Regina still connect well sexually. That serves as the foundation for their relationship right now. They are working on everything else. They are willing to put in that work. That's still built on trust. That remains elusive no matter what happens. It has to be earned over time. Regina and Lucretia respect Bernard's wishes when he refuses the paternity test. Of course, that leaves the inevitability that this twist with Sydney could be undone at any moment. It simply puts more agency in Bernard's life beyond the anxiety of him being gay. That's a relief even though the story is still too typical of the struggles other family members face. That's meant to show symmetry. It's not exactly the show branching out to tell something new. That can be reassuring to a certain extent. It's still healthy to push boundaries of what is possible with these characters and their circumstances. That too can be invigorating to the overall narrative.