Is it possible for one fatal mistake to destroy the lives of three very different families? What happens when the truth comes out? Will everyone come together or fall apart at the seams instead? That’s part of the premise behind the winter premiere of “Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots,” which had three different families separated by wealth and circumstance forever linked in tragedy. Sure, the premise may be somewhat familiar, but the execution and pace were nearly flawless.
“Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots” picked up right where last fall’s midseason finale ended with a shocking accident that had the potential to destroy everyone it touched. Hanna Young (Crystal Fox) was a working class woman who turned her life around by working as a maid for the very wealthy, and equally dysfunctional, Jim (John Schneider) and Katheryn Cryer (Rene Lawless). Hanna developed a strong bond with Katheryn after helping her through a bout with Breast Cancer that she kept secret from her own family. Unfortunately, that bond will be tested because Katheryn’s drug addicted son Wyatt (Aaron O’Connell) got high again and ended up fatally injuring Hanna’s son Benny (Tyler Lepley) in a hit and run accident that left him on life support. Wyatt also managed to run down a little girl who didn’t survive. Jim and Katheryn tried to band together to keep Wyatt out of prison, which involved a huge cover-up just as Jim and his best friend David Harrington (Peter Parros) were announcing their bid to run for political office. Wyatt’s accident also involved the Harrington family as well, because Wyatt stole Jeffery’s (Gavin Houston) car which was used when he hit the two people. In a bid to control her son, David’s wife Veronica (Angela Robinson) blackmailed her son into doing everything she wanted, because she didn’t approve of him being gay and cut him out of her life in the process. Meanwhile, Hanna’s daughter Candace (Tika Sumpter) tried to support Jeffrey as he learned to find his own identity and keep her plan to get access to Jim’s unstable daughter Amanda’s (Jaclyn Betham). Amanda was eager to support the plan, but she was quietly coming unglued as she plotted to destroy a former professor who raped her earlier in the season. Will the Cryers be able to keep their son out of jail? What will Hanna do when she learns the truth?
In terms of question, the show has posed quite a few big ones, but the biggest one involved Fox’s Hanna and what she knew about Benny’s accident. On the surface, it looked like that Fox’s Hanna knew that Katheryn’s son was the one that put Benny in the hospital. Fox’s interactions with Lawless’ Katheryn indicated that she didn’t trust her employer and suspected an ulterior motive, which was why she was so cold to her after Katheryn offered to help Hanna. Fox played Hanna as a woman coming undone with grief and denial as she prayed for her son to get better, even when the doctors told her repeatedly that it wasn’t going to happen. She used her character’s understandable anger and sadness as she tried to get through each day. It was also rather humorous to see Fox’s usual poised Hanna fight back against her former friend Celine (Eva Tamargo) after she was pushed one too many times. Sadly, the episode cut their potential catfight too short. Fingers crossed that viewers will get a do over sooner rather than later. Another plot twist involved Betham’s Amanda rapidly coming unglued in a way that was rather disturbing to watch. Despite the plot coming out of nowhere, Betham managed to convince viewers that her character’s madness always lurked just below the surface. When viewers watched scenes of Amanda laughing to herself for no apparent reason, they grew to believe that her actions were going to lead to something shocking by the season finale. The show’s main draw was still Sumpter’s deceptive Candace, but it was a welcome change to have her character branch out into different storylines for viewers to see different sides to her. The only weakness in her character’s plot was Amanda’s lawsuit that will likely be squashed when her deteriorating mental state is revealed. Future episodes should focus on Candace going after the Cryers when she finds out what Wyatt did to her beloved brother. Only time will tell if that’s the case.
As for breakout performances, Fox and Sumpter led the pack as their estranged mother and daughter characters were pulled together over their mutual loss. Fox managed to make Hanna relatable and frustrating to watch sometimes for different reasons. She embodied Hanna with a new sense of quiet anger as she struggled to accept that her son might never come back to her. Fox gave Hanna an internal strength as she fought back anyone who tried to tell her otherwise. Fox’s strongest scenes involved when her character went off on Benny’s long absentee father Tony who wanted to take Benny off of life support for his own personal medical gain. She tore into him as he had court papers drawn up and threatened to take her to court to have his wished carried out. Let’s hope that Fox’s Hanna will continue to get the upper hand as the court case wears on. Sumpter, on the other hand, had the chance to be more than a mere schemer as Candace reeled from Benny’s accident. She embodied Candace as a complicated woman who always had to fight her way through every situation that she got herself into and otherwise. Sumpter showcased Candace’s anger as she verbally attacked Schneider’s Jim for refusing to help her brother get proper medical care and how she told Fox’s Hanna to get over obsessing about the past. Sumpter’s strongest scene was when Candace was talking to Jeffrey about why she turned out the way she did. The character talked about a beloved cousin who taught her how to scheme her way through life and how he came to a tragic end. Viewers got to see Sumpter’s Candace vulnerable for a brief moment before she reverted back to her usual snarky comments. Hopefully, Sumpter will get more opportunities to explore Candace’s softer side as she continued to reek havoc on everyone around her; even if it takes a while for it to happen.
"Tyler Perry's The Haves and the Have Nots" premiered on January 7th and airs Tuesdays at 9:00 PM on Own.
Verdict: The show's second half of a wild season has wasted no time in upping the ante and kept on building as the episodes progressed. Sumpter and Fox proved to be forces to be reckoned with on-screen, and were worth rooting for.
TV Score: 4 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)