Black Cake Season 1 Episode 5 Recap – What does Byron discover on his mother’s phone?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: November 15, 2023 (Last updated: last month)
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Black Cake Season 1 Episode 5 Recap
Black Cake Season 1 | Image via Hulu


Black Cake inexplicably worsens in quality to a considerable degree here, delivering by far the most cliched and frustrating episode of the season.

It’s very rare for any show to drastically waver in quality between two episodes, but while I thought the fourth episode of Black Cake was perhaps the strongest of Season 1 thus far, I found Episode 5, “Mother”, to be an exercise in teeth-gnashing frustration. What’s with the writing? Why is everyone suddenly speaking like a hip X activist, all Karens and canceling and tiresome lectures about cultural appropriation? Why are characters suddenly making such bone-headed decisions? What on earth has happened here?

“Mother” had the potential to be another great installment, which makes things worse. A good chunk of it is devoted to the introduction of Mabel Mathilde Martin, Covey’s first daughter, fathered by her rapist and given up for adoption unbeknownst to Benny and Byron and, it turns out, to Mabel herself.

Mabel Mathilde Martin

Through Mabel, Black Cake had the potential to explore the fascinating idea of a person of color unknowingly living their life as a privileged white woman. Instead, it introduced Mabel as a do-gooder online foodie who gets canceled for having the temerity to claim that some foods – she clunkily uses rum cake, otherwise known as the titular black cake, as an example – aren’t necessarily of the culture that claims them. By the time she received a call from Mitch informing her of her complicated parentage, “Mother” was all too ready to shift focus back to Benny and Byron rather than have Mabel grapple with the implications of that news.

The only cursory nod that the episode makes in this direction is – get this! – Mabel looking at herself in the mirror and suddenly realizes her hair isn’t naturally straight. Sure, this does come up later when she confronts her adoptive parents since the matter had previously been written off as her “Sicilian roots”, but it’s such a silly and on-the-nose way of expressing the point that I almost laughed aloud in disbelief.

And not for the last time. The Benny and Byron sections in this episode are excruciating, almost as if they’ve been specifically designed to make us hate the pair of them.

What does Byron discover on his mother’s phone?

For a start, Byron becomes furious when Mitch won’t allow them to reach out to Mabel themselves or listen to the final audio recording, as per their mother’s wishes, so he just sulks around for most of the episode. Eventually, he answers a cold call on his dead mother’s phone and, scrolling through the call log, he discovers several outgoing calls to Mabel – despite Mabel visibly not having known about Covey’s existence. So, what’s going on there? No idea, since it isn’t explained in this episode.

This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it’s indicative of how irritating everything else was that it’s the only thing Byron did that I’m interested in. Beyond this he argues with Lynette, who loses some respect for him when he agrees to participate in a panel about diversity in science while continuously being professionally overlooked based on his race – and she has a point! – and looks up Mabel online to discover that she’s white-passing and has probably unknowingly lived her life as a white woman.

He’s right to notice this, of course, since it’s the much more interesting story we should have been focusing on.

Benny continues to make everything about her

And Benny – don’t even get me started. When she learns of Mabel’s existence the first words out of her mouth are a lamentation; this, she moans, is obviously why Covey never loved her. Oh, grow up! She’s an adult woman and she makes actively terrible decisions, as in this episode when she decides to get one over on Steve – yes, her abusive, psychotic ex-Steve from last week – by agreeing to let him sell one of her sculptures.

Benny inexplicably goes to Steve’s home when he isn’t there, smashes the sculpture to bits, and then gives Steve himself an empowering speech about how he has no rights to her body or her art and she isn’t afraid to tell him so. And this is all well and good, but a couple of minutes before she told Byron where she was and implied she was in danger, so he flies in to make the situation ten times worse.

How does Black Cake Episode 5 end?

When Byron arrives he finds Benny and Steve sitting outside chatting away, and he responds to the situation with uncharacteristic hostility. Now, to be fair, this dude did punch his sister in the face, so one can’t expect him to be friendly, but he makes the situation much worse than it needed to be. Steve, his pride having been challenged, then makes the situation worse still.

So, what does the mild-mannered and thoughtful academic Byron do? He beats Steve half to death on the street in front of multiple witnesses. At the same time, a fleet of police cars – coming from where? – shows up, and the episode ends with a Black man holding his hands up to law enforcement in surrender. Based on how badly Black Cake handled things in this episode, I’m not exactly brimming with confidence about its ability to lead us through this notoriously complex topic either.

What did you think of Black Cake Season 1 Episode 5? Let us know in the comments. 


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