Wednesday, October 12, 2016

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - Charley Wants to Run Away From Her Family in 'In No Uncertain Terms'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 1.07 "In No Uncertain Terms"

Charley finally faces the state of her marriage and shares it with Micah. Ralph Angel wants to move forward with his life by farming full time and obtaining custody of his son from Aunt Vi, but he encounters resistance from the family. Charley and Nova clash over money. Aunt Vi discovers information that jeopardizes her relationship with Hollywood after coming face-to-face with someone from his past.

Last week's episode of Queen Sugar brought everything to a head with the Davis West scandal to devastating effect for Charley. Now, she's lingering in the emotional aftermath of having her entire world ripped apart. It makes for a great and interesting story for her throughout "In No Uncertain Terms." Meanwhile, things reach big climatic moments with a number of other stories in this hour as well. They haven't been boiling as long as the Davis story was though. So that makes these big revelations less effective than last week's was. They are still quite good as storytelling beats. It makes sure that the entire family is dealing with some kind of emotional turmoil right now. They are all lingering in their own problems. All they have is each other to rely on in order to get through this mess. It's just a bit more formulaic and expected while the Davis reveal was actually quite surprising and earned.

It's powerful to see Charley at the start of the hour curled by in a ball in a chair unable to move or talk about what happened with Davis. Her whole world was shaken. She no longer wants anything to do with him. She assumes that all of his legal problems are over with now. She believes he'll be able to walk away from this scandal as a free man. She doesn't know that for sure because she's no longer his business manager. She's in Louisiana focusing on her own life on the farm. Her family understands that something happened when she went to Dallas last week. Of course, Ralph Angel and Nova are too caught up in their own worlds to truly do anything about it. Aunt Vi is there for Charley though. It's through her compassion that Charley realizes she needs to tell Micah the truth. It will completely ruin his life as well. He knows that something is up because Davis didn't return to the farm with Charley. Only his mom came back as a changed person. But he is left completely in the dark.

Charley doesn't really worry about trying to preserve Micah's innocence and childhood for as long as possible as either. She knows this news will upset him and completely change his opinion of his father. And yet, she still tells him the truth. Davis may not have actually raped his accuser. But he was disloyal to his family and paid for prostitutes on the road for several years. That's devastating. Of course, it once again props up the idea that Micah is nothing more than a moody teenager. That has been a consistent characterization for him this season. The only thing the audience can rely on is Micah changing his opinion at any moment. He loves his family in Louisiana. But he's constantly going back and forth on whether or not it's a good idea to actually live there for several months of the year. Here, he lashes out because he's going to have to go to school here until the fall. Didn't he know that before? Didn't he know that's what would happen when he agreed to move? He's great when it comes to looking after Blue. He has a fun dynamic with the toddler. This news doesn't break him apart. Nor does it present him in any new or interesting ways.

Micah is a core source of conflict between Charley and Nova as well. Nova taking money out of the family account to post bail for Too Sweet isn't a secret for very long. As soon as Charley tries to pay for something, she learns the account doesn't have as much money as it should. Nova's apology is only for not telling her siblings about what she did. It was the secretive nature of it all that was wrong. But she still stands by what she did. It once again puts conflict between the siblings. They've been in many petty squabbles over the season so far. None of them have had much lasting impact either. They disagree but are able to fix things shortly after that. So, it's surprising that there isn't some moment here when the two make nice again. In fact, the opposite happens with Charley lashing out at Nova and Micah - Nova for taking Micah to New Orleans without permission and Micah for going without telling her about it. Charley is under an incredible amount of pressure right now. Her family is asking a lot of her while she's not in the best headspace. And thus, she's lashing out. It's a part of her grieving process. A mood that only Remy is truly able to understand.

