I am so glad I stuck with this show. I considered bailing after about episode 3, not wanting to watch a bunch of oblivious white rich people continue to take brutal advantage of the new black family, but it really has found interesting ways to explore the race/class/sexual orientation issues it has raised.
I do take issue with the comparisons between Mia and Elena, though. I don't think they are equal assholes. Mia is abrupt and off-putting, but that's not a character flaw, it's just her. Same with her advice that you can't challenge someone without expecting to be challenged back. That IS good advice, and something Izzy needed to hear, and I don't think it's particularly hypocritical of Mia to say it. She stands up to being challenged very well. She may not have made the best choices, but she stands behind them. She wouldn't be intimidated off the witness stand, even though she knew her own past was about to be detonated in her face. She was ready to meet that challenge and face the consequences. She doesn't like to talk about difficult things (who does?) but she is prepared to defend herself. She is selfish, sure, and it was wrong of her to take Pearl away and not let her have a relationship with her biological father. But even though she makes mistakes, and does things for selfish reasons, there really is an undercurrent of reasonable goodness in the things she has done. She sold that photograph in order to give Bebe a fighting chance in court. She could have spent that money on her own child, but she spent it on someone who was in greater need. Pearl has a right to be upset, but that's not a morally unjustifiable action. She takes in Elena's kids when they come to her, because she can see that they need something they're not getting at home, and even then she doesn't nurture them, she just gives them hard advice that they need to hear. She acts out of selfish fear, but it's a fear that stems from the possibility of losing Pearl if the truth about her parentage came out. It may not be morally right, but it is emotionally understandable. At the very least, Mia demonstrates the courage it takes to stand behind her convictions.
Elena, on the other hand, seems to act predominantly vindictively. Her actions stem not from a fear of LOSING her children, but of having to accept them as they are, not what she wants them to be. She resents the way her life turned out, due to the way her parents' expectations shaped her decisions, but then she heaps those same expectations on her own children. When she involves herself in the court case, it's not actually to help the adoptive parents: She threatens Mia, uses underhanded tactics, and risks exposing her husband to charges of witness tampering so that, in her own words, SHE wouldn't be responsible for her friends losing their child. She investigates Mia, tells Pearl her mother's secrets, and involves herself way too much in Mia's business in order to PUNISH Mia for... what? Helping a mother go to court to fight for her child? Even when she acts motherly towards Pearl, it seems to stem not from a genuine care for Pearl's interests, but an ingrained belief that Mia is not a good mother, and looking after Pearl makes her feel superior. It's like she has to justify her own ingrained racism by proving that the People of Color in her life really ARE bad by some standard or other. Elena makes the easy choices, the ones that DON'T take courage, and I respect her less and less with each passing episode. And thinking of....
Lexi is so much like her mother. I actually think, rather than because she knew she had screwed Pearl over, she didn't tell Brian about the abortion because while she was about to try to justify her "I'm a victim" mindset with her abortion story, some little part of her realized that if she told Brian the truth, she WOULD actually experience some real suffering (though still not as much as an actual victim). She would be opening herself up to being called on her actions, and if he was upset with her for lying to him or not telling him, she might have to confront the idea that she had done the wrong thing by keeping him in the dark (and I'm not saying she had any obligation to consult him, I'm only reflecting on the guilt she might feel for terminating the pregnancy behind his back), and so, just like her mother, she did the cowardly thing and protected herself.
I love how complicated the situation is between Mia and Elena, and how it really does put some meat on the bones of the question "what makes a good mother?" Certainly, Elena and Mia are both good and bad in different ways. Focusing on the way the OTHER is a bad parent, rather than on the way THEY are bad parents, is hypocritical, but still not equally so. Mia is afraid to tell Pearl the truth and knows it's wrong to lie to her, but continues to do so out of fear. Elena seems absolutely blind to her own faults, and lashes out against others to avoid facing them. They are both motivated by selfishness, but not to the same outcomes. I can't tell if the show KNOWS there's an imbalance in the way their selfishness manifests, or if it really thinks it's putting them on equal footing, but I'll definitely be interested to see how it ends.