Wednesday, November 1, 2017

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - Communication is Illusive But Important for Everyone in 'On These I Stand'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 2.14 "On These I Stand"

Ralph Angel is left devastated by Darla's news. Charley's business is threatened. Micah has an issue with his school. Nova receives a new opportunity. Violet reveals her diagnosis to Hollywood.

Last week's episode of Queen Sugar was this big and emotional hour. It was full of grand reunions and shocking new twists revealed within this family. It was this show at its absolute best. And now, "On These I Stand" is dealing with the fallout of those emotional moments and reveals. It scatters the cast to their separate corners of this world. They don't actually interact a whole lot. They need space in order to contemplate everything that has happened and how they plan on coping or moving forward with their lives. As such, it feels like a piece-moving episode. One that is simply setting up the various plots for the end game of the season. That's perfectly fine and necessary as well. The impact of last week's episode is only significant because of episodes like these that flesh out the relationships between the characters. Not every hour can have fraught reunions and shocking twists that can uproot everything in this family. If that were the case, the audience would eventually grow numb to those twists. It would no longer feel earned or actually be surprising. The power of learning that Blue may not biologically be Ralph Angel's son comes from the show building up this connection and family unit. It has never been a question before this moment in time. But now, it comes completely out of the blue and threatens the lines of communication Ralph Angel and Darla have been working on.

It's not surprising in the slightest that Ralph Angel has a horrible reaction to learning this shocking news. He has always operated as Blue's father. Even when Darla wasn't around, he was the one caring for him. Even when he was in prison, Ernest and Vi were caring for him. He is a part of this family. No matter what the truth ultimately is, nothing can change that. Blue is Ralph Angel's son. He has raised him as such and he loves him that way. This reveal may not ultimately change anything. It could just reaffirm how much love Ralph Angel has for Darla and Blue. But it comes at a time where they have really been struggling. They love each other. But they don't know how to communicate to each other in a way that feels mature and not simply rehashing all of the trauma from the past. Ralph Angel has struggled to move on from all the pain Darla caused in previous years. He has never wanted to be a part of that coping process with her. Whenever a painful reminder of her past appeared in this community, Ralph Angel was the one who would become upset because he hates that just being flung in his face unexpectedly. That's a horrible reaction. It's confirmation that perhaps the two of them aren't ready to take this next step in their relationship and they are only getting married in order to believe that they are a strong and healthy couple.

But now, all of this new information presents itself as a huge obstacle for Ralph Angel and Darla. It will determine whether or not they actually get married. It will be devastating to Blue if that's not the outcome. He's gotten so happy about his parents getting married and being together for the rest of his life. He will finally be a part of a "traditional family." He'll be devastated if that doesn't occur after Ralph Angel and Darla got his hopes up. And so, Darla is protecting him. She can only do that for so long. But Darla needs protection as well. It's great that her mother is still in town to provide that for her. She needs that maternal support right now. She needs to know that everything will be okay. She won't need to worry about what might happen if Ralph Angel chooses not to accept them as his family. She can return to her family knowing that it will be full of just as much love and support as she has here. But that's not something Darla even wants to think about right now. She just wants to have a conversation with Ralph Angel. She doesn't want him to have space. She thinks they need to talk about this. If they don't, then it is only making their problems in communicating worse. And yet, it should be seen as progress that Ralph Angel isn't angry immediately. Instead, he chooses to drive away. That's not a great reaction either. In fact, it's just as horrible. But he's not taking his frustrations out on Darla. Instead, he is internalizing all of this. He gets drunk and needs to be rescued by Hollywood. That's the only resolution that this story has by the end of this episode. It ensures that it will remain a huge component of the final two episodes of the season. Right now, no one is coping well but they still have the support from their respective families.