Charley and Remy's friendship has been a core part of the season. He has welcomed her into this community and has been pleasantly surprised by the woman she actually is. He's intrigued by her and wants this family to succeed. He sees Charley struggling right now. He doesn't know the truth about Davis. He just knows that something has changed and that Charley is planning on divorcing him. Meanwhile, her siblings are only causing further headaches. Nova took money out of the account and isn't sorry about it while Ralph Angel wants to be paid now instead of honoring the deal they made as a family to reap the rewards of the farm at the end of the season. Charley has always been the one to handle all of the finances at the farm. But now, it seems like that's all that's defining her life in Louisiana. Her family sees her as a checkbook willing and capable of helping them out whenever they need it. She had money and stature in her life in Los Angeles. She's still humble and willing to work with her hands. But now, her world has been rocked and the farm seems to be experiencing more problems than ever before. She wants to run away from all of these difficult emotions. Remy convinces her to stay. He's been in the exact same headspace. When his wife died, he wanted to run instead of grieve. Charley needs to embrace these emotions. The world isn't stopping to allow her to grief the death of her father and the end of her marriage. She still needs to move forward. She just needs to find a way to get through all of these troubling and complicated feelings.

Elsewhere, Aunt Vi and Hollywood have been really stable as a couple. They have the strongest relationship out of anyone on the show. It has made them an endearing presence. It's a big deal when Hollywood returns home and is welcomed by everyone. His return is celebrated with a party. Frankly, this family will find any excuse to throw a party in their yard for the whole neighborhood. It's something they all know how to do. They enjoy celebrating the little things and respecting the value of a community - especially in these very trying times. Aunt Vi is a rock for so many people right now. Nova is off doing her own thing. She doesn't need much assistance at the moment. But it's because of Aunt Vi that Charley is able to pull herself back up and face the reality of her new world. It's because of Aunt Vi that Ralph Angel isn't back in prison right now after the crime ring at the warehouse was broken up. She's the protecter of this family. She's the mother looking after her children. She knows the painful history of all of their lives. She knows what's best for everyone even if they aren't willing to admit it to themselves. That's what makes it so devastating when Aunt Vi gets hit with the truth about Hollywood's past.

Hollywood's ex-wife only popped up a little while ago. It was a new secret introduced to create problems for this core relationship. It doesn't take long at all for the truth to come out. The show has a willingness to introduce a secret and then reveal it right away to see what the ramifications of the truth will be. That has been an effective quality throughout the season. Of course, Hollywood isn't as defined a character as Aunt Vi is. Part of the big confrontation with his ex-wife at the end of the episode is a bit of an exposition dump. This is a shocking revelation to Aunt Vi. He explains that he is still married to Leanne because she needs his health insurance to treat her bipolar disorder. Plus, she was once pregnant but miscarried the baby. That's a lot of information that just comes out during the scene at the party. It is a little bit rushed. It's still a big deal when Aunt Vi tells Hollywood to leave and not come back. It shows that she'll need the support from her family right now too. Charley and Micah are there for in the end. It's just not as emotional a moment as it could have been largely because of the weird plotting.

Some more thoughts:
  • "In No Uncertain Terms" was written by Denise Harkavy and directed by Neema Barnette.
  • Ralph Angel learns that Blue cannot technically be living with him because Aunt Vi still has legal custody. She took him in when Ralph Angel went to jail so that Blue wouldn't fall prey to the foster care system. And now, she refuses to sign the papers because she still worries about Ralph Angel going back to jail and Blue being forced to live with his mother.
  • More details about Darla's past are revealed as well. Aunt Vi shares that Hollywood found Darla in the shed turning tricks while Blue was half to death. It was a stark time for all that really paints a full picture of Darla in Aunt Vi's mind.
  • Roberta is very flirtatious with Ralph Angel at the diner. She even just randomly shows up at his place and they immediately have sex. It's a rather forced dynamic that never makes a whole lot of sense.
  • Micah has lived a very privileged life. He has never been targeted by the police for being a black man. It's an eye-opening experience for him when he goes to an art show with Nova and her friend. How much of this is foreshadowing to a tragic turn of events though?
  • Micah learns that Hollywood is keeping the truth about Leanne from Aunt Vi. He even threatens to tell her the truth. But he doesn't because he's still just a kid uncertain about what to do. Of course, the truth does come out about Leanne. It's just not because Hollywood feels he needs to tell Vi about his ex-wife.
  • Nova sure does have a complicated love life right now. She has officially moved on from Calvin by sleeping with the woman who did the radio show with her. But now, Calvin is actually leaving his wife and hopes to get back together with Nova.
  • Apparently, there's a storm coming that could destroy the entire harvest.