Wednesday, July 5, 2017

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - The Farm Faces a New Threat as Nova Finds a Home in 'My Soul's High Song'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 2.04 "My Soul's High Song"

Charley searches for a more permanent home for Micah. A whitefly infestation threatens the farm. Nova adjusts to a new editor who wants her to change her approach. Darla makes a decision that has serious consequences.

Queen Sugar has explored a number of fascinating and topical subject matter across its two seasons so far. In "My Soul's High Song," it tackles what it means to be black and successful in 2017 America. Is it okay for people of color to celebrate their successes in the same way that white people do? Or does it instead play as them turning their backs on their own community in order to be welcomed by the people frequently in power? It's such a nuanced and complicated main story that the show does a wonderful job in depicting. Charley and Micah came from a specific world in Los Angeles. Davis was a universally beloved basketball star. His fame afforded them a life that was beyond the color of their skin. But now, Charley and Micah are living in Louisiana. The minds and beliefs of the people are slightly different. They are still filled with love and understanding. But the opinions of white vs. black success are stark as well. Charley is doing whatever she can to make her mill a success. It's an action that declares war with the Boudreaux family who has dominated the industry for years now. Charley is proud of what she has accomplished and wants to enjoy the privilege that comes from that hard work. But she's also fighting against the perception that she is an elitist who doesn't do all of the hard, manual work herself. It's a perception that's not so easy to change or ignore. She has to be aware of it.

Charley wants to give Micah a new house that is similar to what they had in Los Angeles. She wants to recreate that life for him so that he can overcome the traumatic run-in he had with the police. She's trying to get him to come out of his shell again. A house is a luxury but it may not be what he needs in this moment. Right now, he needs the support of his family. They may not all agree or sympathize with what he's going through. But they still need to have each other's backs no matter what happened. Charley feels like she's fighting against her perception as an elitist within her own family as well. She's worked hard to be taken seriously as a businesswoman. She's confident to make her opinions known at all times. But that can rub people the wrong way as well because they have ideas and want to contribute too. Charley doesn't have to be the singular voice that makes every decision in this business. She wants to help but is still struggling with her identity. She is accepting that things are changing. She's becoming better because she's surrounded by her family who have supported her and Micah through a really trying situation. But she also has to win over the farming community. Her converting part of the mill into a living space for her and Micah may be able to do that. It will show that she is different from the Boudreaux family because her roots are still in the community. But it's still going to take time for everyone to see her differently.

Ralph Angel has been fighting not to be seen as only an ex-con as well. He wants his identity to be so much more than that. He wants to be a respectable farmer and a great father to Blue. He wants his life to be happy and full of love with his family. But he and Charley continue to clash over every aspect of their lives. It's a dynamic that could get old after awhile. And yet, the show is still very mindful of the fact that they are still siblings who love each other but get frustrated by each other as well. Micah isn't the charming and considerate cousin he used to be to Blue. In fact, his trauma causes an accident where he even hurts Blue. It's such a brutal scene. One where it is easy to understand everyone's actions while also knowing how damaging they can be to the overall family unit. All of these issues rise to the surface because they are living together. It's an intense couple of days. One where Charley thinks Ralph Angel should empathize with Micah because of his past incarceration. The two situations aren't similar. Ralph Angel is offended that Charley is trying to equate Micah's pain with his. It's a fight that could once again force Ralph Angel to reveal the letter he found from his father. He does share it with Aunt Vi. She is the first person in the family who knows about it and the devastation it could create. She doesn't tell Ralph Angel what to do. She just tells him he better be absolutely sure if he does use it and is willing to accept the consequences of his actions. That's a lesson that Darla has to learn as well. She's been doing really good because of her stable job and a loving family dynamic. But she prioritizes Ralph Angel over her work and gets fired as a result. That's a move that could ultimately cost her a lot - especially if she keeps it a secret from the people she loves.

That's what make it so critical and compelling when Charley proves that she's willing to protect Ralph Angel no matter what. Last week I noted that it was a parole violation for Ralph Angel to have a gun on his property. I thought it was strange that that wasn't a bigger deal. But now, the show does pay that off. It's the latest attempt from the Boudreaux family to ruin the Bordelon family business. Getting Ralph Angel thrown back in jail would be devastating to this business. Charley understands that but it's much more important that she's protecting her brother in that moment. She's taking the fall for it. Sure, it means that she has to move out of the house much sooner than she expected. But she is able to save Ralph Angel by saying that the gun is hers and she is the one who fired it the other day. That's love and understanding. It's beautiful and significant to watch. These characters clash but they are still family. They understand their differences. Sometimes they just don't get how they could react in such a way. But other times, it's very empowering to see them present a united front to the people who wish them harm. That's what makes this one of the best families on television.

And finally, Nova and Hollywood are dealing with their changing careers as well. Both of these stories do largely feel like plot setup for future developments this season. And yet, both are very intriguing and fit in thematically with what the rest of the hour was doing. The show has proven to the audience that Nova is a respected and hard-hitting journalist. She is so passionate about exposing the failings of the system. And now, she has to deal with a new editor who wants to do more uplifting pieces to ensure that the subscribers keep coming back. It's a strategy that may not work. Journalism that puts in the time and effort to produce strong reporting is where the success is right now. Nova's work is important. But she has to decide if she's willing to go along with all of this and risk her career in the process. Meanwhile, Hollywood is struggling with what to do with his life now that he has so much free time after quitting his job. He's happy to be spending more time with Aunt Vi. But she's busy with her job. It's also fascinating to see both of them enjoying working. It's not something that they dread doing. But that doesn't mean they can't aspire to more either. That's a powerful message too. It's not too late for them to chase after their own dreams. It'll take some time for them to figure everything out. But they could be doing more with their lives very soon as well. That's very exciting.

Some more thoughts:
  • "My Soul's High Song" was written by Dana Greenblatt and directed by Maryam Keshavarz.
  • It's hilarious to think that the family is already placing bets on how long Charley is going to last living in the mill. It's a place she thinks she can make a home even though it would be roughing it compared to their home in Los Angeles. But I would have to agree with Aunt Vi in saying that she will last until the first week of the mill being up and running with work.
  • It's impressive to see how much progress Charley and Remy have made with the mill already. They are being very smart and knowing the proper equipment to buy. They are making a very tantalizing sales pitch to the farmers. But Charley is also getting ahead of herself as well by thinking she could franchise this business to earn even more profits.
  • Everyone needs to rally at the farm as well due to a whitefly infestation in a portion of the crops. It's a very serious concern. One that leaves Charley very nervous because of the damage it could do to the bottom line. She's been working the numbers very hard in the hopes of obtaining success in this new business. She doesn't want anything to ruin that.
  • Is it too easy to assume that Hollywood will find his new job somewhere on the farm or the mill? It just seems likely that he'll be incorporated into the family business somehow. Meanwhile, it's exciting that Aunt Vi may want her own business selling her pies. She worked hard for her promotion at the diner. She's good at that job too. But this would be something distinctly her own.
  • Nova's friend is pestering her with questions about starting a family. Meanwhile, Nova counters by saying that she already has all the family she really needs. There's no shame in that statement either. She's perfectly fine with not having children. She already feels fulfilled because of Micah and Blue. The show doesn't judge her for having this opinion either which is so refreshing.