Black Cake Season 1 Review – Stirring the “secrets pot” with a well-made Hulu drama

Season 1

 

 

Episode Guide

Episode 1 Review Score- 3.5/5
Episode 2 Review Score- 3/5
Episode 3 Review Score- 3/5
Episode 4 Review Score- 3/5
Episode 5 Review Score- 2/5
Episode 6 Review Score- 4/5
Episode 7 Review Score- 4/5
Episode 8 Review Score- 3/5

 

Season 1 of Black Cake is based on Charmaine Wilkerson’s novel of the same name. It is difficult to point toward a specific genre. But the show broadly falls in the drama category, replete with beautifully portrayed character studies and an expansive narrative. There aren’t many shows like Black Cake – at least not many with its poise and poignancy. 

It provides a unique experience for the viewers…but asks for patience, open-mindedness, and empathy in return. By design, Season 1 does not offer a fast-paced modern cinematic experience as most shows tend to these days. Black Cake takes its time to focus on each and every aspect of its story and ensures that all characters involved in the central conceit are represented. 

Covey/Coventina/Eleanor are all the same person – and yet exist as different versions of her. She is the central character in the story. Eleanor Bennet is diagnosed with a terminal brain cancer. She doesn’t live for long after the discovery. But as a legacy of her identity and cultural roots, she leaves various audio tapes for her children, Byron and Benny. These tapes contain explosive revelations about the details of Eleanor’s life in the Caribbean Islands that imbue turmoil in their lives.

From there on in, the show focuses on Eleanor’s journey of becoming her present self, while also taking a meaningful look at the lives of the children. Black Cake packs certain surprises in its storytelling that are introduced into the main storyline without hiccups. It is a character-driven show, primarily led by Covey’s character. But every character’s life that the writers touch upon in the adaptation is given due attention and respect. It is admirable for creatives today to do something like this. Choices like these preserve the viewing experience for audiences, giving them a well-rounded rendition of the literary source.

Marissa Jo Cerar, who is recognized as the creator of the show, ensures that the diverse spectrum of characters exists in a safe space. They aren’t flawless or veering toward perfection. Instead, they work together – and at times alone – through their issues and personal struggles about identity. It is quite heartening to see the balance of a compelling narrative being struck with their individual journeys. All of them have a purpose and motive; something they are heading toward. This keeps all the episodes interesting, even though they are almost an hour long.

One thing that the Hulu show has going for them is Wilkerson’s best-selling novel. The core plot of the book is craftily pitched with fine-tuned details. According to the author herself, the creators of the show did not need to change too much. Certain liberties are taken to amplify a few chapters, a practice necessary to give the project its current shape. But many of the interactions and Covey’s narrations are picked up directly from the book with the same progression of characters and their interactions.

I am not sure how much of Benny’s arc I relate with. Benny comes off as immature, narcissistic, and overly dramatic. Although she is a victim of brutal circumstances, I did not enjoy watching her on the screen. Adrienne Warren looked confused on many occasions about the direction her character was heading in. All the cast members play a vital role, though, and Mia Isaac and Ashley Thomas make the most of their characters’ central presence. 

I certainly wish that more Jamaican actors could have been roped in to play the native characters. Instead of appropriating their culture and idiosyncracies, it would have been prudent to bring them in. It is not a big issue in the experience of the show, though. Black Cake’s characterization of trauma is greatly affecting. Covey’s arc and transition to becoming Eleanor is a powerful metaphor for starting over. Her strength is exemplary and it is heartening to see how it inspires her children in hindsight to grab a handle on their lives. 

Despite having a lot on its plate, Black Cake offers pleasant bites of storytelling and acting. It is a thoroughly professional effort that is different from the usual television stew of stories and characters. Hulu’s Black Cake is quite like its namesake recipe – “darker, deeper and altogether more absorbing.”


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  • Verdict - 7/10
    7/10
7/10

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