Wednesday, June 6, 2018

REVIEW: 'Queen Sugar' - The Family Confronts Charley About Her Recent Business Tactics in 'Your Distant Destiny'

OWN's Queen Sugar - Episode 3.03 "Your Distant Destiny"

Micah starts his new school with excitement. An interaction with Blue leaves Ralph Angel guilt-ridden. Nova must come up with new material for her book. Charley reveals her secret plans to Nova. Darla returns.

It certainly feels as if all of the characters are reflecting back on the past year that they have had and figuring out exactly what they want out of life. It's a slow time for the business as well. It appears to be the offseason for the farm and the mill. Sure, there is still work to be done. Ralph Angel is still hiring new employees and ensuring that the land is properly cared for so that it can produce yet another successful harvest. But it's not as busy as it once was. The moment that Ernest died, the family was flung into action. They were working so hard in order to make this business work to create a better legacy for their father. And now, the Bordelon siblings have completed their first harvest as farmers. Ralph Angel can be propped up as someone wise and respected in this community now. He has shown his worth in being able to handle all of the problems that came his way on the farm - if not in his personal life. Charley got Queen Sugar Mill up and running in time to actually threaten the business that's been in operation in this area for so long. Sure, it was an uphill battle for her. One where she has had to resort to sneaky business tactics in order to potentially get rewarded in the long run. But she sees it as a victory that will pan out eventually no matter how worried the rest of her family currently is. And yet, it's also just important for these characters to take a step back and see just how much they have grown this year. They are such radically different people from when the series started. They have truly come together as a family. They have faced heartbreak and disagreements. They've alienated one another. But they are still loving as well. And now, they have to figure out their own personal dreams and passions in this life. They built something as a family with this farm. That's their father's legacy. It means something to each of them as well. But they also have so many other desires and dreams as well. Charley wants to run Sam Landry out of business. Aunt Vi wants to succeed with her pie business. Nova wants to write a well-regarded book. And Ralph Angel wants to be a good father to Blue. All of these stories showcase significant growth with the characters. But it's also important to note that they are still evolving and coping with a changing world. They just are dealing with things in a different way now.

At first, Ralph Angel was only interested in potentially hiring ex-cons to work on the farm in exchange for getting his parole reduced. His parole officer presented him with that opportunity earlier. It was a way for him to ensure that he could keep growing as a person. He didn't want his past to define him anymore. He knows just how difficult it is to get a job after being released from prison. He had to prove that working on the farm met the requirements for his parole. Even then, he was still faced with suspicions about trying to work the system. He wanted to do this work on the farm to prove that he was a better man. In the end, he did build a successful business for himself and his family. It's something that he can be proud of. His parole officer now looks at him as this proud example of what life after incarceration can look like. Life can still be big and beautiful if one is willing to put in the work to make something out of it. Here, Ralph Angel meets with the first guy sent to him for this kind of work. He doesn't think highly of the person because he shows up late and not dressed to work on a farm. And yet, it's through fostering a conversation with him and in speaking with Nova that Ralph Angel understands that this guy is in the same exact position Ralph Angel was in not that long ago. He needs a chance in order to prove that his past doesn't define him either. Sure, Ralph Angel wants to know why he was in prison and if he will be punctual and hard-working moving forward. But he also has to find the strength and conviction to trust this guy at his word in the hopes of improving his life. It's Ralph Angel giving back to the program. Sure, he has never thought highly of probation and the entire system. But he can now utilize it in order to make a difference in someone's life. He may be juggling too much to focus on this new responsibility. But it's also something he is willing to do for the moral reasons and not just the personal benefit now.

Nova feels the same way. Sure, it's a little ridiculous that the show is suggesting she's naive enough to be thrown once her book editor says her leaving the newspaper means she can't include any of the articles she wrote while working there in her new book. That just seems so obvious and not like something the smart and capable Nova would be surprised to hear. And yet, she is. It feels as if she has been hit with writer's block because she needs to find a new topic for her book. She has always been so passionate and focused on her causes. She strives to improve the world through her actions. She has always been on the front lines trying to help this community by calling out the various injustices. She doesn't back down from her convictions at all. But now, she doesn't know what to do next. She is on the verge of this exciting new career. She needs something incredible and special in order to stand out and be proud of the work. She does get that suggestion from Micah and it turns out to be an exciting idea as well. Throughout this episode, Nova finds herself calling out the recent actions of her brother and sister. She is making sure that Ralph Angel recognizes the unique position he is now in. She calls Charley out for making a deal with the devil and trying to keep it a secret from most of the family. After all of that is over, she has to find her own connection to the farm and trying to help the community in her own unique way. Micah respects her way of changing the world more than his mother's. And yet, the show makes sure to validate both options as well while also highlighting the tension that comes from those differing perspectives. Nova has this opportunity at the moment with a book. As such, it presents as a way for her to highlight the struggles of the black farmers in this community. It's her chance to actually tell the story of her family. It's important for her to include every detail as well not just whatever makes the most entertaining story. That makes it fascinating to see her lay out her initial notes. Sure, it's going to be a long work process for her. One that is bound to stir waves amongst her family and the community. But it's also a topic she already feels very informed about which should make it easy for her to actually craft a strong narrative and compelling argument in this book.

