Wednesday, November 8, 2017

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - Ralph Angel's News Isn't the Only Crisis the Bordelons are Facing in 'Copper Sun'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 2.15 "Copper Sun"

Charley fires Darla after learning that she's lied to her family. Micah gets suspended from school. Hollywood promises to fulfill Violet's wish list. Jacob Boudreaux suggests he and Charley form a partnership.

Queen Sugar began with Ernest's death and Charley, Nova and Ralph Angel inheriting the farm. They decided to make a genuine go at reviving it for one season. They were hopeful that the profits would be able to turn around the misfortunes that Ernest had accumulated over his life. Instead, their lives together became even more intertwined. They are now a part of this community. They have planted roots here. And yet, it would have been ridiculous if the initial season on the farm didn't reach its conclusion by the end of the second season. It would have been rushed to reach the end of the harvest at the end of the first season - especially at the very deliberate and slow pace the show is often telling its stories. But after 28 episodes, it feels like the time has finally come to payoff the very things that forced the narrative into motion in the early going. The characters have changed so much across this year. It's a time for them to reflect on how they are honoring their father's legacy and doing everything they can do to ensure that the farm turns a profit during this year. As such, it's a little curious how "Copper Sun" splits its time between two very distinct focuses. The first is the continuing fallout of Darla telling Ralph Angel about the uncertainty over Blue's parentage. The second is Sam Landry and Jacob Boudreaux striking the mill one final time as the harvest is in full swing. It's difficult to say that the latter feels more pressing and earned than the former - considering Landry and Boudreaux aren't really characters but constructs to give the protagonists someone to fight against. But it just feels more endemic to what the show has been about from the very beginning. The news regarding Blue feels more melodramatic and tacked on in order to give some drama and suspense heading into the final episodes of the season.

Also, it's not surprising in the slightest that Ralph Angel seems to be misunderstanding what Darla actually told him. He is jumping to conclusions and failing to actually communicate with the woman he wanted to marry. He believes she told him that Blue isn't his son and that she no longer wants to get married. That's not exactly what she said. The situation is much more complicated than that. But that's how he interpreted the news. He no longer believes he can marry someone who lied and manipulated him all of this time. He believes he is no longer a father to Blue because they don't share that biological connection. It's this quiet but significant reaction within him. Everyone knew that he would react poorly to this news. This reaction more than proves that Ralph Angel and Darla shouldn't be getting married. He's jumping to conclusions while she is a little naive to expect him to be handling it better than he is. She thought they were in a strong enough place where they could actually have an honest conversation about all of this. She only told him because she wanted to be completely honest with him as they prepared to start their lives together. Her family stirred up these difficult emotions once more. And yet, she was rewarded for actually talking with her mother and understanding the consequences of her actions from the past. She's owning up to those mistakes. It's been a profound character journey for Darla.

But now, the show is viciously turning against Darla. It's a little weird. The last two episodes have been very focused on her and how she is coping with her parents and this new tension with Ralph Angel. She wants to talk to him and understand what's going on with the state of their relationship. He has cut her out of his life completely. She just wants to know that things will still be business as usual when it comes to caring for Blue and keeping him on his normal schedule. That's her priority in life right now. She wants things to be safe and stable for Blue. She doesn't want any of this drama to affect him. Again, that is very noble and understandable. But this episode really isn't about Darla and understanding where she is coming from. It's instead about everyone else in the Bordelon family and how their actions are defined by a piece of semi-misleading information from Ralph Angel. He's not inherently wrong to confide in his family about what's going on with Darla and Blue. It's right for them to be concerned and to stand by him doing this difficult crisis. It's easy for them to turn against Darla. They welcomed her and Blue into their lives. They have experienced so much joy and happiness because of the two of them. But now, they viciously turn against her. Hollywood condemns her for thinking that Ralph Angel would react in a different way than he has. And then, Charley actually fires her because she can no longer trust her. This huge issue has been blown out of proportion. It didn't need to be. But it has because of a failure to communicate. That was always Darla and Ralph Angel's biggest issue.

