Wednesday, October 25, 2017

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - Darla Makes Amends with Her Parents and Reveals a New Secret in 'Heritage'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 2.13 "Heritage"

Remy and Charley discuss their future. Violet receives a life changing diagnosis. Nova and Calvin come face-to-face for the first time in months. Darla reunites with her parents, and she reveals a devastating secret to Ralph Angel.

"Heritage" is a very simple but extremely effective episode of Queen Sugar. It mostly consists of a sequence of scenes where two people are just having a conversation with one enough. This is a show that understands the value of the history between these characters. It has a firm understanding of everything that has already happened. It trusts the audience's intelligence and ability to connect with these struggles. Yes, so much of this show is still wrapped in familiar melodramatic tropes. The twist at the end of this episode proves that that is still very much a part of the identity of this series. And yet, it's much more powerful to have those familiar elements when it comes from a genuine understanding of this world and the characters. A twist like the one Darla tells Ralph Angel is believable because it highlights their ongoing struggle to communicate. The show has always gone back and forth on whether they are a happy and healthy couple. And now, this latest twist has the potential to tear them apart or bring them closer together. It's a twist that does come out of no where. And yet, it's very much informed by the character dynamics that comprise the majority of this episode. Darla never felt the need to share her concerns about Blue's parentage before her reunion with her parents. Her mother and father are able to share a new perspective on this world. It's a perspective that is different and unique. But it's still incredibly valid as well. When it comes to this family, there isn't an easy target to blame for everything that has gone wrong. Instead, the various characters need to look within and reflect on the decisions they've made to get them to this point.

Darla's reunion with her parents is something the show has been teasing for awhile now. The second half of this season has had a strong focus on the generation that gave birth to these characters and how their upbringing had an impact on the way they live now. The struggles of parents can often be this misunderstood thing. The audience has the ability to see it because the show makes a point in highlighting the secrets that inform a character's actions even when the rest of the world is completely oblivious. And now, it is having those confrontations. Darla's parents aren't these broad characters who cut off all communication with their daughter because she refused to get help. That would have been the stereotypical and easy way to tell this story. The show plays off of those expectations as well. The audience knows very little about these two. They have never been a part of Ralph Angel or Blue's lives. Blue has no idea what he is suppose to call these new grandparents. They haven't had communication with anyone. Darla left them a message telling them about her upcoming wedding. In therapy, she noted that she doesn't recall her parents ever getting into a fight. She talked about her father being this very specific and controlling man. That informs the audience's perception of him. When Darla's mom steps out of the car, she has a warm and pleasant introduction while the camera purposefully is a little distant of her father. These are the tricks to create a sense of wary with these characters. But the show peels back the layers to quickly show the complexity of these two individuals.

Of course, Darla's mother gets so much more nuance across this episode than her father does. It seems like he is going to be the difficult parent to please. He's the one who refuses to let go of the past. Her mother wants to be very open and loving to this new family. She wants to be a part of Blue's life moving forward. Meanwhile, her father is more interested in the accomplishments of Nova and Charley at the dinner table than interacting with Darla, Ralph Angel or Blue. That sets him up to be a cold man. The show doesn't do a whole lot to change that perception. But he still forgives Darla in the end. She makes her amends and he accepts them. He has the wisdom that Darla needs right now to get her marriage started the right way. In the end, he almost feels like a plot point. He's a way to introduce this new development that could tear apart this engagement. But that's for the future. Right now, it's much more compelling and emotional to see Darla have that conversation with her mother on the patio. She wants to continue believing in the narrative that her parents are these cold and hard human beings who pushed her away. But hearing her mother tell her side of the story is incredibly heartbreaking. Darla's parents had to live with the tragedy of their daughter always coming to them with lies and tricks. Darla's disease was the thing that truly destroyed this family unit. Her parents needed to make a clean break from that. It was the hardest thing they have ever done. And so, it puts the focus back on Darla in a very specific and important way. She needs to accept the damage her past actions did. She has to accept that it's up to her to ensure that this family is open and honest with each other moving forward. She's had love and stability in her life. She's remained sober. But she still needs to put in the work to keep it that way. It's powerful that the show is depicting that side of addiction.