This comes at a time when Vi and Hollywood are dealing with their own tragic circumstances as well. Vi wants to keep her lupus diagnosis all to herself. She sees telling Hollywood as the end of their relationship. She doesn't want to be a burden to him like his first wife was. She doesn't want anything in their relationship to change. This disease will do that immediately. And yet, he's not blind to what's going on. He knows she's been having health problems and has been seeing a doctor. He knows that she has just filled a prescription. He believes he deserves to know what's going on. He has to force it out of her. It's blunt but necessary as well. Vi needs to share her struggles with her family. She can't just assume that she can manage all of this on her own. She needs a support system. She wants to shut down and just not talk about it. She shares that trait with Ralph Angel. But she has Hollywood who is open and willing to talk about it. He understands her fears and rationalizations for her actions. He knows who she is and how she wants to handle all of this. But he's also right to say that she needs her family. She needs to be honest with them because secrets have pushed them to the brink of destruction too often. They don't even know what's going on with Ralph Angel and Darla right now. But it's very poignant for the audience because we understand the power that is having a simple conversation with loved ones. Opening up to them is the scariest but most rewarding thing.

And finally, Charley and Remy had a meaningful conversation about their relationship last week as well. They realized that they had different aspirations for this dynamic. He's open to marriage and kids while she has never thought about either in a long time. She doesn't know if that's something she even wants. It's an important conversation that they need to have. This hour highlights how Remy becomes a little jealous and worried about what Charley is doing with the business. This season seems to be building to a big event with the actual business of the family. It's time they find out whether the mill and farm will be a success. They are facing more pressure than ever before. Charley believes she can handle it and prove herself in this community as a powerful businesswoman people can actually trust. But it's difficult. It puts a strain on all of her relationships. Remy and Micah are used to it by now. But it still affects them in unexpected ways as well. Micah is dealing with his own problems at school and seeing the pain and horror of the history of this community. Charley is able to pull him out of that. She does so by just talking about the love she has found here. She has no idea where it will go. But she's willing to explore these feelings. She's willing to be open to the idea of marriage and kids. It's a subject she actually talks about with Micah. He's surprisingly okay with it. That's good. It's important to have this kind of bond of openness as well. Charley may be focused on work a lot of the time but she puts in the effort to ensure that she is still a good and caring mother too.

Some more thoughts:
  • "On These I Stand" was written by Jason Wilborn & Anthony Sparks and directed by Christina Voros.
  • The show addresses a topical issue in a way that only it can. It explores how the South has many monuments celebrating the Confederacy. Micah discovers such a display at his school. It changes his outlook on life and this school in an instance. It's a painful reminder of the bloody and dark history of this community. But he struggles with what to do because of it. It's a story that doesn't quite reach a resolution though. So, it may become an ongoing concern of his.
  • Nova finds herself torn between serving her community in the actual community or in a boardroom. She's given opportunities to be involved in both but feels the pressure to pick a side with some people viewing it as a betrayal on their values if she doesn't make that choice. It's a very forced plot point in order to give her something to do that connects back to her great love for activism.
  • It's revealed that Darla's mother is an addict as well. That's a surprising but earned reveal too that highlights the issues that run through this family. Darla's mother was doing so well in her sobriety. And then, she took a drink while out looking for Darla. It was the pain that her daughter was inflicting that forced her to drink again. She's not sharing this story to be mean or vindictive but to connect with Darla in a way that she needs right now.
  • Darla also shares a few more details about the night that potentially complicates Blue's paternity. She looks back at that night with shame. She sees no reason why she had to return home for that party. But she's actually very foggy on the precise details of the sex. She doesn't know if it was one guy or many. She doesn't know if it was consensual or not. It's important for the show to remain in this ambiguity as well because it's a powerful and important story.
  • Earlier this season Hollywood was involved in some kind of accident on the rig. It was in the aftermath of that moment that he and Vi decided to get back together. He chose to leave that job for her. And now, it's important that he's going to a deposition for a lawsuit pertaining to that incident. It means he could receive a payout from the company shortly as well. So, he believes he could care for Vi no matter what.