Wednesday, October 18, 2017

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - Charley Learns How to Be Happy in Her Life Despite Setbacks in 'Live in the All Along'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 2.12 "Live in the All Along"

Nova and Robert's relationship hits a major setback. Darla and Ralph Angel plan their upcoming wedding. Davis offers Charley help with her harvest festival. Davis and Charley realize they've both moved on in new relationships. Davis makes amends.

Charley, Nova and Ralph Angel's love lives have been a chief focus of this season. Their relationships have been compromised because of their struggles in their various careers. And now, "Live in the All Along" sets out to confirm whether or not these relationships are bound to last. Some of them are strong and can handle any obstacle. Some of them break apart upon further examination. And others are happening because the people involved really want it to work. This is an hour that forces these characters to accept what their lives are like and find peace with the work that they put out into the world. It isn't always rewarding. It doesn't always live up to their expectations. But they have to make due with that. They have to face the reality of their lives. And yes, that means that some businesses and partnerships aren't as lucrative or beneficial as they had first hoped. And yes, that means that they need to make some hard truths about their various relationships. The three siblings are largely off in their own worlds dealing with their own problems. They are in the same space for the Black Sugar Festival. But it's still an episode defined by their individual plot beats. They need to come to these realizations on their own. It's only then that they can find peace with what their lives have become. As such, Charley and Nova's stories are more successful and emotional. Ralph Angel's story still feels like he is trying to deny the true state of his world.

Perhaps the problems with Ralph Angel's story in this episode come from the show not really knowing what it ultimately wants to do. Ralph Angel and Darla come into the diner to tell Aunt Vi about getting their marriage license and just wanting to do a simple courthouse ceremony. They've made an appointment and it sounds very impersonal to Vi. Of course, it's not her decision to make. She's going to be supportive no matter what. This episode takes these characters on an emotional journey into accepting that they want a bigger ceremony to celebrate the love they feel for each other. They are a couple that are afraid of exposing themselves to the world and being judged by others. It makes sense why they would have preferred a more intimate ceremony where they could just bask in their own love. Putting on a big production will ensure things will be as dramatic as possible moving forward because the clock is set for them to do this. They only have a month on the license. And yet, it's weird how most of this story is framed from Ralph Angel's perspective and learning that the farm will only break even at the end of the season. That's weird especially since this is the episode where Darla talks with her parents again. That seems like the more important plot development. These last few episodes have set up that expectation that the reunion will be emotional. The show not letting us in on that phone conversation will make the actual meeting even more effective later on during the wedding. It's just a blend of story that didn't quite work for me in the context of this episode.

Meanwhile, things come to a swift conclusion between Nova and Robert. She has been thinking about the end of this relationship for a long time. It's not because she wants to break up with him. She has just always seen her relationships as only being good for a certain amount of time. She's never thought about her future with the same person for a long time. This relationship forced her to change her expectations for love. But now, it has come to an end just like all of her past relationships. Just because she didn't see this coming doesn't mean she wasn't prepared for it. They start this episode completely in sync. But then, their joint talk show appearance about their Zika story is enough to tear them apart. Robert turns adversarial during the segment in order to make things more exciting to watch. He's thinking about the optics while she is betrayed that he made this switch. He didn't run it by her. Of course, the hour makes it clear that he probably didn't have the time to do so. They planned things a certain way. Charley even notes it was probably foolish for them to try to present a united front to deliver a unified message. That doesn't make for quality TV. Nova is new to this game. She was forced into it by Robert because he believes she could be an empowering star who could bring change to the world she cares so much about. And in the end, Nova's beliefs may be the think that causes the true problems between them.

Nova no longer sees a future with Robert because she believes he's in love with the idea of the woman she could one day become instead of the woman she is right now. She believes he doesn't actually know her and what she wants out of this world. He's trying to elevate her to the next platform in life. He's lifting her up to a new status level where she could spread her message to even more people. He sees a future that would take them far away from the ninth district. That's not something Nova wants though. She wants to remain connected to her community. She sees this town as her home. She doesn't want to abandon it during its time of need. She needs to stay here and fight for it because no one else will voice the concerns of neglect that are apparently true. She sees it and experiences it firsthand. She knows that the crumbling systems could destroy this community once more. She's grateful that Robert could help get her message out there. But she also doesn't want to change herself in order to appease a man. She always saw having children as the biggest hurdle she would need to tackle in order to settle down. But now, they both agree on that but this isn't a healthy relationship for either of them. They hoped that it would be. There was no indication before this episode that it wasn't. But this hour highlights just how quickly things can fall apart. Robert's decision in the moment is what truly ends this couple.

Life fails to meet Charley's expectations as well. And yet, her story isn't one of her stepping up upon realizing that she deserves better. In fact, it's actually about her accepting that this is the best she could possibly do based on the circumstances. She wanted to revitalize this community by hosting the Black Sugar Festival. It would form a connection with this community in a way that the white mill owners aren't interested in doing whatsoever. But it's such an oppressive time for her. Sam Landry still has so much influence. So, she has to scale back. It's just a potluck at the mill. But she's able to make that a memorable event as well. She just needs to accept that people can recall this day fondly even without all the glitz and glam she had planned. She's able to accept that because of Remy and Davis. Remy can keep her level-headed. He can show her a good time and how this community appreciates what she has done for them. Meanwhile, Davis steps up to prove that he can be reliable once more. Of course, that comes with the realization that he no longer needs to include Charley in every decision of his life. He wants to ask for her opinion about a surgery he needs to get on his hand. It's a surgery that could end his career. He's terrified. He keeps showing up in Charley's life throughout this episode. He lets her know that he's planning on going to Los Angeles. But he also has to accept that Charley has moved on and found happiness once more. He needs to figure things out on his own. He's willing to make that step though. He's done enough soul-searching to know that he doesn't need to bother Charley with this stress. He just needs to be supportive of her dreams when he interacts with her. And he also needs to be genuinely sorry for all of his past destructive actions. Because he does that, things look more hopeful for him.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Live in the All Along" was written by Mimi Won Techentin and directed by Garrett Bradley.
  • Davis and Tamar's relationship has largely been happening offscreen. They are close enough for her to be aware of his doctor's appointment. But it still feels weird because the audience hasn't spent time with them as a couple. Of course, the show knows this as well. That's why Davis tells Charley that it's not all that serious with Tamar yet.
  • It's surprising that this is the first time Davis has met Keke. It feels like that moment should have happened at some point already. Micah has been spending more time with his father lately. Davis has stepped up as a father as well. And yet, it's also important that this meeting happens onscreen - especially if the show wants there to be a future between Micah and Keke.
  • It's rewarding to see just how supportive Aunt Vi is of Darla now. She has truly accepted her as part of the family. She is there for her to give her an empowering speech after she has that phone call with her mom. It's definitely something that she needed to hear in that moment. She's ready to see her parents again and prove that she is better than she was before.
  • Aunt Vi has talked about her past with her abusive first husband a lot across the two seasons so far. It's definitely setting up the expectation that he'll return to her life in an unexpected way at some point, right? It doesn't have to be this season either. It's just something to be aware of for the future. He could return because Ernest can no longer run him out of town like he did before.
  • Hollywood brings up the idea of Ralph Angel getting a second job. Ralph Angel is only stressing out about money right now because he has the preconceived notion that Darla deserves the most expensive and beautiful wedding. He worries that he can't give that to her even though she knows what he could reasonably do. Plus, it will have more meaning if it's personal to the two of them. But will Ralph Angel take Hollywood up on his offer because he won't actually talk with his fianc√©? It's still a possibility.