Wednesday, October 11, 2017

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - Lorna Tells Nova Her Story While Ralph Angel Clashes with Remy in 'Fruit of the Flower'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 2.11 "Fruit of the Flower"

Nova and Robert's relationship begins to shift. Ralph Angel feels humiliated by Remy. Hollywood and Violet clash over Hollywood's new friend. Lorna finally reveals the true history of her relationship with Nova and Ralph Angel's father.

"Fruit of the Flower" is a really successful and revealing episode of Queen Sugar. It succeeds because of all of this new context that comes out of the relationship Lorna had with Ernest. And yet, what that in turn reveals about Aunt Vi is even more compelling to watch. The show isn't afraid to be uncomfortable with this new characterization with her either. It's a natural extension of the person she has always been. Aunt Vi has always been the rock that keeps this family together. That's been a ton of pressure for her - especially as the siblings have been arguing about the farm. But it would have been so devastating if this season was building to a medical emergency that could possibly kill her. And now, new context has appeared with that story. She still isn't perfectly healthy. But the fears that Aunt Vi was dying have subsided. Those worries are largely gone. So, it's fascinating to take the time immediately following that fear to reveal just how uncomfortable Aunt Vi is around white people even in a casual situation. She comes from a certain generation that always looks at white people incredulously. She never truly believes that they are capable of being friendly to them without some kind of hidden agenda or deep-resented feelings of superiority. That has just always been her experience of the world. She's never had a positive friendship with a white person. It's always been oppressive to her. And now, that informs her opinion of Lorna and Hollywood's new friend. She doesn't dislike them completely because they are white. But that detail is enough to make her really nervous about her life and how even her personal space can be invaded.

Aunt Vi just wants to figure out how she can fill her quota for delivering pies to the grocery store she has just signed a contract with. She may have come up with a solution to that problem but that's completely inconsequential to her story throughout this episode. She is completely thrown when she returns home to discover that Hollywood's new friend from work is a white guy. She's startled by it because she felt she deserved some kind of warning. She sees it as a generational difference between the two of them. Those don't happen a ton. They work wonderfully as a couple. But Aunt Vi is affected by all of this much more so than Hollywood is. Hollywood still faces racism all of the time just like everyone else in this family. He understands how abusive situations can be when white men are in power. He knows that he needs to quit this job because Sam Landry has just become an investor on the project. It comes at a time where it would become really stable and rewarding work too. He understands that he has to walk away because it's what he needs to do to keep things happy and healthy within his extended family. He knows he can't work for the man trying to destroy the farm and the mill. He is aware of the visuals of that situation. He is able to adjust according. He does so because he knows the monster that Landry is. He doesn't see that within his new friend. He just sees a fellow working man who was once out at the rigs and is now looking for stable work on land. He is able to connect with that and forge a connection. He comes to know the person while Aunt Vi has her guards up immediately just because of her past history of distrust. She's still right to think that while still being more polarizing to her family as well.

As such, this information reveals more about Aunt Vi's feelings towards Lorna. It's been established over the past few episodes that Aunt Vi and Lorna don't get along at all. Just the sight of Lorna is able to send Aunt Vi spiraling. She wasn't expecting to ever see Lorna again. They had an understanding that Lorna would never return to town. But now, she has. She is here to see and support Charley and Micah. No, she doesn't understand everything her family is trying to do in this community. She's much more focused on the economic bottom line. But she's still reliable when her family needs her to be. She's not purposefully being villainous in this story. Her actions aren't intentionally destroying the relationships Charley and Micah have formed in Louisiana. Her presence is enough to throw people by surprise. It was Aunt Vi last week and Nova here. Nova wasn't expecting to see her. All of her feelings towards her are simply what Aunt Vi has told her though. Her perception of this woman is completely biased by her aunt's beliefs. She is only now starting to realize that. She knows that she needs to make her own determination on who this woman actually is. She has learned so much about her father over the past year. His death has forced some ugliness of his life to the forefront. She is aware that there is so much more to him that she never even knew about. There was a divide between them that they weren't able to mend before his death. As such, both Nova and Ralph Angel have a romanticized notion of what his marriage was to their mother. It's left them a little stunted in their emotional growth while also leaving them clueless to the true complexity of the situation.

