Wednesday, July 26, 2017

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - Family History Informs Everyone as They Struggle With the Future in 'I Know My Soul'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 2.07 "I Know My Soul"

Ralph Angel's confession continues to cause unrest and his appeal to Darla for emotional support conflicts with Charley's wishes. Nova learns something surprising about Violet.

"I Know My Soul" is an exceptional and devastating episode of Queen Sugar. It works because of how heartbreaking and emotional it is. It builds on the entire history of this family. The lives they've lived and how that has molded them into the people they are today. It's very deliberate and delicate work. It's an hour comprised of many individual moments where the characters are simply telling someone a story. It's a story that is devastating to listen to. It's them expressing their perspective of this world as it has come to define their lives. This family has always been so loving and supportive of each other but they've had their heartbreaks and misunderstandings as well. Those are fueling the actions of all of the characters at the moment. They each believe they are in the right. They have their perception of their father and what he would and wouldn't do. And yet, these last few episodes have only proven that none of them truly knew the man all that well. They were each too caught up in their own lives and problems to see what was happening to their father. As such, they may want to believe in something. They want to believe that he had the wisdom to bring all of his children together upon his death. But all of these new details that are coming out - like the revision of his will, him working as a janitor, Aunt Vi used to own the farm as well - have only muddled the waters of who the man really was. He was human and flawed just like the rest of them. The audience and characters already knew that because of the failing farm. But now, it's even more apparent to see. They all want to believe something about Ernest. But they will never get confirmation on whether or not that's true. All they can do is speculate. That's a part of their grieving process now that all of this news has come out. They need to find a way to address it and make peace with it.

The show dropped the huge bombshell of the updated will at the end of last week's episode. It's something the show has been holding onto for awhile. It didn't start the season with the events of this episode. This hour succeeds because the show chose to wait. It allowed the season to do more with these characters and thus make the big reveal even more devastating to them. It's exciting to see it come out near the end of the first half of the season with there still being enough time to see how it affects everyone in the family. Everyone has laid down roots in this community. They have changed their lives because Ernest left the farm to his three children. They took on the challenge in order to prove to the world that they were capable of succeeding. Everything they did, they did to honor their father. They wanted to make him proud. And now, Charley and Nova find out that this isn't the life that their father wanted for them. He didn't want to disrupt their lives. He wanted to give the farm completely to Ralph Angel. His sudden death meant he couldn't do it in person. But even that has to be speculated upon. Why did he choose to just give the farm to Ralph Angel? Was it because he needed it the most? Was it because Ernest loved him more than his daughters? It's unclear. Right now, they all have to figure out what to do with this information.

It was very wise of the show to keep the action primarily centered around one location. For most of the running time, the siblings are all at Aunt Vi's house. They aren't able to escape. Aunt Vi won't let any of them leave until they figure this out. It's the wisdom she has because she knew about the letter in advance. She's not as shocked or upset as Charley and Nova are. She told Ralph Angel to be very careful with how he broke the news if he wanted to do that. But it didn't seem like he actually listened to that advice. It's so easy to turn against Ralph Angel throughout this episode. He's only revealing this information now as a power play. He wants to be honest with his family but he doesn't really care what the consequences of this confession will be. He just wants the truth to be out there. He wants to finally live up to his father's expectations. That allows there to be some sympathy for the character as well. He wants the opportunity to run this business the way he wants to without Charley needing to control everything. This is the future he believes his father left him. He wants to honor his father's legacy by actually working the land and raising his family here. He wants to achieve what his father couldn't. In the process of getting that though, he is pushing his family further away. He didn't go about it the right way. He also refuses to accept that his family has genuine concerns for him in charge of this business. He believes they are just trying to manipulate him because they look down on him for what he has done. That's a belief he carries around with him all the time. He believes his past has defined him. It defines him because he allows it to. He would deny that he's the one focusing on it but he is. He's pushing people away because he can't see the genuine concern that they have. Things need to be his way in order for him to feel supported. But that's not healthy at all. When he's called out on that, he reacts poorly too.

