Tuesday, May 29, 2018

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - A Student Protest Inspires Charley and Nova to Take Action in 'A Rock, A River, A Tree'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 3.01 "A Rock, A River, A Tree"

Ralph Angel finally learns the truth about his biological connection to Blue. Charley exposes her hidden plan for Landry Enterprises. Nova is propositioned by book publishers.

Charley, Nova and Ralph Angel have completed their first season as the owners of a sugarcane farm and mill. It was their original intention to honor their father's legacy by being able to do what he couldn't. They would find a way to make this business work so that it could pull the family out of its debts. And now, farming and milling have become passion projects for the entire family. The three siblings were annoyed that their father left this responsibility to them jointly because they all had separate lives they were living. Over the course of the series though, they came to understand the importance of family and community. They need to stand strong together not only as a family bonded by blood but as a community of faces who are frequently oppressed and judged in this cruel and harsh world. Charley understood the value in becoming the first black women to own a mill in Louisiana. She wanted that distinction. It was a good story for her to promote. It established a connection to the community of black farmers who finally had someone they could trust on that side of the business to ensure that they got fair compensation for their crops. Instead, it was a story that got even more compromised by the white titans of this industry trying to crush Charley out of this business. She was able to fight back but it cost her so much to do so. This business was worth risking everything just to survive. It was a sacrifice she was willing to make because she was fighting on behalf of a community that needed to be treated better. She wants to create a better world for them. It just means playing the game as dictated by these ruthless and corrupt white men who have been in power for too long. It's also important to understand that this community is a family that can count and rely on each other whenever necessary. It's all because of their shared experience of this world. It can be so unifying to see such powerful images throughout this story. But it's also just as moving to watch this family come together to support each other even when faced with the ugly truth about their own realities.

The second season ended with the stunning revelation that Blue may not be Ralph Angel's son. Darla had carried that secret ever since she got pregnant. She wanted Blue to be Ralph Angel's. He's the only man she trusted would be a good and caring father to him. And yet, she could no longer carry around that secret if they were going to get married. She has been lying to Ralph Angel and Blue for so long. And yet, this revelation only pushes them apart once more. Ralph Angel came to forgive Darla for all of her past actions. Sure, he's still stubborn and pushes back when things aren't how he expects them to be. But it's also important to see just how far he has emotionally grown in between seasons. When he first learned the truth about his connection to Blue, he was choosing to see it as Darla saying that he wasn't Blue's biological father instead of her being uncertain about the relationship. Darla didn't know the truth either. She just knew there were a couple of possibilities that could have led to Blue's conception. And again, Ralph Angel was the man she chose even though she betrayed him so many times. She wanted this to be a freeing experience to ensure that she didn't relapse because of the burden of the secret. But it only pushed her further away from the family. The Bordelons want nothing to do with Darla anymore. She lost her job with Charley. And now, she's back living with her parents in D.C. Blue is still in St. Joe's with Ralph Angel. But the premiere does deliver confirmation that Ralph Angel isn't his father. It's so absolutely haunting to watch him have to repeat over and over again that it doesn't change a thing. He needed to know the truth. And now, he has it. He doesn't want anything to change. He is still determined to be a loving father to Blue. But right now, things are in such a rough patch. It's unclear if Ralph Angel will allow himself to be okay with this new information and act accordingly.

At the moment, it seems like Ralph Angel is depressed and keeping his distance from engaging fully with the rest of the family. He is still hurt because of Darla's apparent betrayal. I always saw their relationship as troubled with them needing to work out a number of problems before getting married. That doesn't make them a bad couple that don't deserve to be together in the end. It just seemed like they were rushing into things too quickly. As such, they hurt Blue in the process. That's the more obvious complication of this separation. Blue was so excited to have his family officially together and living in the same house. He wanted his father and mother back together. They were living in that reality for a little while. It was so happy for him. And now, he doesn't know what happened. He's once again just living with his dad and barely seeing his mother. All he sees of her is brief video chats before bed. That's the only form of communication that Ralph Angel has with Darla. He's willing to do it because he understands the importance of that mother-son relationship. But it's also clear that Blue has growing resentment towards his parents and is lashing out anywhere he can. It means Ralph Angel has less tolerance for his antics. But Blue is still just a kid. He's pushing the boundaries of his world and Ralph Angel is overreacting to every minor thing out of fear of losing him. That has to be a constant fear for him. He doesn't want to lose this relationship. Now, there is the proof that he could if Darla wanted to. She has the better claim for custody at the moment. As such, Ralph Angel wants Blue to behave and be a loving and perfect member of this family. But it also seems like Blue is doing just fine when he's with Aunt Vi, Charley and Nova. Ralph Angel is the one clearly struggling and trying to figure out how to balance everything happening because of the constant changes.

