Black Cake – Season 1 Episode 5 “Mother” Recap & Review


Episode 5 of Black Cake focuses on Mabel Martin, Eleanor’s “other daughter” whom she had never met. The first time Eleanor saw her face was at the time of diagnosis. She wanted to look for healthier eating options and stumbled across a video of Mabel.

Eleanor reveals in the recording that she tried to kill herself. The surfing incident was not an accident. Mabel is an accomplished cookbook author and public personality. In the present day, she lives in Rome, while her adoptive parents, Wanda and Ronald, live in London.

Mabel has a teenage son, Gio. Her erstwhile partner – and Gio’s father – Paolo, passed away a while back. His passing was the reason they shifted base from Rome to London. While shooting for a TV show, Mabel is cornered by another panelist for “appropriating Caribbean culture.” This comes in response to Mabel claiming that culinary traditions are shared across cultures. The issue escalates as the online community “cancels” Mabel for her beliefs.

She is quite disgruntled and feels hard done by. And she is mostly right on many accounts. Gio, however, doesn’t share her opinion. He also declares to her that he doesn’t want to continue school or go to university, something that Mabel rightly brushes off without hesitation. She is asked out by James Kellen, an American chef and TV personality, who was also on the panel for the show in Tuscany. James is fascinated by Mabel’s identity, bold ideas, and passion for food.

He is about to offer Mabel her own TV show. However, on the date, Charles Mitch calls Mabel with the information. Mabel didn’t know she was adopted and Eleanor didn’t know that Mabel was unaware of her origins. She goes into a bit of a shock, although Mitch asks her to take time before she replies to his request to come to California. Mitch is under strict instructions by Eleanor to assemble all three siblings – or at least ask Mabel to fly down – for the final recording. 

B & B are quite angry with this new revelation…for different reasons. While Benny’s feelings of inadequacy and insecurity about being compared to her other sister emerge, Byron thinks Eleanor’s secrets are too much of a betrayal. They both have reasons to despise Eleanor because of this new secret. He wants to call Mabel himself and get her down but Benny advises him against it. Benny caves in and calls Steve after seeing many messages from him. He assures her that the contract with Helena, for selling Benny’s painting, is final. And Benny agrees to meet him at his apartment later.

Lynette drops by Byron’s house and they both apologize to each other. As they discuss Mabel, Byron takes a call from Marc, the institute’s new director. He invites Byron to a panel discussion on diversity for the institute, which Byron is happy to accept, even though he is on leave. Lynette bursts out once again and walks away from Byron for refusing to stand up for himself. This time, her departure has a sense of permanence…and perhaps Byron will now be left alone.

When Byron attends to Eleanor’s phone and fends off a salesman, he starts going through it. He discovers yet another betrayal. Byron finds Mabel’s name multiple times in the call logs, indicating that Eleanor was in constant contact with her. However, since Mabel doesn’t know about her origins, it must have been under an alias.

Mabel wanders around the city. She is yet to absorb the extent of his new revelation. Restless, she cannot wait till morning and wakes up her parents late at night. She asks Wanda about the day she was born. Wanda has no choice but to spin around another falsified story. This prompts Mabel to confront them with the truth. The parents try their best to explain their position. But Mabel cannot escape the shadow of betrayal covering her entire being. She wants to leave the house and perhaps take some time off from her adoptive parents.

Benny goes to Steve’s house and smashes her sculpture into pieces. She has had enough of this toxic relationship and wants to permanently break up with him. When Steve comes home, he isn’t angry but desperate. There is a certain genuineness in his pleadings as he begs Benny to stay in his life. Benny had called Byron earlier to pick her up and we see him walking toward the house.

Benny is suddenly considering Steve’s words because perhaps she also sees some merit in his voice. When Byron arrives, Steve starts ridiculing him. They both have a verbal spat which quickly spirals into an exchange of blows. Byron easily overpowers him but relentlessly beats Steve to a pulp.

The episode ends with people clamouring around him, making videos, and the blare of police sirens approaching. 

The Episode Review

I think the progression of the plot beyond Eleanor’s story is the right move. There was a suggestion of a finality to his chapter in Episode 3. And I am glad that it has been confirmed in the subsequent episodes.

Mabel’s character is somewhat similar to Nan’s character from Apple TV’s The Buccaneers. The daggers of betrayal that both characters feel when confronted with the truth about their identities are similarly expressed.

But in Mabel’s case, the expression is mature and more nuanced. Sonita Henry is up to the mark as Mabel, although her emoting is subdued. I am yet to fully be convinced by Benny’s character arc. It is rather easy to relate to them on paper than it is on screen, primarily because the viewers lose the advantage of context that readers have in a book.

Her character is crucial to the storytelling and that is why the intensity is lacking. The direction of Benny’s scenes – not just in Episode 5 – has been uninspiring thus far. Warren needs to be given the freedom to explore the whole spectrum of emotions and feelings, instead of being pigeon-holed into being miserable all the time. 

Byron’s character assassination by continuous attacks on his self-respect is also a problem at this point. It is clear how far off Lynette is in her assessment of Byron’s actions. And yet, Black Cake keeps on taking the wrong side. 

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You can read our full Season 1 review of Black Cake here!

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