And yes, so much of this episode involves characters just talking about their past histories with one another. It could be seen as exposition and nothing more. But there's so much emotional weight behind the words as well. This is a story that pains Lorna. She had a deep and personal connection to Ernest but was never comfortable being around his other family. She never intended to be the women who broke up their potential happiness. Of course, that's how she has always been perceived. This is her first opportunity to share her side of the story. Everyone is an adult now with their own maturity. They know just how complicated life can really be. As such, Lorna is much more open about what really happened in her relationship with Ernest. Nova's mother didn't always want to settle down and have a family. She wanted to be a free spirit while Ernest was the one gunning for a more traditional relationship. It was during one of their breakups that he moved to California and met Lorna. He married her even when knowing that he was about to be a father. It was a complex situation where Ernest was given the freedom to chose his own happiness. No one was asking him to stay. Nova's entire life she has been told that Ernest and her mother were a true love pairing. It's only now that she's learning just how difficult it was for the two of them to commit to one another. She doesn't know if she can believe Lorna at first. Later on, Aunt Vi does confirm the story. It changes Nova's perception of the world. It makes her want to trust her own relationship with Robert even more as she figures things out. Meanwhile, it also forces Aunt Vi to confront her own bias. She may not want to see Lorna. But she will interact with her and have a conversation about both being responsible for their pain as well.

Perception is a key part of Ralph Angel's story as well. He wants to believe that he has grown as a man. He sees having the farm and being a family with Darla and Blue as him being significantly better than he was. In a way, that certainly is true. He's no longer a criminal. He's left that life behind him and no longer wants to talk about it. But he still constantly feels like others in this community are judging him. He's always had that experience. He believes his sisters don't think he can successfully run this farm. He believes that Landry and his competitors are just waiting for him to fail. But now, the tables are turned against him. He believes Remy is being condescending to him in regards to farm management. It's nice to see Ralph Angel willing to take Remy's class to learn more about farming. But he feels that Remy is very judgmental about his knowledge of the world. He sees Remy as a professor who just wants to be superior to his students. Remy doesn't see things that way at all. In fact, it is easy to sympathize with Remy in this situation because Ralph Angel constantly refuses to see things from someone else's perspective. He's always frustratingly stubborn. It feels weird that Remy apologizes to Ralph Angel in the end. But it's also easy to understand why it happens as well. Remy doesn't want Ralph Angel to feel this way. He wants to be encouraging and an ally he can go to in times of need. Whenever Remy has offered his help in the past, it was a story from Charley's perspective. But now, the focus shifts to Ralph Angel. This relationship can deepen and become more vital. That's compelling. Remy wants to be an honest and genuine friend. Ralph Angel just needs to accept that his intentions are pure and not adversarial.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Fruit of the Flower" was written by Dana Greenblatt and directed by Cheryl Dunye.
  • Ralph Angel and Darla do ultimately go to pre-marital counsel at Aunt Vi's church. They listen to what the priest has to say. He has an assignment that will help them communicate better. That does seem to be the main problem. It's good that they both recognize that. Of course, it's not all that important in the main plot either. Darla still has a look of uncertainty on her face early on in this story.
  • Darla shares more details about her parents. It's fascinating to be getting so much information about them this season before they actually appear. I'm still guessing that's what all of this is building towards. She shares that her father was the head of the household and that she can never remember her mother actually disagreeing with him.
  • Lorna has been pushing for Charley to expand her client base for this upcoming harvest season. She is able to make an introduction that could be very lucrative for business. Of course, it's a white farm owner with a family connection to Sam Landry. Making a deal with him could be eyebrow-raising in this community as well. So, Charley will have to make a big decision soon.
  • Nova spends most of the episode also stressing out about her relationship with Robert and the key he has just given to her. It may be moving too fast for her. Plus, she's struggling because she has no idea what the end will ultimately be. That's scary for her. She needs Charley's comfort and understanding right now. Instead, she's just thrown into more family drama.
  • Of course, Aunt Vi is still in denial about her health as well. So far, her doctor has only said that she might have fibromyalgia. There hasn't been an official diagnosis yet. Right now, she just wants to continue showing Hollywood how flexible she can be in bed while enjoying the joints that Nova gives her.