Wednesday, October 4, 2017

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - Ralph Angel and Darla Hit a New Obstacle in Their Engagement in 'Drums at Dusk'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 2.10 "Drums at Dusk"

An unexpected encounter creates issues between Ralph Angel and Darla. The presence of Charley's mother, Lorna, gives rise to old tensions in the family. Violet finally sees a doctor about her recurring symptoms.

"Drums at Dusk" is an hour all about this family learning new information about one another. They are incredibly close to the people they've chosen to have in their lives. But this is an episode about surprising secrets coming to light. In some cases, it causes surprising reactions. In other cases, it causes these wild and vicious outbursts that could destroy relationships moving forward. And in some others, it just creates a sense of uncertainty in the narrative. This family is constantly thrown for a loop based on what is happening in this community and each other's lives. They always need to be prepared for whatever may happen next. They are trying to build a better life for themselves and their families. They are trying to make a difference. But the obstacles they face are large and ominous. In many cases, they are battling against years of history which are hard to overcome. And other times, the story can just focus on simple and small divisions within this family. They have been informed by years of tension in their collective pasts as well. All it takes is one huge reveal to completely destroy this family. Ralph Angel's confession about Ernest's revised will almost did that. They are still just barely holding on together. They have the knowledge that the farm can't be relied upon in the same way they've expected for the past year. The end of the harvest is fast approaching. Charley is preparing the mill. But the game plan is still shifting in so many different ways. This family is still fraught with tension. They are fighting to be heard and respected. But their actions are causing so many problems as well.

Charley didn't know what to expect when her mother, Lorna, came to town for a visit. She thought it would just be a simple visit that would encompass a few days. Lorna couldn't be bothered to change her life when Charley was in the midst of her divorce with Davis. She was halfway around the world when that happened and only checked in on her after she returned stateside. And now, she's here to provide some sense of support. But it's a visit that is lasting longer than Charley expected. She didn't think she needed to tell the rest of the family that her mother was in town. Lorna isn't welcomed in this town because of her relationship with Ernest. There is so much bad blood there. That was established in the previous episode. It's mostly animosity between Lorna and Aunt Vi. But it seems like it will incorporate Nova as well because she doesn't like what happened to her mother throughout all of this. Aunt Vi just wanted a simple meeting with Charley to go over the new deal she has to sell her pies in a chain of grocery stores. Instead, she found the woman she despises the most in this world sitting behind that desk. It took her completely by surprise. She's still strong and healthy enough to fight back against this. She still doesn't see any reason why Lorna should be here. She has the money and resources to have a life anywhere while still having a good relationship with Charley and Micah. And yet, Lorna is here and continuing to stir up trouble.

Lorna believes that Charley will be even more successful in her mill business if she opened up to more of the white-owned farms. Race has always been something Charley couldn't ignore. The world sees her as a black woman. They don't see her as biracial. It's created this divide between Charley and Lorna. It's taken Charley years to really address the state of the world with her mother and how their experiences differ. Lorna has no sense of the accomplishment Charley has in being the first black woman to run a mill in Louisiana. She also doesn't see how difficult it will be to lure white farmers to use her mill in the upcoming harvest. This is still just Charley's first year in operation. Everyone is taking a risk in going with her. It's a risk that could have a hefty reward at the end of it. But it's still a business model Charley needs to be very mindful of throughout the upcoming months. She put an emphasis on the farm in her business plan for success. With that no longer a guarantee, she needs to rethink things. That's where Lorna comes in with this suggestion. And yet, she's still a white woman who is essentially a stranger in this community. She doesn't understand it the same way Charley does. Even then, Charley is still constantly surprised by what happens here. She's angry about what happened to Micah. And now, she's also annoyed by how the wealthy white people in charge of this industry are constantly looking down at her and not wanting to hear anything she has to say. It's frustrating but also human. She lashes out. In the end, she has found her strength again. It just comes from a suggestion that could have big implications throughout this community.