And then, there is the big twist where Darla reveals to Ralph Angel that she got high and had sex with a stranger around the time that Blue was conceived. There has been no question about Blue's parentage up to this point. It's always just been assumed that Ralph Angel was his father because he was the parent who has been around for him since the start. Darla had to work her way back in and earn that love. And now, they have the potential to be the happy family they always wanted to be. But this season has shown the hardships in this relationship. Ralph Angel can still be a horrible human being. He isn't always considerate. He typically views things as a personal attack to him. He believes the world is always looking down at him and so he believes he needs to fight back to prove that he's not an idiot. That has been a frustrating but consistent character trait of his. And now, this new development has the potential to completely send him spiraling. It could ultimately be nothing. Ralph Angel could accept Darla and Blue as his family even if there is no biological connection. He loves them both and couldn't imagine a life without them. But it's even more likely that this will create a huge obstacle for him. One that will serve as a constant reminder of the past that Darla had that was so destructive to him. He could be full of resentment with the uncertainty. But pushing for more information and to actually do something could destroy the lines of communication as well. It's such a complicated situation that Ralph Angel could impact based on his reaction. That's something the next episode will need to establish right away. Here, he is just in complete shock to what Darla has just told him.

Of course, Darla and Ralph Angel aren't the only characters having difficult but honest conversations. That's the overall treme of this episode. Yes, Darla is the lead character this week. But both Charley and Nova have significant stories as well that highlight their own romantic lives and the decisions they've made in the past. Calvin was a major part of the first season. He was Nova's love interest she always came back to despite what was happening in the community. It was a toxic relationship then because he wouldn't leave his wife for her. And in the end, it fell apart because of the disconnect between their perceptions of the world. The show is playing up the romantic aspect of their reunion here. There's the sense that the two see each other as the one that got away. But it's important for Nova to come to the realization that the love she has for Calvin would come at the expense of her greatest love for activism. Her relationship with Robert proved that she shouldn't have to compromise herself to be in love. That's reaffirmed here even though it pains her to admit it to Calvin after he gives his big, romantic speech. Meanwhile, things have been much more healthy between Charley and Remy. There was uncertainty in the early going because Charley still had to tell the world she was married to Davis. But now, the two of them can be honest and out-in-the-open with their relationship. Now, Remy is willing to be with Charley sexually. That's a huge decision for him because of the loss he has experienced in life. He's ready to take that next step. But that only fosters a larger conversation about the future of this relationship. Are they headed to marriage? Is there potential for more kids? Remy is solid in his beliefs while Charley never thought about those things before this moment. It's good that they don't have sex before having clarity on these issues. When it happens, it should be a moment of trust and understanding. It needs to mean something for both of them. And so, they need to take the time to figure things out.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Heritage" was written by Monica Macer & Davita Scarlett and directed by Liesl Tommy.
  • Michael Michele is really great as Darla's mother. It's a very strong performance that forms an immediate connection with Bianca Lawson. The two of them do some solid work opposite one another. Meanwhile, Roger Guenveur Smith doesn't have much to do as Darla's father. But he's more than capable of being a consistent part of this world as well.
  • In addition to all of this, Aunt Vi officially gets a diagnosis for her pain. The last few episodes have been teasing that it was fibromyalgia. But now, her doctor shares that she has lupus. It's a last-second twist that Aunt Vi isn't expecting either. Now, she knows what's going on with her. But a diagnosis is one thing. Learning to live with it will be an ongoing struggle for her.
  • It's such a devastating moment when Aunt Vi calls to tell Darla she can't host this family get-together at her house. She cancels because of the pain she is feeling right now. And yet, she's still keeping all of this a secret from the rest of the family. She'll need to share it sooner or later. Right now, it has the potential to create this new division between her and Darla.
  • Meanwhile, it's fantastic to see that moment of pure happiness in this family before Darla's parents arrive. Everyone is just able to enjoy a brief moment of dancing. There's nothing complicated about that at all. Sure, there's the fear that Aunt Vi won't be able to join in. But she's right there alongside everyone else. It's just such a sweet moment before all the big emotions come in.
  • Ralph Angel notes that his soy bean crops have yielded a higher profit than expected. That's happy news that he is able to share with the family. It's him being able to provide more for his family. And yet, it's also noted that he has taken Hollywood up on his offer to get a second job. So now, he's working on the weekends to be able to afford a bigger and better wedding.