Meanwhile, it's discovered that Charley sold the mill to the Landry family company. Up until this point, Ralph Angel and Remy were the only two who were aware of just how far she was willing to go in order to emerge victorious in this business. And now, the whole family learns the truth and feels the need to confront Charley about what she's doing. It just seems like such a random story though. How did Nova, Vi and Hollywood think Charley was able to completely reverse all of the damage that Sam Landry and his family were inflicting to the mill? This just doesn't seem like the right time for the family to be upset about this either. It should have happened much sooner or later. They should have been in the conversation with Charley as she was formulating this plan of attack. Ralph Angel and Remy were there for that. That proves that she has lost so much already because of getting into business with these shady individuals. But it's also surprising to see just how quickly the family gets over it as well. The family essentially sees Charley as selling out herself and her company for just one percent. They see that as such a trivial value for what she is truly worth. They aren't wrong to believe that. Charley is able to make the argument that she just needs the access in order to go on the offensive. She has already discovered the crippling debts for the company and why Landry was persuaded into agreeing to her locked contracts for the black farmers. But it's frustrating to the family for a moment. But then, they are quickly back to loving and trusting her completely. They may not agree with her methods. But they also understand that she is going to conduct business her way. This is the world that she knows better than anyone else in the family. As such, it may just be wise to be patient and see what happens even though the truth could become very alienating.

All of this plays into the show's ongoing conversation about what's the best way to be black and successful in this country. There is also the public perception that people of color need to do things a certain way. There is always going to be a debate between those in the community who want to fight against the oppressors and those who just want to have a seat at the table. Charley easily falls into the latter camp with her latest moves. She has joined Sam Landry's company. She has done so with the intention of destroying the business. But it can also be perceived as her turning her back on her community by making the deal that will be the most profitable to her. Meanwhile, Nova is using her skills as a writer to make a difference by actually digging up and proclaiming the history of this business in this particular region. She wants to spotlight it so that more people understand the abuses of this particular world. And then, there is Micah who is learning how to be a part of this community and all of what that entails. He is surrounded by a group of his peers for the first time in his life. That's so important for him. He wanted to go to public school in order to flesh out this part of his identity. He wanted to connect with this community. It's difficult for him to talk about his experience with police brutality. But he is also ready to step up and take action. He is willing to be there alongside the students who orchestrated the protest at the basketball game. Even that was perceived through the white lens of these students of color being an annoyance and disrespectful during the game. As such, it was another way to oppress them because they weren't protesting the right way. Of course, there is no right way to protest. That is just the put down handed on to them to explain why the world moves on from it without listening to their message at all. That is the community that Micah is joining in the hopes of actually doing something meaningful in life.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Your Distant Destiny" was written by Erika A. Johnson and directed by Lauren Wolkstein.
  • Blue's behavioral problems have mostly been curbed for now. He's gone back to being the sweet little boy that the family loves so much. And yet, it's clear that he is still struggling as well. He is having nightmares and peeing the bed at night. He's even afraid to go outside his room after bedtime because he doesn't know what he'll find his father doing. As such, that forces Ralph Angel to reckon with his recent behavior too.
  • Of course, it still seems like the show is sending Ralph Angel down on the path of romance this season. He does hit the brakes on his current casual arrangement because he needs to focus on Blue. His son needs to be his priority right now. But he's also flirtatious with the new girl handing out the checks at the fishing place where he picks up work sometimes. And more importantly, Darla shows up at the end of the hour to return into Blue and Ralph Angel's lives.
  • Vi and Hollywood go to his high school reunion. It mostly seems like a story to give those characters something to do this week. It shows that they are getting older and no longer want to be partying like this all night long. But it's also just an awkward event where a girl Hollywood dated briefly in high school is living in the past and believes that Vi is actually his mother. Hollywood does everything right in that situation though which only further proves how great a couple they are.
  • Charley doesn't really learn anything new about the Landry business this week. Her investigator is still off digging for all of the skeletons. And yet, Charley does learn that one of the farming families won't be staying in the community anymore because of a family emergency elsewhere. That leads to the revelation that they were only farming this land for Sam Landry who actually owns it.
  • This season has put such an emphasis on Charley and Micah needing to trust one another. They are both making big decisions about their lives. They are decisions that the other may not approve of completely. And yet, they are willing to let them make those decisions and see what happens. They are supportive no matter what. That's such a fascinating dynamic that feels real and genuine.