However, it's strange how this episode operates through the Bordelon family reacting to the news that Blue isn't Ralph Angel's son. It brings them together because they still see Blue as family with Ralph Angel as his father. It doesn't change the perception of that relationship at all. He's still family no matter what the biological connection ultimately is. But they don't understand the ambiguity of the situation. Ralph Angel can barely form words. It's during all of this that it's time to cut the crops and send them to the mill so that the farm can actually make money. It's powerful to see Ralph Angel muster the strength to greet the volunteers and thank them for helping him during this time. Only the family knows what's going on. But Ralph Angel seems defeated even during this exciting time. That's a reaction that the audience actually gets to see though. The execution of this episode makes it very easy to be worried about Darla. She is never seen again after Charley fires her from her job. Ralph Angel doesn't even know that happened. When Charley and Remy go missing, he doesn't even want to call Darla to figure out what's going on. But she's already gone at that point. Charley kept her composure but had a big reaction to seeing Darla. Darla still wants to be a part of this family. She didn't want to hurt anyone with this news. But she did. She's dealing with those consequences. The family turning their back on her could force her to relapse. Yes, she plans on staying with her sponsor. But the audience never actually sees that. Darla doesn't need to be caring for Blue. He's already being looked after by everyone in the family. Darla has needed the structure of a job in the past to stay committed to sobriety. Without that plus the destruction of her family unit, the show should be more worried about something horrible happening to her.

Darla's news is just one crisis that everyone in the family is dealing with right now. It's not the only one. It's important to see the show spend time on the other complications going on with the characters. Vi understands that she needs to be open with her family about her lupus diagnosis. But it's easier for her to be supportive of Ralph Angel and not step on his heartbreak by revealing her own pain. Instead, it's more rewarding when Nova is able to figure things out and be supportive of her in her own way. Meanwhile, Charley is once again at risk of the business going up in smokes very quickly. It's a story the show has told many times this season. The farming community is supportive of her but can be very overly cautious as well because this is their livelihood. They may not like Landry and Boudreaux. But they are a reliable entity that they know exactly what they'll be getting. As the pressure mounts, the fear sets in and could potentially destroy the business plan Charley was relying on for success. It's empowering for the show to address the power of straight white male greed. Charley miscalculated just how far her business rivals would go to ensure that they remained on top in this profession through the suffering of the less fortunate. That's a significant message for the show to be tackling. And yet, it's also a story very much in progress. There is no big resolution to this conflict by the end of the hour. It mostly just drifts off. Charley is determined to confront Landry and Boudreaux about what they are doing. She heads off for that meeting. It's a swift moment of action. But it's a story that is purposefully left dangling so there is some drama heading into next week's finale. That's perfectly fine. It mostly just means that this episode is once again a lot of setup with not a lot of emotional payoffs that actually resonant.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Copper Sun" was written by Monica Macer & Dana Greenblatt and directed by DeMane Davis.
  • The show wants the audience to believe that there is a remote chance that even Ralph Angel doubts the sincerity of Charley and Remy's promises about the mill. That rings a little false. It's perfectly fine for him to be frustrated because he's dealing with the local farmers as well. He should have more trust in his family because he needs it right now. Of course, nothing ultimately comes of this because Remy does show up eventually.
  • Darla and Hollywood are a fascinating character pairing that has never really been seen before. However, their interaction here is very much informed by this new information that she has shared that is now shading everyone's opinion of her. Hollywood is still a gentleman. He cares for Blue as well. But he's pretty cold and cruel to her as well which won't be healthy in the long run at all.
  • Nova has understandably been very busy this season. Her focus hasn't really been on the farm or the mill. She's mostly just been a supporting voice of reason for her siblings to talk to when the going gets tough. And yet, it's surprising that it has taken her this long to think about potentially getting a piece out there detailing the many ways Landry and Boudreaux have been trying to intimidate Charley. Her realizing that now is mostly too little too late for her to do anything beneficial.
  • And yet, Nova is still very much on top of helping Vi during her own health crisis. Vi is still keeping her lupus diagnosis a secret. Nova invades her privacy a little bit. But she only does that because she cares and can sense that there is more wrong with her than the distress going on with Darla and Blue. It's more emotional for Nova than Vi. But it's still rewarding to see her be supportive of her as well.
  • In the midst of all of this, Micah gets suspended from school. That's its own completely separate subplot throughout this episode. He doesn't interact with any of the other characters. He's just protesting a Confederate display at his school. He's successful in the end. But he gets suspended because some believe he also vandalized school property. That's a stretch but I'm curious to see how Charley and Davis will react to this news.