Wednesday, August 2, 2017

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - Charley and Ralph Angel Need to Commit to Their Community and Loved Ones in 'Freedom's Plow'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 2.08 "Freedom's Plow"

Nova and Dr. Robert Dubois' reunion hits a roadblock. Charley's magazine interview raises concerns with the farmers. Charley confesses her feelings for Remy. Violet has a health issue. Ralph Angel and Darla take a big step.

Queen Sugar has been delivering some pretty emotionally devastating episodes over the past few weeks. "Freedom's Plow" builds to that same raw and very earned place as well with new revelations coming out and big relationship moves happening. But it also takes a step back to reflect on all that has happened this season so far. It's far more contemplative in that regard. Again, it's still very successful. But it plays less as a big climatic conclusion for the first half of the season and more as a time to figure out how these characters move forward after everything that has happened. The siblings find themselves scattered throughout "Freedom's Plow." They didn't reach an agreement at the end of last week's episode in regards to who actually controls the farm. None of them are taking any legal action to seize the property. But they are all left in an uncertain limbo. They need to keep talking. Right now, they aren't which could be a troubling time. It's a moment in their lives where they have to figure out what they want. Family is good for them. But it also leaves them very unsure of their actions. They are no longer confident if the actions they have taken over this past year are ultimately the best ones for them. So, should they just walk away or double down? That is the main question posed by this season.

"Freedom's Plow" also takes a turn away from all of the emotional dealing with the farm in order to focus more on unexpected racism in our culture. It has always been a main theme of the show because it's a part of these characters' lives they simply can't run away from or ignore. It's a cause that Nova is very vocal about. She sees discrimination in her community and takes action in order to change it. That's what she is passionate about. She is well-respected in her career. And yet, she can still be taken aback when she shows up at a fancy party and is forced to have a conversation with an intellectual racist. It's the show articulating the difference between talking about these issues and actually seeing them. These wealthy individuals can afford to sit in a room with an elaborate dinner and dive into the socioeconomic and political ramifications of racial relationships, immigration and health care. But the people in the lower class don't have that luxury because they are experiencing discrimination on a daily basis. That's the world that Nova comes from and understands. She's out of place in this environment even though she makes a well-rounded argument that impresses others at the table. New job opportunities could be opening up to her if she wanted it. She has the platform and message to make it as a CNN contributor. But is that a life she wants? She could speak to a national audience. But would that take her away from the community she loves so much? Instead of thinking about that, she runs away and positions this as a problem with being with Robert that she just can't handle.

Of course, Nova has the luxury to do so. She is a strong, independent woman who knows how to handle this situation. She remains poised and articulate while refusing to be pushed around as well. Aunt Vi still calls her out on how she always runs away from her problems instead of facing them. So, she still ends in a happy place with Robert. But all of this stands in dark contrast to a new twist in Micah's story. Him being profiled by the police has been a huge story this season. It was more important at the start of the season but its ramifications are still being felt even though he claims to be better. He seems like he's back to his normal self. And then, he sees the arresting officer again. That coupled with the thought of his parents actually getting divorced is enough for him to lash out. It's clear that something more is going on. It's up to Davis to pull it out of him. He's surprisingly successful with that too. In that moment, he truly is Micah's father. He puts his son's needs above his own. That's important and a key sign of growth. But it's so harrowing to listen to Micah detail what exactly happened to him the night he was pulled over. It was devastating enough knowing that he was falsely imprisoned for a few hours and the police weren't all that cooperative when his family arrived. But now, he reveals that the arresting officer actually abused him. He took Micah into a dark alley and put his gun in his mouth because he happened to be a well-educated black man. That's horrifying. It's traumatizing to think about that level of racism still being prevalent in such positions of power. And yet, it's all too common as well. Knowing the truth, Davis may be inspired to do something about it. That could be good for his son. But will anything change if they speak up? They have the platform but is it something that either of them are interested in doing?

