This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, Sweet Magnolias wouldn’t exist. We stand with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA.
Sweet Magnolias 3×06 “And a Star to Steer Her By” is an infuriating episode that turns everyone against Maddie and fractures the Magnolias for basically no reason whatsoever other than …eh, we needed drama in the middle of the season? Helen is being willfully ignorant, and though yes, a part of that can be explained by her wanting to believe in this thing with Ryan, she’s been burned so many times before by this man, and she’s such a smart woman that, at this point, her willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt and push her friends away is not just nonsensical, it’s absurd.
Not just that, but the fact that the narrative puts the blame on Maddie for asking a question is borderline ridiculous. Absolutely no one – not even Cal, who uses the moment to get Maddie to focus on herself, which is fair, but which would have also been good after the support – unequivocally tells Maddie hey, you did nothing wrong. And the truth is, she didn’t. In fact, she was the only one who did the thing we should all be asking of friends, which is to look out for each other.
But let us talk about the drama and the setup of Sweet Magnolias 3×06 “And a Star to Steer Her By”:
A SIMPLE QUESTION
All Maddie did, literally, was ask a question. That’s why we’re here. She asked Helen if Helen was happy, and you would have thought she’d insulted Ryan like Ryan deserved to be insulted, considering what he did at the end of the episode. Helen’s overreacting comes from a point of knowing Maddie is probably right – Helen is waiting for the other shoe to drop, and Dana Sue’s reaction comes from the same place, she knows Ryan was probably going to screw Helen over, and they all kinda wanted Helen to see it to realize it in her own time, be there for her when she needed them, but never call her out on it, to avoid this exact reaction.
But is that friendship, really? I don’t believe it is. Friendship is being able to tell each other the hard truths, not just the easy ones. Ryan Wingate is a hard truth, and it’s one these three women have dealt with before because he’s sadly been in Helen’s life for a long time. And he’s done this again, over and over. They know him of old. No one’s surprised by this, except, for some reason, Helen.
Except, in a way, she isn’t. Which is why she didn’t want to hear what she already knew. And it’s why, at the end of the episode, she can’t call her friends. She can’t face the mistake she made, and how she compounded it by pushing away the people who have always known her and loved her best.
I HAVE GIVEN YOU EVERYTHING
I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop since the last episode of Season 2, and now that it’s dropped, it’s not satisfaction I feel, it’s anger. Because this has always been the person Ryan Wingate is, and it’s kinda infuriating to find ourselves here, once again, with a wasted season for Helen, for Erik, and even for Ryan himself, just because grief tricked him into believing he could be someone other than who he has always been. Because that’s what it was, grief speaking.
He lost his aunt, and he felt adrift. And grief is a bad companion. It tells you things that you wouldn’t normally believe at any other time. It makes you reach for people you’d already given up with because your lives are simply not compatible. It makes you think you can do things that you’d already understood you are just not meant for.
That’s Ryan’s POV, though. It’s hard to understand why Helen would, once again, take Ryan back – other than, you know, plot reasons. She hasn’t just made this mistake once, or twice, she’s been burned multiple times before, and she’s said enough before. She’s moved on. She found someone else, someone who gave her the security and the love she deserved. And she threw that away to make the exact same mistake and get burned at the exact same time. We know this is a romance, so there is a way back, but in some ways, it almost feels like there shouldn’t be. Erik deserves better than that, he really does.
Now, just as Ronnie proved he could win Dana Sue back, it’s Helen’s turn. For their sake, let us hope we get that Season 4.
Things I think I think:
- I have never been angrier at Helen Decatur than I am this episode, I promise.
- Despite that, though, it was good to see Serenity coming together for Harlan.
- Love how even Dana Sue got dragged into it, even though she was timid, at best, in what she had to say to Helen.
- Cal, I appreciate the support, but you should have told Maddie she did nothing wrong.
- I hate you, Ryan Wingate.
- Hate. You.
- Dana Sue, can you please stop trying to be in the middle?
- Just pick a lane!
- This whole thing with Bill trying to be a good dad is …kinda creepy.
- Again, I hate you, Ryan. We all knew you were gonna do this. Even you knew it. Why even pretend?
- “I have given you everything.”
- All I am is angry, not even sad.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of Sweet Magnolias 3×06 “And a Star to Steer Her By”? Share with us in the comments below!
Sweet Magnolias Season 3 is now available to stream on Netflix.