Why Do Characters Like Helen Patterson Have To Go From Good To Bad To Make Things Interesting?

Moesha has been off the air for more than 16 years and yet I’m still trying to figure out why Frank Mitchell had to have a secret son.

Sure, he was due some kind of chastising for something, especially since he nitpicked at Moesha about everything she did. But to have it come out (and not from him at that) that the troubled “nephew” staying in the Mitchell home was actually his son and that Dee couldn’t even have known about it?!

That’s just cold.

But that has been the trend for TV shows for quite some time. We may see things coming with certain changes, as it just makes sense (think Walter White going from good to bad in Breaking Bad), but I can’t say I could have foreseen Helen Patterson’s changes on Being Mary Jane. She ended up not only cheating on Paul, but she also waited for her marriage to implode to tell her eldest son that his biological father is actually a trifling family friend. We wanted to see more of the Patterson family again, but not like this.

Mirror mirror on the wall, I am the LIAR of them all! #helenpatterson #beingmaryjane #bet #episode #tvseries #infedelity #margaretavery

A post shared by Margaret Avery (@margaretshugavery) on Sep 5, 2017 at 5:32pm PDT

“How did we get here?”

That was my takeaway from last night’s “Feeling Destined” episode when I watched the aftermath of Paul Sr.’s decision to kick Helen out of the house after finding out she cheated with his old “buddy” Frank. As I previously wrote on the revelation about Helen Patterson, she started off as a completely different character. She was struggling with lupus, trying to find her way back to feeling beautiful and heard in her household. Now into Season 4, she’s got some va-va-voom back and has compromised her marriage and her story line on the show. Helen revealed to son Patrick, and viewers, that Paul is his father, but Frank is his actual blood. She has since been trying to go it alone, and finds herself arguing consistently with Paul during a trip to New York to do a family segment with Mary Jane on Great Day USA. He wants a divorce and she’s facing the opportunity to do what she thought she might never get to — be with Frank once again.

What a mess.

I won’t lie, it was an interesting mess, though. It kept me in sync with the episode (sometimes it can feel like they drag) and also wondering how Mary Jane was going to handle this bombshell about her parents. I thought that MJ would connect the dots when it comes to how her mother’s poor decisions could have played a part in her own bad relationship decisions. I was also intrigued to see how Patrick would deal with Frank, who was also kept in the dark about having a son.

But the end though, results weren’t as interestingly messy as one would have thought they would be.

If you’re going to tear up a family dynamic on a TV show, there has to be a good reason and long-term effects. I expected Mary Jane and Patrick to be in pieces about everything, and honestly, they weren’t. While Patrick just seemed like he wanted to keep his distance from his mother, that was about the extent of his anger. He, surprisingly, warmed up to Frank (they could both relate on their past addictions). And as for MJ, aside from being mostly surprised, she was focused more on how their divorce bombshell impacted her — how it would affect the family segment they were all supposed to film together, how she could wean a story idea from it for a future segment on Black women, and how she believed her parents tore up her own love life due to what she saw and heard during her childhood. Paul Patterson Jr. didn’t even bother to make an appearance, Helen chose to curve Frank after everything, and it looked like everyone got over their sadness and anger about things by the end of the episode. With that, I was left thinking, so they went through all of that sadness to wrap up this drama just like that? A relationship of more than 40 years ends and everyone is ready to move on after a heart-to-heart chat just like that? The man you thought was your father isn’t your father and it’s all good — just like that?

I think that changing the character of the, well, characters on a show or even a movie can work. However, it has to make sense. Remember when Malik Yoba’s character of Gavin in Why Did I Get Married Too? turned into an angry, resentful drunk and he and Patricia (Janet Jackson) all of a sudden ended their marriage on bad terms? That made little sense, and in the end, it hurt the project. Same goes for having Helen step out in her 60s and completely out of a marriage that seemed quite stable over the last few seasons only to do so for a man she inevitably doesn’t want to be with.

Their bond, as well as the ups and downs of their family dynamic, was honest and refreshing to see, so if the writers are going to tear them up “just like that,” I would like a little more. I hope we will get to see more of the tremors following the split and the actions that caused it. I hope we will get to see how Paul Sr. tries to move on after finding out he never was enough. I hope we will see how Helen adjusts to doing things by herself. I hope we will also see how Patrick’s relationship evolves with a man almost more troubled than him. I hope we can see more of that if the story line has to come to this — and a lot less of Mary Jane’s work drama, her Tomi Lahren wannabe co-worker, Kara’s boo Orlando (and his over-the-top mother), that fool executive producer Garrett with the bad ideas, and MJ’s continuous attempts to sabotage her new relationship with Justin. If they want to flip something inside out, those are few things that could use a changing.