To say that OWN’s new drama Ambitions goes off the rails in its first hour isn’t entirely accurate, as the Robin Givens-fronted soap never purports to be on the rails in the first place. From the moment we’re introduced to ruthless Atlanta attorney Stephanie Lancaster in Tuesday’s premiere, you can already tell she’s not one to be trifled with.
Not unlike Mean Girls’ Ms. Norbury, Stephanie is a stone-cold pusher. She pushes her daughter to pursue a more “practical” major than theatre arts; she pushes her father to retire from the family law firm, leaving her to run the day-to-day affairs; and she pushes her husband to convince his “hood rat” sister to sell her restaurant, appeasing a greedy land developer who could be the key getting him elected the first black governor of Georgia. But in pushing those around her to “better” themselves, Stephanie inevitably pushes them further away, adding loneliness to her long list of miserable qualities.
It’s also clear that her marriage to Evan Lancaster, the mayor of Atlanta, is a total sham — and not just because she says as much during a meeting with her father. Every interaction between Stephanie and Evan is cringeworthy, culminating in their final confrontation at the end of the premiere, during which she pulls a gun on him after he suggests that she might be too in love with her father. (“There’s the bitch we all know and love,” he says after receiving what I hope to be the first many slaps.)
As if Stephanie’s house of cards wasn’t already on the brink of collapse, the premiere reunites her with a pair of old college chums: Titus, her former lover, and Amara, the woman he chose over Stephanie because she was pregnant with his child. (She lost the baby.) Titus, naturally, is now working for Purifoy Pharmaceuticals — the company being targeted by Stephanie’s family’s firm — while Amara has been tapped to investigate corruption within Evan’s administration.
A few things we must discuss…
* One thing I appreciate about Ambitions is that it isn’t afraid to go from zero to completely insane in the blink of an eye. Just look at Rondell’s confrontation with Peters when he shows up at her restaurant. She threatens to knife him up the butt, which is already wild, but then he decides to press himself against her pointed knife (and bleed!) to call her bluff, which is simply bananas. Absolutely no one is messing around on this show.
* Speaking of insane, everything that comes out of Hunter Purifoy’s mouth is just that. When he explained to Titus that Atlanta is a black city and that an “old cracker” like himself can only go so far on his own, I absolutely lost it.
* I have so many questions about the interaction between Stephanie’s daughter and Lori Purifoy. Not the closeted lesbian thing — that I understand. But what was with Lori straight-up licking Carly’s entire mouth on her way out of the bathroom? Was that… sexy? It was easily one of the Top 10 weirdest sexual acts I’ve witnessed on TV (and that includes the time Sutton Foster walked in on Matthew Morrison with a sheep on Younger).
OK, let’s talk about Ambitions. Did you enjoy your introduction to Stephanie Lancaster’s twisted world? Or will you be keeping your distance in the future? Grade the premiere below, then drop a comment with your full review.