Meanwhile, Nova and Robert's relationship continues to develop. It's a relationship that has surprised Nova because of how quickly it has progressed. The two of them met and had a major difference of opinion. But now, Nova is worried that her writing is being slanted a little bit because of her feelings for him. She sees the threat from Zika as a major imminent concern because that's what Robert has told her. The two of them still work well together as a team. They lead another community service project that is strengthening the world around them. They are doing their best to inform the people in this world about the various threats that could affect them. But this story is more significant because of what this relationship is doing to Nova. Her friend rightfully calls her out for being in a serious relationship after declaring that she was done dating for awhile. The world around her is constantly struggling to find love. Nova isn't looking for it at all but finds an incredible man quickly thereafter. Robert makes her happy in many ways. The two have a great sexual connection. And yet, they want the same things out of life as well. Neither one of them wants kids. That has always been a huge concern for Nova. Her entire life has been filled with judgment because she didn't feel the desire to procreate. She's fulfilled in that way with Micah and Blue. She feels its her purpose to use her platform to bring about social change in this world. Robert agrees completely. That shows just how serious this relationship has the potential of being. But it's still moving very quickly. Robert gives her a key and she has a look of uncertainty on her face as soon as he leaves.

And finally, things take a destructive turn with Ralph Angel and Darla. These new episodes have opened with the two of them strong in their relationship. They have committed to getting married. Darla is trying on wedding dresses. She's getting emotional because she hasn't heard back from her family. She's feeling empowered simply by knowing that she is loved by this new family who has embraced her for the woman she has become and not the woman she used to be. And yet, that perception of her former life is still quite destructive to this relationship. It still clouds Ralph Angel's judgment. He's happy to be starting this life with Darla and Blue. Him working on the farm and raising this family is his sign that life is finally starting to work out for him. But he still believes he doesn't need help from anyone even though it's still clear that he really needs some in order to get over his problems. He sees it as a criticism when Aunt Vi suggests that he and Darla see a priest to discuss their marriage. He sees it as pointless because a priest has never been married nor knows the problems that will come up. Darla wants to do it because she understands the importance of putting in the work to get better and address problems before they boil up and become destructive. But Ralph Angel remains stuck in his own life refusing to change. He sees everyone going on right now as a sign of prosperity and happiness. He can't be supportive and considerate of Darla when a tragic reminder of her past hits her in the face. She's destroyed by a casual encounter with a man she used to sleep with for money. She's distraught and needs some sympathy. Instead, Ralph Angel makes it entirely about himself and how he can't ever forget Darla's past because it's always flaunted in his face. She didn't ask for any of this. She's right to call him out for his pattern of continually bringing this up. It shows that their relationship isn't as strong as either of them wants it to be. But now, they've told the world and a potential breakup could be so destructive.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Drums at Dusk" was written by Valerie Chu and directed by Julie Dash.
  • Charley's grand plan to get back at the white owners and win over the black community is to hold her own harvest festival that will celebrate the actual people of the community. She's willing to step up and show that people of color deserve to be rewarded and celebrated and loved just as much as the white people who constantly look down upon them.
  • Micah and Keke are getting very close. The show really hasn't told a story about their relationship in awhile. Micah has been a significant character this season. But his relationship with her didn't really change after the arrest. In fact, she's forcing him to be a better person as well. She wants to wait before having sex and she wants to better the community whenever and however she can.
  • Aunt Vi's health problems may actually have a diagnosis now. She is looking online for details about fibromyalgia. That's a serious condition that could change a lot of what she can and cannot do throughout this family. It also represents a different story as well. Whenever a character gets a health problem, it's typically cancer. So, this is a nice change of pace while still leaving the audience on edge a little bit.
  • It was also being foreshadowed a ton that things were about to go wrong in Ralph Angel and Darla's relationship because Blue kept asking if Darla would be around every single night for the rest of his life. That's a daunting expectation that's more difficult to promise knowing that the story is about to take an awkward turn.
  • Charley and Darla are able to bond over having hard-to-please mothers. They were both raised by incredibly blunt and opinionated woman. Charley is that way as well. She goes on and on about a story of wedding dress shopping with her mother. It's a little difficult to see what the point of it is for awhile. But it still lands in a resonant place that shows that Charley does like the dress Darla is currently wearing.