Following a string of unsuccessful flings, relationships, and one-sided infatuations, Marcus seems to finally be more confident in his singledom in “Becca Evans.” And though he’s probably (definitely) not over her, he’s even fallen into a platonic friendship with Mia, who opens this episode as they both talk about their respective love lives. Mia is in a relationship once again, this time with the chief of staff for Bill de Blasio (“Fuck de Blasio!” Marcus replies).
Marcus, on the other hand, is involved in a sort of friends-with-benefits situation with the titular Becca (Leslie Bibb), a two-time divorced mother who he met at a work event at a hotel and subsequently continued to see in the same hotel. As Keith David’s guide to Marcus’s headspace explains, this agreement is free from pressure and stakes. Becca wants “exactly what he wanted: nothing.” Contrary to Marcus’s tendency to cling onto a relationship for security, he ends up discovering in the six-month period since Ola that the safest thing is to have no feelings at all. Her life is so far removed from his that there is no way they could become entangled beyond their periodic soirées at the hotel suite. (But naturally, this will bite him back later.)
Marcus lacks the chemistry with Becca that he had with someone like Ola or even Mia, so it comes as a slight relief then that she’s not in the episode a whole lot, with this segment shifting focus more to its protagonist’s personal life. After the first episode’s meeting between Marcus and Trae Lang, in which the latter called out the other’s place in a white-dominated industry, the series continues to illuminate how Marcus’s Blackness is an intrinsic part of his life that can’t be detached from his everyday interactions. When Marcus is offered a promotion, it’s without an immediate raise, and it’s indicative of the ways Black people are underpaid and undervalued for their contributions. He’s instead offered an invitation to a Paris Review dinner honoring the influential poet Nikki Giovanni. “Are you giving me these tickets because of the promotion or because I’m the only Black editor at the office?”
Similar to Darby, Marcus has a strained relationship with his parents in how he feels he isn’t enough for them. But as we’ve seen from the anniversary party, Marcus’s dad truly cares for him; Marcus just interprets his deep concern as harsh criticism. The two end up going to the dinner together (Nikki Giovanni is his father’s favorite poet, a renaissance man!), and while Marcus sits idly by enjoying the evening and the poetry, his plus-one is in complete awe. It struck me that there haven’t been many moments where Marcus has been truly happy — even with Ola, his bliss was accompanied by the dread that he doesn’t actually love her. And seeing Marcus watching his father filled with such wonder at the fancy black-tie event and his favorite writer standing just feet in front of him, it’s a wonderfully touching moment.
I also think it helps Marcus understand his father better, that they’re a lot more like each other than he first thought. He becomes the cool book guy who introduces his dad to Nikki Giovanni, while the other is reduced to childlike excitement as he nervously asks for a quick selfie. That understanding goes both ways, too, as Marcus’s dad leaves the dinner being, dare I say, impressed? “You don’t brag about yourself enough,” he says. “It’s amazing how you can compliment me and criticize me in the same breath,” Marcus jokes back. Marcus has always been self-deprecating to a fault, and his father pushing him to actually comprehend his true worth is what he needed to hear. (“Do you know how valuable you are?”) If Marcus absorbs this advice, we’ll hopefully see him stand up to his boss about the raise he deserves. The formerly fractured relationship between father and son looks to be on the mend, as the pair have a real heart-to-heart and ditch the party for a joint. As his dad’s taxi pulls away into the night, you can practically feel the relief and contentment wash over him with the evening rain.
And just when things are starting to work out, Becca breaks the news that she’s pregnant. Where was this baby conceived? Through a threesome in which Marcus ejaculated after a minute. If he was worried about being stuck with someone he didn’t truly love when he was married to Emily, the Becca situation has only compounded those fears. She’s decided to keep the baby, and therefore binding Marcus to her for the rest of his life. She reassures him that he can be involved as much or as little as he wants, and when he addresses the implications of that (“You can’t tell a Black man that he doesn’t have to be involved with his kid.”), it’s clear she’s oblivious to the racial imbalance of their relationship. She even goes so far as to joke about having a “cute” mixed baby, downright fetishizing the idea of having a Black child. “Do you want this trendy, frizzy-haired accessory to walk around town with so you get to be Sandra Bullock or Angelina Jolie?” he asks. Becca storms out while Marcus is left standing alone in his apartment knowing that his life will never be the same.
• Nikki Giovanni read “Autumn Poems” at the dinner (“The heat you left with me last night still smolders. The wind catches your scent and refreshes my senses. I am a leaf falling from your tree, upon which I was impaled.”) and I wonder if there’s a significance to this specific poem being read in this scene. Is Mia the tree?
• Even though Marcus grows closer to his father at the Paris Review dinner, it was particularly heartbreaking to see the dejected, almost shocked look on his face as he watches Ida and him joke around and poke fun at Marcus. He never had that kind of relationship where he could just let loose and have fun.
• Yogi and Kian are back briefly to rip Marcus for his woefully executed threesome. I would love to know how much money Kian’s product (dress-up shirts that are worn untucked) made him if he can fly across the country for a date.
• Imagine looking at your child knowing they’re the product of a threesome … best of luck to them.
• Not to draw another parallel with last season, but Darby also had a surprise pregnancy. Perhaps it’s intentional to illustrate the forks in their shared road — that this transition won’t happen as smoothly.