Black Cake review: Outstanding family saga

Mia Isaac in Black Cake

Black Cake shines as an excellent family drama full of secrets, surprises, and engaging characters. The story travels through years of the main characters lives. The well-written narrative uses the device of a woman finally telling all her secrets just before she dies. The story unfolds with multiple flashbacks as the recordings left behind by a dying woman are slowly explored.

Black Cake is based on a book by Charmaine Wilkerson and created for television by Marissa Jo Cerar. I haven’t read the book but I understand it contains more story about some of the characters that could be used in a second season. There’s no word on that yet, but it would be welcome. There are so many interesting characters to explore in Black Cake. Season 1 ends with a cliffhanger.

It’s hard to talk about this series without spoilers. The secrets revealed as you go through the episodes are all important so I’ll be as vague as possible.

The story begins in Jamaica with Covey (Mia Isaac). She was a champion swimmer. Her mother was Jamaican, her father Chinese. Her mother, Mathilda (Jade Eshete), left her when she was 10. Her father, Lin (Simon Wan), arranged for her to marry a terrible person in order to clear his gambling debts. That’s what the image of a young girl running into the ocean in a wedding dress is all about. Covey escapes the marriage with some help and runs away.

Important characters left behind included Covey’s best friend Bunny (Lashay Anderson) and her mother’s best friend Pearl (Faith Alabi). Covey was in love with a boy named Gibbs (Ahmed Elhaj).

Chipo Chung in Black Cake
Eleanor made a special Black Cake, a Jamaican specialty

Later we meet Eleanor (Chipo Chung). She’s the dying woman who made the recordings. Her attorney, Mr. Mitch (Glynn Turman), plays them for her children.

Elliot Cowan, Adrienne Warren, and Cherrelle Skeete in Black Cake
Benny flanked by two people she loved.

Eleanor’s daughter Benny (Adrienne Warren) has love relationships with both Joanie (Cherrelle Skeete) and Steve (Elliot Cowan) – neither of them easy. She’s a creative artist and singer who is having trouble launching herself.

Ashley Thomas in Black Cake
Byron grew a lot in the series.

Eleanor’s son is Byron (Ashley Thomas). He’s a scientist dealing with racial discrimination at work.

An English woman who is a well known cookbook author named Mabel (Sonita Henry) is important to the family story. Another important character surfaces from the past. She’s Etta (CCH Pounder).

These then are the key actors and characters in Black Cake. The story is about secrets and lies held for decades and the people they affect. When the secrets are revealed, lots of emotions are released, lots of questions are answered. But even more questions are raised.

The hopeful overall feel of the story is because as the secrets come out, issues and problems that the characters had dealt with for years finally became understandable and solvable. There was growth in everyone’s lives. I enjoyed the big character arcs involved in this family saga, but there are still untold stories about many people involved in the story. I do hope another series will be forthcoming.

The cast did an outstanding job with the characters and made the story hang together and be coherent.

Women directors included Zetna Fuentes, Natalia Leite, and Tara Nicole Weyr. The series is streaming on Hulu. If you’ve watched it, I’d love to hear what you thought.

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