Wednesday, September 21, 2016

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - Charley Returns to Los Angeles While Ralph Angel Struggles with the Farm in 'The Darker Sooner'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 1.04 "The Darker Sooner"

The Bordelon siblings attempt to return to their everyday lives, as Ralph Angel struggles to run the family farm amid setbacks. Charley resumes managing her husband's troubled professional basketball career and legal issues despite their strained relationship. Nova seeks justice for a friend's son who she believes to be wrongfully imprisoned, which gives rise to issues between her and Ralph Angel.

Sooner or later people have to move back to their regular lives after a major death. People do at various different times. The Bordelon family has to move through their grief quickly because of all the major problems in their lives. They've buried Ernest and learned what he has given to all of them. But now, they actually have to move forward. They can't just wait around and hope that the farm will get out of debt. They need to plant crops now. They are already late in doing so. Waiting any longer will ensure that the farm will go under and force the entire family down with it. Charley and Nova have the luxury of being able to escape back to their regular lives. It's not all that luxurious because they are dealing with their own scandals as well. Nothing about life is easy. These characters are realizing just how difficult this year of farming the land will actually be. It threatens to tear them all apart because they aren't as united as they seemed at the end of last week's episode.

Ralph Angel was confident that he could be the man in charge on the ground. Charley and Nova could leave and go back to their regular lives knowing that Ralph Angel was on top of things. It always seemed like a slightly silly premise. Charley and Nova have always been skeptical about Ralph Angel's contributions to the family. They knew that he couldn't help financially with Ernest's funeral. They trust that he'll be able to pull his own weight with the farm so that they can all reap the rewards later on. And yet, they have no clue just how inexperienced he actually is. He suggested that he and Blue watched Ernest enough that they knew how to manage the land. They do not. Ralph Angel has the cash now to actually go out and get the crops and supplies he needs. He is given the opportunity to succeed. But it only further showcases just how out of his depth he truly is. He needs to start planting. That's the major concern right now. He doesn't get the job done. He's not entirely to blame though. The entire family is walking into the unknown. They were bound to hit some setbacks. They've just started happening much earlier than expected.

Charley and Nova are good with the business side of the farm. They have all the paperwork filled out so that Ralph Angel can start buying what he needs. But they don't know that they have to register with the state. They don't know that the crops have to be assigned to them based on their parish. There's a whole new level of legality to this business that none of them knew about. It could be a major mistake to have Ralph Angel as the lead man on the job. It's not personally his fault. His inexperience is to blame for these setbacks. There's nothing he could have done differently. He buys a small crop from a co-worker's cousin in the hopes that it can be a decent start. But the crop is worthless. Ralph Angel was scammed. He lost $15,000 with his first move for this business. He simply didn't know better. That's alright for right now. But Remy adamantly argues they need a manager with actual experience. It seems more than likely that he will step into that role considering he names a couple of small jobs to Charley as reasons why he can't. Their flirtatious dynamic is too big a story for him not to take on this responsibility that will bring him closer to her. He has the experience and he could provide better incentive for Charley to return to Louisiana.

Of course, Charley has her hands full back in Los Angeles. She doesn't know what the future holds with her actual marriage to Davis. And yet, she's still choosing to support him as his manager. She's fighting so hard for him. She's doing what Micah wanted her to do last week. Yes, she's worried about the farm and whether Ralph Angel can handle all of this new responsibility. But she's also doing whatever it takes to protect her own family. She sees how this scandal is affecting Micah. He was so anxious to return home and get back to school and his girlfriend, Stella. But everything has changed for him. Charley needs to make sure he knows that. That this world typically isn't fair to black men. Davis is accused of this horrifying crime. The media is desperate for any kind of detail or attention it can get. Charley doesn't want Micah to listen to all of that noise. But it's hard for his life not to be affected by it. Stella and his friends are still waiting for him. However, Stella's mom is no longer supportive of her relationship with Micah. She doesn't come out and say that. But her actions make it loud and clear. Yes, this story is a little too silly. Micah isn't as captivating a screen presence as Charley, Nova or Ralph Angel are. His take on things is important. But the need to ruin his life through a scandal at school involving a Tumblr page and sexting just seems a little too extreme. The show knows what it wants to do: have this scandal ruin Micah's personal life as well. It's just a little problematic actually making that happen.

Meanwhile, Charley is realizing just how difficult it is to protect Micah and Davis. She wants to fight for Micah. She wants him to stay in school after learning the picture wasn't even of his penis. But he has given up and wants to leave. She abides by that. Again, it's a simple, small stakes story. Things get taken up a few more notches when Charley and Davis need to hire a criminal defense attorney. The rest of the team is uniting without Davis. They are alienating him for a reason. He and Charley are all alone in this scandal. There's rumors of a rape kit floating around out there. This case could explode with just the right piece of evidence. Everything has been pretty tame compared to what might happen next. Davis doesn't see his actions as rape but the case could be made against him. The lawyer wants to discredit the victim because she's a prostitute. That doesn't lesson the impact of what was done to her. But it certainly complicates this case. Charley wants all of this to go away. And yet, it refuses to do so. The girl can't be bought off. She's not doing this for the fame or attention. It's not clear what she's doing it for. But whatever it is, it's only going to create more headaches and issues for Charley to deal with.

"The Darker Sooner" provides even more context with Nova and Ralph Angel's relationship as well. They are two very different people but they actually grew up together. They have the same parents. They live relatively close to each other. When asked to do so, Nova can check in on Ralph Angel and the progress he's making on the farm. Charley bothers both of them to the point where they just do what she says. And yet, Nova doesn't connect with Ralph Angel as easily as she does with the people she's trying to help with her story. This episode features more details of what she's trying to expose. It's a journey that started with trying to help a friend's kid out of prison for a fairly minor offense. And now, it exposes corruption within the system. She learns that police precincts are sending as many people to for-profit jails just so they can reap the financial rewards. It's a horrifying revelation. Something that makes her boss and Aunt Vi proud of her reporting. But it also highlights problems with her relationship with Ralph Angel. She's more than capable of exploiting his felony past to connect with the sources she needs for her story. But she never actually visited him in prison a whole lot. She's visited this kid more than she did him. That still hurts and puts some distance between them. They reach a resolution of sorts by the end of the hour. Nova apologizes and says she'll be around more to help with the farm. But her actions will have to speak louder than words.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Darker Sooner" was written by Kay Oyegun and directed by So Yong Kim.
  • Aunt Vi doesn't know how everyone else in the family has been able to just return to their regular lives. She's still struggling to cope with her brother's death. Everyone is carrying their own pain and processing in different ways. Aunt Vi's is just more outward.
  • Where exactly does Hollywood work? He knows that he can't keep taking time off to be with Vi. But then, she suggests that he start working on the farm with Ralph Angel. That's probably what will happen eventually.
  • Why does that Tumblr page exist in the first place? It's trying to find a link between Davis' actions and his son's. And yet, there's nothing definitive that says Micah has done anything wrong - perhaps ever. One suggestive photo of him with Stella is all it takes to completely blow things up out of proportion.
  • It's established that this criminal defense lawyer is really good at her job and representing famous athletes. But she was certainly suggesting some pretty dark stuff to Charley and Davis in how they might be able to get all of this to go away.
  • Davis' team owner points to Charley's behavior on the court doing the middle of a game as a reason why they can't support him in this scandal. That's horrifying and doesn't make any sense. It's just their excuse so that they can enforce this indefinite suspension.
  • Nova enlists the help of her secret lover, Calvin, to visit her friend's kid when he winds up in the hospital. But how is he going to feel after reading the story? Is he a part of the corruption she's trying to expose?