Of course, everyone is allowed to have a selfish reaction to all of this. They all saw the honor and respect that came from controlling the farm equally. It gave them a simple understanding of their father. He wanted this for all of them. It served as validation. This revised will is even more so for Ralph Angel. But it's so destructive to Charley and Nova. Nova's reaction is pretty interesting. It forces her to truly reflect and deal with the relationship she had with her father. It's so empowering to see a black woman on TV who isn't obsessed with finding a partner to settle down with and have children. It's a non-traditional story that just isn't seen. This show depicts that experience and empowers it. It makes it truly unique. Nova is a fantastic and nuanced character. She enjoys sex and has so much love for her family. She's already fulfilled in every way she wants. And yet, she's angry at her father because he wanted the traditional path for her. They grew distant because Charley and Ralph Angel gave him the grandchildren he always wanted. She was the outlier. She was the different one. She came to respect her father again by being a part of the family and having healthy relationships with her siblings. But now, she's forced to question if her father really loved her. It's devastating that she even has to ask the question. She feels alienated because of it. She wants to use her investigative skills in order to prove Ralph Angel wrong. She needs evidence in order to make sense of this. She does unearth Aunt Vi's past ownership of the farm. She gets the story out of her on why she sold her shares. That's a meaningful scene too because it's Aunt Vi continuing to tell her family that they should pursue what makes them happy. Doing what they are passionate about is the only thing that truly matters. Nova does seem to take that advice and potentially chases after happiness. But things are still tense between her and the rest of the family - especially since Ralph Angel wants to blame her for not being there for him after their mother died.

And finally, Charley's carefully crafted narrative has exploded. She's formed this message that can be used to tell her story to the outside world. She's picking herself up after a major scandal and reinventing herself in order to honor her father. She's skilled at manipulating the world around her to fit her narrative. It's a destructive quality about her too though. She's forceful and controlling which can hurt her personal relationships. The people around her are always questioning if her feelings and actions are real or will just make for a good story to the world at large. But she is completely thrown by this revelation from Ralph Angel. It serves as confirmation that maybe her father always saw her as less than her siblings because of who her mother was. She shares the story of not even having a bedroom at the farm when she came to visit. She always had to stay with Aunt Vi. That's what made their relationship so strong. She was there for her father. But she was also too busy to help him financially when he needed it the most. She's had success but no one to actually share it with. She wants that. She wants a partner who will fight for her. Davis was dishonest with her. And now, Remy doesn't know if he can trust her because of how calculating she can be. This reveal has shaken her entire world. She can't make sense of it. She seems willing to hand the farm over to Ralph Angel if he honestly believes he can run it without the support of the rest of the family. That may just be a tactic to convince him not to use this document against them legally. The farm is at its strongest when the family is working together. Their prides are getting in the way of that happening right now. But it's also so moving to see Charley so vulnerable in that final moment. She has the story she likes to stick to. But she also genuinely has no idea how her father would react to any of this because she's been forced to question who he actually was as of late.

Some more thoughts:
  • "I Know My Soul" was written by Maria Elena Rodriguez and directed by Kat Candler.
  • Ralph Angel selfishly needs unconditional love and support from Darla right now. It's very controlling of him. It's almost abusive actually. He's telling her what she can and can't do. He's not allowing her to be her own person. He messes up. He's still mad at her by the end of the hour. But he doesn't get in the way of her time with Blue. 
  • It truly is fascinating to see Ralph Angel believe everything is a cunning manipulation in order to get him to do something he doesn't want to do. He thinks Charley only sends Darla away for work in order to gang up on him. That's what makes the show so smart in allowing the audience to see that there really is work at the mill that needs to get done.
  • Of course, Charley suffers from similar problems. She doesn't tell Davis about the exclusive interview about their divorce until after the fact. She wants to believe it will be an unbiased piece but she has no way of knowing that. Plus, all her talk about controlling the narrative can also create doubts in the people closest to her - like Remy questioning her every decision and how genuine it is.
  • Aunt Vi's abusive past has been hinted at before. She got married young and the guy, Jimmy, turned out to be hurtful to her. But it's still so powerful listening to her share the story of how her brother came to rescue her when she needed it despite them being so completely estranged that they didn't even talk at their mother's funeral. It's a very moving moment.
  • Both the story and the characters are keenly aware that it's better that Hollywood and Micah just stay out of this family disagreement. They are still there for their respective loved ones. But there's also nothing that they can genuinely do to make the situation any easier for all involved.