Wednesday, September 7, 2016

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - The Bordelon Family Comes Together to Plan Ernest's Funeral in 'Evergreen'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 1.02 "Evergreen"

The siblings must work together to plan their father's funeral. Tensions rise between Charley and Nova as they each seek to honor their father. Ralph Angel argues with Aunt Vi over whether it's appropriate to bring Blue to the funeral. Charley struggles with the fallout of the scandal surrounding her husband. In an unexpected encounter, she meets with an individual who's interested in taking the farm off their hands.

Last night, Queen Sugar had a truly gripping and intense premiere. It lived in the heavy emotional moments of its characters as they were all just trying to get by in their lives. Whether it's a complicated love story, the struggle to raise a kid or the betrayal of an affair, everything resonated really well. It all culminated in the shocking death of Ernest Bordelon. He was the father of this family who was proud of all of his children. Sure, he didn't support all of their decisions. But he was there to support them no mater what. And now, he's dead. He had a sudden stroke and not everyone in the family was able to say goodbye. "Evergreen" focuses on the difficult emotions that come from needing to plan a funeral. It's the first time the audience gets to see the siblings interact with each other. So this hour is still very introductory in a number of ways. It also doesn't quite have the same propulsive energy as that first hour did.

Charley and Micah weren't able to see Ernest before he died. The scandal with Davis kept them from getting there in time. They aren't the estranged members of this family who return because of this death either. They are close with their relatives in Louisiana. This isn't a strange or foreign place to them. They've been here before and still have so much trust and love for their family and the farm. Charley and Ernest talked on the phone before his stroke. She was the only sibling who knew about his financial difficulties. She didn't know the extent of his problems. No one knew that. But she had a much clearer picture of things than Aunt Vi, Nova or Ralph Angel did. He refused to accept Charley's money though. She has the wealth to afford anything. She wanted to help her father but he wanted to earn it himself. She's comfortable spending money. She's perhaps a little too comfortable which causes tension between her and Nova.

Charley and Nova are sisters. They do love each other and are willing to comfort each other. They just have different ideas of how best to honor their father in death. Nova is well connected in this community. She's a reporter and activist. She cares about what happens in this place and the people who live there. She knows what the right thing to do in this situation in this corner of the world. Charley wants to follow a more traditional path. It's a bit more expensive and less personal. Nova wants to negotiate funeral costs. She wants the three siblings to split paying it all. She doesn't want Charley to take care of all of it. Charley feels alienated throughout this whole process. She walks into a room and it seems like the rest of the family already has everything figured out. They didn't exclude her out of malice. They've just got everything done already that needs to be taken care of. Getting the casket and picking up the food is all that's left. Charley wants to be an active part of the planning. It might be a way to distract from the scandal going on with Davis. But she also wants to feel connected to this place and make her father proud.

The world keeps on spinning while the family is in mourning. Charley spots someone interested in buying the farm looking over the land when no one is home. That's not something the family has to think about right now. In this very moment, they just have to worry about burying their father. It's a tough week for all of them. And yet, the offers are still coming in. The farm wasn't making any money. The true depths of the financial hardship will be known soon enough. Only one person suggests that the family should take their time before deciding anything about the farm. That man, Remy, was actually close to Ernest. He helped him and also knew the truth about the lack of crops. That's just as surprising to Charley as it was to Vi and Hollywood. And yet, all of this just feels like the plot mechanics getting ready to explain why this family will stay together even after the funeral. It's understandable why they would be united now. They are saying goodbye to their father for the last time. But what comes next is very important. Charley made a promise that she would turn things around. But is that what Vi, Nova and Ralph Angel want? Their lives are pulling them in different directions. Charley may not even have the time to stick around. She can escape to a life in Los Angeles if she wants to. But the rest of the family will have to stay and pick up the pieces. It seems unlikely that Charley would abandon them but it's also a distinct possibility.

All of this is very overwhelming to Charley. Nova yells at her for wanting strangers to serve food at the repass. To Nova, familiar faces need to comfort the people who need comforting during this difficulty time. Her spiritual beliefs are still largely a mystery to the audience. And yet, the siblings respect what she does. She makes a lot of sense when it comes to what the family needs right now. Of course, she's also trapped in a story where she loves a man she shouldn't be in love with. She doesn't have all of the answers. She stands up to her boss at the newspaper when he asks her to write a story about her sister. But she doesn't have that same conviction when it comes to dealing with Calvin. She lets him come to the funeral. It's comforting to her even though no one else there knows him. Charley needs comforting like that as well. But she doesn't have anyone. She needs to be the support system for Micah. She wants to escape her life in Los Angeles and Davis. She doesn't want to hear anything he has to say about the scandal. She's realized just how much of a narcissist he really is. And yet, Micah breaks and lets his dad know where he is. Davis shows up. It's a startling moment to Charley. She yells at him for being selfish. She even allows herself to cry and be comforted by him. But that's not an open invitation for him to explain himself and try to fix their marriage. She's still hurting. She needed a release and got one.

Meanwhile, Ralph Angel doesn't believe Blue should attend the funeral. He's made some questionable parenting decisions so far. They fall into the same pattern though. Ralph Angel didn't want Blue to see Ernest in the hospital because he believed it wasn't a place for a child. He feels the exact same way about Blue attending the funeral. He doesn't think children should be exposed to death in such a way. They'll have too much of that in the future. So, it's best to limit their exposure now. However, Ralph Angel broke down both times and allowed Blue to go. When Ernest was in the hospital, he needed to see his grandson. That was the exact kind of comfort he needed during his final hours alive. But here, Blue attends the funeral just because Ralph Angel can't find anyone to watch him. He's relying more and more on Ms. Velez to be a babysitter. That's not her job even though she loves Blue and seems to be intrigued by Ralph Angel. She's busy on the day of the funeral. More importantly though, he reaches out to Darla to take Blue. He believes so strongly that Blue shouldn't be there that he's willing to have a woman he doesn't trust watch him unsupervised. She's trying to prove that she's changed. And yet, there's no reason why Ralph Angel should believe that. Plus, it doesn't even work. Darla doesn't show up until the funeral is already underway. Blue is happy to see his mom. But Ralph Angel is not happy at all. It's not the time or place to make a scene. The siblings need to present a united front in order to get through this day. But trouble is brewing in all of their lives right now.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Evergreen" was written by Tina Mabry and directed by Ava DuVernay.
  • Ernest really was beloved by the entire town. Everywhere the characters go, people bring up just how good of a man he was. In fact, it's because of that sentimentality that Nova is able to negotiate such a great deal for the funeral service.
  • It's great that Nova just does whatever she wants at the funeral home too. She makes the decision on which casket to get. She opts for the white as a way to honor her father. But more importantly, she wants to sew in a special cloth to protect him in death. She does it on the show casket and doesn't care at all.
  • There is a noticeable age difference between Vi and Hollywood. No one seems to mind though. Except Vi is now worried that Hollywood won't have the chance to be a father because he's with her. She wants him to be happy. She sees him with Blue and feels like she's taking that away from him.
  • Vi has so much love for her family. She's devastated that Ernest has died and that she's all alone now. And yet, she's not alone. She still has a family who loves her. But her brother has died. She feels like the last of a generation.
  • Davis West is a huge story right now. Every reporter is trying to get the exclusive details. And yet, he is able to fly to Louisiana and go about the city without being harassed by reporters. If only escaping the press was that easy in real life.