Meanwhile, Charley gives Ralph Angel an update on the plan she has to take down Sam Landry and Jacob Boudreaux. She is signing over Queen Sugar Mill to them. She will still manage the facility. She will still have the same title as the first black women to run a mill in Louisiana. But now, she is working for a different company. Of course, she also has a one percent stake in that company. That's just enough for her to have access to all of their files. She plans on taking down this company from the inside out. She is getting into bed with some dangerous people. Jacob even wants to seduce her - which is obviously not sitting well with Remy as he sees just how far Charley is willing to go for this cause. She is playing with fire. And yet, she's still an effective businesswoman who is able to get what she wants most of the time. That plays out in another story she is involved in at the moment. It took a long time for Micah to open up to her about his true experience being harassed by a police officer. She thought he was just wrongfully arrested for a traffic violation. In actuality, he was beaten up by this officer who also put an unloaded gun in Micah's mouth and pulled the trigger. That's so horrifying and a clear abuse of power. And now, Charley is hunting down that officer with the intention of destroying his career on the public stage. Sure, she sees him in the outside world without his uniform on. She runs into him while they are attending the classic high school basketball rivalry game. She meets his grandson. But that doesn't change her perception of him whatsoever. Just because he has a loving family doesn't make what he did right. He is still a monster who abused his power and hurt people who did nothing wrong. She needs to get justice for Micah. And so, she leaks footage to the press about another accident of him beating up an unarmed black man who posed no threat to him. That's a thrilling conclusion to that story which also shows just how far Charley will go to get her own power in this world.

That also ties closely into the episode's overall story about student protests. That has become such an important and cultural milestone as of late. More and more people are protesting and calling out injustices whenever they see them. It has stirred up quite a bit of controversy as well. Pundits are easy to put down students for speaking out against injustice with the silly rationale that they simply don't understand how the real world obviously works. And yet, it's so powerful to see Nova support and give her voice to the cause as well when there is a national anthem protest at the basketball game. She is proud of these students for standing up for their right to protest. She understands that it's about this country's overall injustices and discrimination against people of color. It's not a protest against the flag or patriotism. That's how it has been twisted by the media and those who wish to silence these protests. It's such a timely story because the NFL has just announced that they will fine any player who kneels during the anthem in the upcoming season. It's unclear what the fallout of that decision will be. Will athletes still protest anyway? Will more players wait in the locker room until the anthem is over? Will ratings for football go down because of this despicable and oppressive policy? It's unclear. But right now, it's clear that Queen Sugar wants to add to that conversation by bringing even more voice to power. Nova is presented with an opportunity to have her message spread throughout the world. She is so loyal to her community in St. Joe's. But it's also so easy to understand why the world would want to hear about her thoughts on a global scale. She could affect change in so many ways. There are individuals who want to give that platform to her completely. And right now, Nova is staying in her community and listening to the concerns of the next generation coming up and taking on the mantle of this fight. They are passionate and it's such an inspiration for her to see that these students already have the values to make a difference in the world.

Some more thoughts:
  • "A Rock, A River, A Tree" was written by Kat Candler and directed by DeMane Davis.
  • Aunt Vi and Hollywood took a vacation to Italy. In fact, they may even be considering a destination wedding. They are more in love now than ever before. It's so inspiring to watch actually. The family is so ready to give them the dream wedding that they want. Of course, it's also so playful to see Nova wonder if they brought back any gifts and who will get to be the maid of honor.
  • Of course, Hollywood is also positioning himself to always be there for Vi whenever she may be too weak to do something on her own. It's a change that she doesn't like at all. She doesn't need him hovering over her just waiting for her to break. She is still suffering with her illness. But she also has the strength to keep going about her life the same as before. It's not denial either. It's acceptance that things need to stay the same. No one should be changing their behavior just to ensure that she is okay at all times. She doesn't want that from her family.
  • The opening credits show that Henry G. Sanders has been promoted to series regular for this season. He has recurred throughout the first two seasons as Prosper, the man helping Ralph Angel run the farm during his first cane season. Here, he is given a significant story as well in needing to get back surgery that will also limit how much additional work he can do for the family. And yet, that doesn't mean he'll be leaving their lives anytime soon.
  • It should be really interesting to see how the community reacts once they learn that Charley has sold to Sam Landry. They could see it as her betraying their values. They trusted her to speak for them. Now, she might just become another cog in a corporate and greedy machine. And yet, they also turned on her when the time came to it as well. She made this move out of desperation to earn a profit in her first year. As such, the community might actually believe her when she says she wants to do right by them.
  • Remy has put distance not only between himself and Charley but between the entire family. She is the only one who actually notices him at the basketball game. Aunt Vi doesn't understand why he didn't sit with the family or is with them at the bar afterwards. He explains that it's for the best to keep the separation as simple as possible. And yet, it's also clear that he still holds so many loving and personal feelings towards Charley.