Wednesday, September 14, 2016

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - Charley, Nova & Ralph Angel Don't Know What to Do With the Farm in 'Thy Will Be Done'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 1.03 "Thy Will Be Done"

Charley, Nova and Ralph Angel learn the contents of their father's will and explore the idea of running the farm together as a family. Ralph Angel fights to fulfill Ernest's dream but faces resistance from his siblings. The pressure on Ralph Angel pushes him to his limit when someone attempts to repossess one of Ernest's possessions. While deciding what to do next, the family seriously considers a low offer for the land from a local buyer.

In its third episode, Queen Sugar is still setting up a lot of its story. At times, the action does move slowly. The family is still grappling with the immediate aftermath of Ernest's sudden passing. They buried him last week. That was the focus for that particular hour. In "Thy Will Be Done," Ernest's will is read and everyone adjusts based on what they've inherited. Aunt Vi takes the boat while Charley, Nova and Ralph Angel get the farm. The entire family takes on his debts though. He was in a lot of financial trouble when he died. It's much worse than any of them were expecting. It doesn't make any of the decision making easier to handle. In fact, everything is complicated because of the debts he was in. The world doesn't just stop because he died. The family has inherited the debt and have to deal with collectors while also processing all of these difficult emotions. It's a trying time for all of them. They do get some clarity and purpose at the end of the hour. But it sure does take a lot to get to that point.

There is still a lot of tension amongst the Bordelon siblings. It's not as bad as it was last week. But it is still there. Charley and Nova mostly seem united now. They understand the realities of the situation. They know that they have to seriously consider selling the farm just in order to break even with all of the financial stress. Ralph Angel is the outlier this week. He wants to actually listen to his father's advice. He believes he can farm the land and leave a legacy for Blue just like previous generations of this family have done. He believes just because he and Blue have seen Ernest work that means he can do a good enough job at farming. It won't be that easy. Ralph Angel has some pretty major issues in his life as well. The farm is an aspirational dream for him. It won't fulfill the rules of his parole though. He has to find a job that provides a pay stub. He has to work at least 40 hours a week. On top of all of that, he wants to be the man on the ground running the day-to-day operations of the farm. That just seems too unlikely. And yet, it's what he leads his sisters into believing.

Charley and Nova are willing to sell because they have lives away from the farm. Ralph Angel does resent them for that. He believes he knows them because of their disassociation from their father's farm. He doesn't believe Charley has a real connection to the place because she was only there during the summers while growing up. Meanwhile, he doesn't believe Nova likes or respects the place because she left as soon as she can. To him though, the farm is home. It's the place he was able to return to and raise his son when his life took a turn. He's not proud of his past. It informs so much of his actions though. The world looks at him like a convicted felon. To an extent, that is true. He's very open about doing the thing he was sentenced for. That openness is what leads to him getting a job at a local warehouse. But it's still clear that he is suffering from some severe psychological issues. He can't process anyone wanting to do things differently. He feels cut out of the entire process. Charley and Nova are trying to get everything wrapped up as quickly as possible so that they can move on back to their normal lives. This is Ralph Angel's normal life. He just wants to feel included.

And yet, inclusion takes a devastating turn later on. Charley and Nova are aware that they are inclined to sell because they know nothing about farming. They don't think Ralph Angel is capable of handling all of this responsibility. To them, he's just their kid brother who doesn't have his life together at all. He's the guy who pulls a gun on the two men trying to tow his father's truck away. That's an extreme reaction. Charley and Nova are trying to reason with the guys by offering to settle the debt. Ralph Angel uses violence in an attempt to threaten these guys into backing down. It's how he sees the world. It's obviously very different than how Charley and Nova do. But more importantly, it's not exactly the example he wants to be setting for Blue. The kid just happens to wake up at that moment and come out of the house. It's a very melodramatic moment but it's very effective in showing the psychological issues amongst these characters. Ralph Angel is broken. His world is constantly changing and he doesn't know how to pull himself up and out of it. The pressure is on him more than anyone else. It's self-inflicted pressure. He finds himself constantly returning to Darla even though he has no idea if she has genuinely changed or not. He's trying to do right. But he's hoping for an immediate fix. Life doesn't work like that.

However, a solution is presented in the end that should work out for the entire family. Charley and Nova decide to grow a crop this season. After a year of being farmers, they'll re-evaluate the situation. Charley and Nova will return to their normal lives though. They'll handle the financials and the paperwork. But it will be up to Ralph Angel to make sure everything goes according to plan at the farm. All three of them have to work together in the hopes of making this a success. It's a huge risk for the family. One that could send them plunging into debt further. They turn down an offer to sell the land because they believe it's worth more. The show gets into some interesting racial politics throughout this hour. It talks extensively about black farmers still not being treated the same as white ones. The prospective buyer believes he can extend a low offer just because the family is in a really vulnerable place right now. He prays on their emotions. It's everything the people of this community think about him. Fortunately, Ernest was beloved and everyone wants to help the family from making a massive mistake. That's a good sign that perhaps this year of farming won't go off as horribly as it could. It could still be a mistake. But it's one that Charley, Nova and Ralph Angel are committed to making together.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Thy Will Be Done" was written by Jason Wilborn and directed by Neema Barnette.
  • Charley needs to stay at the farm for a few more days than was originally planned. That creates some tension between her and Micah. He's willing to get back to life in Los Angeles as soon as possible. That's the world he knows. He loves his family but he's not committed to life on a farm.
  • And yet, Micah is starting to seem like an inconsistent and erratic teenager. Last week he told his father that he didn't need him in his life. And now, he's lashing out at Charley because she's letting Davis go through this scandal alone.
  • Davis and his teammates have been suspended pending an official investigation by law enforcement. He also tells Charley the truth about that night. The woman was an escort the guys hired. He had sex with her. But none of them consider it to be rape like the media is saying.
  • Charley lets it slip to Nova about those details of Davis' scandalous night. The entire time it felt like she was falling into a trap though. Those details could become important if Nova is forced to write a story about it at the paper. It would be a massive betrayal to her sister. She hasn't crossed that bridge yet though.
  • Nova still has work to do at her regular job as well. Here, she travels to a prison to visit with a high school student afraid a conviction could ruin his chances of going to college. She tells him not to be afraid by the power of the system. But it's still mostly just more plot setup.
  • Aunt Vi is continuing to worry about her own mortality. She is just a few years younger than Ernest. So, she believes all of her good years are past her. Good thing she has Hollywood though. He's committed to loving her no matter what happens next.
  • Of course, a younger co-worker of Vi's is seen flirting with Hollywood in the parking lot of the diner. Vi doesn't see it as a threat at all. But it could very well turn into one later on.
  • Sparks are starting to fly a little bit between Charley and Remy. He's proven invaluable in explaining the people of this community to her. And yet, how can a romance possibly flourish if she is still married to Davis and only in town once a month for the foreseeable future?
  • Ernest made his will after Ralph Angel was born. That's very telling in how unexpected his death was. He didn't see the need to update the will to better reflect the pressure on the farm in today's world.