Lee Daniel’s latest venture into television has brought audiences a grittier and more humbled look into the path of fame in the music industry with “Star.” The hour-long show has enough over-the-top drama with multiple elements of drug abuse, rape, bouts with religion, sexuality, some social commentary, and even human trafficking to make Tyler Perry take notes.
Though “Star” will not be claiming any Golden Globes anytime soon, the silver-linings to the primetime soap are the breakthrough performances from the show’s lead Star Davis (played by Jude Demorest), her sister Simone Davis (Brittany O’Grady), and Alexandra “Alex” Crane (Ryan Destiny). The series also heralds Queen Latifah’s return to the small screen as Carlotta Brown, her character’s ever-changing wig supply, and a large supporting cast with many high-profile cameos.
This past week, Simone’s character finally confronted the demons that have been haunting her, and the talked about the sexual and emotional abuse she suffered while in foster care. “Next of Kin” opened with the long-awaited appearance of Star’s and Simone’s mother Mary (played by Caroline Vreeland) and her amazing voice in a well, orchestrated music video/scene of her and Star singing “Come on Home.” Three episodes in and this is the first time viewers received a glimpse of the infamous character, and it was still a beautiful moment, given the grim circumstances.
Of course, Simone was going to survive her overdose, but it shed some light on the deeper issues plaguing her drug abuse. It seemed a little preemptive in the series for Simone to already overdose, but the truth had to come out somehow and made for another look at how her selfish ambition to become famous still takes precedent over anything else. As soon as Star heard the news that her sister was in the hospital, she rushed to see her and plead for her to come back. A moment that showed us that, although she may not always be there for her sister, she still cares deeply enough to be by her side when Simone is in need.
The touching sentiment soon faded once Star helped Simone escape from a mandatory 72-hour psychiatric hold so that they could attempt to record their demo in the studio. Considering that Star was the old enough to witness her mother die of a drug overdose (revealed in a flashback scene), one would think that she would be a little bit more sensitive to seeing family members with substance abuse issues. Star was furious with Simone at first but gave into her sister’s demands to leave for fear that her abuser would still come after her. Star is her own sister’s enabler as long as it gets Simone to do what the group needs to continue, and this week it was recording a demo to enter into an upcoming competition in Atlanta.
Unfortunately, everything goes up in flames once Carlotta breaks into the studio session to bring Simone back to the hospital to get the proper help she needs. Star and Carlotta get into a huge argument that eventually leads Big Boi and posse to walk out the studio and away from the drama. Interestingly enough, Alex’s boy-next-door/activist love interest Derek Jones (played by Quincy Brown) advised her that maybe this was not the best situation for her. Given her background and that she never really had to struggle for anything other than her father’s approval, this kind of “real life” drama was not the best idea. Derek liked the fact that Alexandra went to Julliard and wanted her to go back to NYC and finish.
It seems that Alexandra and her boyfriend Derek are the only ones talking about their issues and finding their escape from the madness during “Next of Kin.” After taking a temporary loan from the shady strip club owner Maggy, it was time for him to pay up on their deal and do some work for her. Thinking that it was just going to be a regular smuggling deal, Jahil was unpleasantly surprised to found out that this was a human trafficking operation once he opened the van.
At that moment, he decides to help these girls escape. Jahil ends up driving the van to some unknown location and letting them free. Talking to them in Spanish, he tells them that the police are coming and to just let the officers know that someone stole their passports and forced them here against their will. So not only did he free them from being sold to the highest bidder, but he may have just helped them gain citizenship. A nice little bit of dignity and another side of the Jahil not yet seen. Though he may have saved them there, it may not be the end of the mini-plotline. One of the girls ends up at his doorstep, not really sure how she found out where he lived but viewers will just have to stay tuned until that plot hole is handled.
After Jahil makes up a story about a carjacking and has Morgan (the pro-football player) help him fake the robbery, he meets with Star the following day. Like two college friends going over all the debauchery they got into the night before, the two gave each other an update on what has been going on. Star did not believe his mugging story for a bit, and Jahil was mad about the Simone situation. Star confessed that she did not tell him because she knows he does not like her sister and there was nothing he could do to help her at that moment.
Conversations with the two of them are always equally flirtatious and awkward. At one point, Star comes across aggressive and feisty with some sass. Jahil seems to give into her sex appeal, but, it is awkward because viewers were given the first impression that Star came across this way just to get him to be their manager. He is already their manager at this point, what else could she want at this point?
To still make the deadline, the two (mainly Star) devise a plan to bring some equipment to the hospital and record the demo in some shifty bathroom. The plan turns out to be a success and delivers a very catchy pop song with a 50’s vibe to match.
“Star” started off as a girl-group, rags-to-riches melodrama to mirror Lee Daniel’s success with “Empire.” With this latest episode, the series took a moment do some storytelling that centered on real issues. From Simone’s battle with coping with child and drug abuse to Carlotta’s transgendered daughter confronting her about her troubles with identity, “Star” is slowly becoming more than just an hour dose of soap opera dialogue with catchy songs to keep viewers distracted from mediocre character development. One thing that is yet to be seen is the protagonist’s character depth. All the subplots and minor characters are proving to be more interesting than the actual star of the show.
Opinion by Tyler Cole
Edited by Cathy Milne
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Images Courtesy of FOX Broadcasting Company- Used with Permission