Meanwhile, Charley is trying to change the perception that she is a cold and distant person who may reveal dark ulterior motives when the situation suits her. She has been called manipulative, calculating and disingenuous by both her family and her community. There are still doubts on whether or not she'll be in this for the long haul. She has a good story of wanting to make her father proud by bringing the farm back to life. She's found new energy with the mill. But is she here to stay? Or is this still just a reaction to the scandal and her trying to find herself again? Is this just a pitstop for her? One where she will leave as soon as she has her life figured out once more and leave everyone dealing with the consequences. She once again finds herself needing to reassure the community around her. And yet, these doubts are creeping inside her mind as well. Is she being her most genuine self? Does she believe that this place is her home? She needs to have these answers now. It's one thing for her to wear her hair its natural way. It's another thing entirely to get a roomful of farmers to believe her. She ultimately succeeds. But she still has to win over Remy in the end too. He doesn't know if he can trust her. That's a big thing in her life: trust. She needs it after feeling betrayed for so long. But now, she needs to prove that she is genuine, loving and caring too. She does that with an emotional speech. So hopefully now, people will stop seeing her as an outsider and just accept her as one of them already.

Ralph Angel needs to figure some things out as well. He dropped the bombshell about the revised will. And yet, he didn't figure any of the practicality of it out. He just wanted his siblings to have this information. They had a fight about it. But nothing has really been cleared up. He doesn't know if things are still being run by the three of them or if he's in charge. He's still asking for permission somewhat. He doesn't have the knowledge or strength to take control of this business yet. He doesn't know what to do next because he messed things up so much. He's only now starting to see that. Aunt Vi wants to remain out of this mess. And yet, she still finds herself pushing her family to actually talk with each other and figure it all out. It's still a complicated situation by the end of this episode. Ralph Angel and Charley have one brief interaction where she confirms that she won't withhold payroll and risk Ralph Angel going back to jail. She still sees them as family even though they are fighting. That's a good sign. But most of this episode is ultimately about Ralph Angel and Darla's relationship. That got pretty destructive as well because of this big reveal. He wanted to be very controlling of her because he needed unconditional love and support from her. That wasn't healthy. She's two years sober. She's doing really well. But Ralph Angel's actions could still compromise her at any moment. He seems a little more aware of that now simply because he goes to the ceremony where Darla gets her new chip and her sponsor pulls him aside to tell him he better be good for her. He seems to listen. But the takeaway is that he proposes to her. That still may be a selfish decision. The love is still there between the two. Family is strong for both of them. They are still working on understanding each other and growing as a couple. Earlier this year, Darla needed things to slow down. But now, she gets swept up in the moment. It may all ultimately be good in the end. Ralph Angel needed to make a firm decision in order to grow as a person. But there are warning signs as well that this could all end horribly.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Freedom's Plow" was written by Anthony Sparks and directed by Amanda Marsalis.
  • Aunt Vi faints in the diner after Charley's big meeting with the farmers. She writes it off as over-working herself and not eating enough. But that paired with Hollywood's comment about her being worn down would seem to suggest that something more is going on with her. She could be facing a serious health crisis and she's too stubborn to see it.
  • Charley ultimately decided not to talk about her upcoming divorce in the big interview she did. She made that decision because it was what's best for her family. It seemingly caused no problems either. She and Davis will release their joint statement and that will be the official end of it. It all seems a little too easy based on the friction she had previously.
  • Nova and Robert have had differences in philosophies before. So, it's not particularly surprising that she finds herself in this situation. It's more important how the two of them react to it. They could allow it to end things between them. But it's much more rewarding to see Robert not want to give up just yet. Him showing up at her door was very moving.
  • Davis goes out on a date with the singer who was at the charity fundraiser Micah did with Nova a few weeks ago. It seems like a very introductory story for now. Davis is getting a new love interest. One who also believes in second chances after coming back from dark struggles. That could be interesting. But the audience just doesn't know anything about this woman.
  • That's it for the first half of this season of Queen Sugar. The show will continue its second season at a later date this year. It hasn't been officially announced when it's returning yet. But the show has already been renewed for a third season at OWN. So, it's clearly a drama important to the overall network. Hopefully, the wait for new episodes isn't too long.