I do believe that this was the most intense and emotional episode of Queen Sugar I have ever seen. I also believe that it was the most perfect (writing, acting, cinematography, directing, all of it) and that says a lot because every episode is stellar. Let’s get into it.
Charley is getting the first paragraph this week (I usually write these in birth order) because the Klan has burned the gahtdamb mill down and we need to talk about this asaptually. They have tried a few things to intimidate Charley and the Bordelons, so the next step in the Domestic Terrorist Handbook that has been in circulation for centuries is to burn the house/church/business of the Negro that got out of hand. And that’s where we are now.
Charley has been at the mill all night long, watching it burn. The mill looks like a lost cause. Micah, Romero and RA are there. As a fireman emerges from the smoke, we hear Keke screaming Micah’s name. She couldn’t reach Micah and she’s glad he’s ok. And then, we hear someone saying, “please, this is my sister.” It’s Nova’s arse. Oh, yes! Nova is back. The look on Charley and RA’s face is one of total disgust. They can’t believe she’s there and I can’t believe she’s there either. Considering the strain on the relationships right now, and the stress that Charley has been through overnight, this probably wasn’t the best way or place for Nova to pop up. But, here she is. Micah called her because “she’s still family, right?” RA and Charley ignore the hell out of her arse – and rightly so. Charley clearly has bigger fish to fry anyway. The fire captain comes to give her a grim report about her baby. There’s extensive damage, and it’s unstable. Charley questions him about why it took them 30 minutes to arrive. The captain says her fire alarms weren’t working, they didn’t get notice and there are clear signs of ARSON. It’s a matter of time before it’s a police matter. Well…that could present a problem. The St. Jo police will NOT give this case a second look. Anyway, Charlotte is already on the case. She looks at RA, they start walking towards the truck and it’s about to pop off. He got her back. They are still ignoring Nova and Nova has the audacity to say that she knows Charley doesn’t want to hear from her but they need to talk things out first. Ummm…ma’am, the mill is in ashes and you think THIS is the time to talk about our issues? It’s not, boo. Nova’s audacity continues to amaze me. Nova tells Charley that “we” don’t need to do anything “rash.” Welp. Dassit. Charley turns around and talks thru her teeth (you know how she does it…like that time she went off on Nova during the hurricane and she told Nova to keep her son out of it…it was like that). Anyway, Charley tells her dear sister that she doesn’t get to say ANYTHANG to her or them (Charley and RA) and there is no “WE.” She said it wit her chest, too. And then she got her partner (RA) and they rolled out. They are headed to see thee old hag herself, Frances.
The dynamic duo (RA and Charley) roll up at the Boudreaux Plantation unannounced and don’t even knock. They literally just walked right in the front doe. SN: Charley had on bedroom slippers. That’s how you know she’s out of it and all out of dambs. Slippers and her hair was a mess. That’s always a tell-tale sign that sis done had it. I digress. She tells RA to make sure no one disturbs her while she gives Frances the business. Upon entry, Frances plays the role. She’s so sorry to hear about the mill and offers her full support and “they” will get thru this. Bish, please. Frances offers to make calls and Charley wants to know exactly who she will be calling…who owns Frances? Old World Energy, perhaps? Charley goes in on her about how she claims to love the land, but is willing to trash it for some coinz. Frances accuses her of doing the same by doing business with her, so her hands are just as dirty. Frances reminds her that they were supposed to have a sisterhood. And that’s when the ish went left and Charley went OFF. She tells Frances to cut the dayum act because she sees her for what she is. Now Frances is BIG MAD. How is this Negro gonna stand in the Big House, in the middle of a room that is still decorated like the master’s library, and raise her voice? And then the lady of the plantation showed up. The mask is off. Frances tells her not to question her and calls Charley a “gal” (that’s not the first time she’s been called that). And then Frances goes into a speech about the beauty of sugar cane and how after it’s processed it comes out “white as snow, the way it should be.” White. Pure. Right. Charley applauds her (literally). There she is! The real Frances and she’s exactly who Charley thought she was. The old hag says she didn’t burn Charley’s mill but she sure is glad it happened because she needed to be put in her place. And that, my friends, is what all of this has been about. Putting a Negro back in their place…a place that is to be determined by them. Well, Charley is never one to back down. And in one of the lines of the night, she tells the old hag, “My place is wherever I decide to be.” It was one line, but it was a whole sermon. How many times have “they” tried to tell us and intimidate us into staying in what they perceive as being “our place?” And, how many times do we shrink to fit it or decide to not occupy that space at all? One of the things I love about Charley is that she doesn’t mind unapologetically taking up space – whether other folks are comfortable or not. We all need to harness some of that spirit. Well, Charley’s refusal to be put in her place infuriates the lady of the plantation. Charley has come to their town with her faux sports money and a sex scandal. She is nothing more than an “upstart mulatto gal trying to be white – but that’s her mother’s fault.” Frances done dug deep in the antebellum library for this showdown with Charlotte. Frances did what no one should do and brings up a black woman’s mom (I mean…I get that Lorna is white, but for what it’s worth, Charley is black…so…yeah…). Charley told old girl if she knows what’s good for her, she would keep her mother’s name “out yo mouf.” She got real black with that one. SN: Lorna needs to visit her baby girl. Charley needs her mom. Before parting, Charley gives Frances a little more to deal with and basically calls her insecure white trash, who is striving to be more, but is irrelevant. Why did she even bother with making a deal with her? It’s the same reason Charley did. The art of war. Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer. Charley immediately thinks that Frances sent Jacob and his advances to her. But nope, Jacob is just weak…his own mama said so. And Jacob, like the other men in her family always risk diluting their bloodlines but always come home in the end. Which is why Charley will never win against them. So, they all like brown sugar, eh? Interesting. I thought Charley was done. I should have known better. She calls Frances outdated and too blind and BASIC to even see it. Did Charley just call her a basic bish? I live. She says she almost feels sorry for Frances, but not quite, and heads on out the doe. RA is waiting outside in the getaway truck and he has recorded that whole epic showdown. RA and Charley got *some* receipts. Charley has a mini panic attack. The fire, the fatigue and confrontation have caught up with her. She can’t breathe. She is shaking. I am scared for her, but I know this is only the beginning. This scene was intense and masterful, and once again Dawn-Lyen Gardner killed it. Give her all the awards. All of them!
Charley managed to pull herself together, and is at the diner meeting with the remaining farmers who still have cane to grind (I am assuming that most of the farmers have already completed harvest). RA comes in just in time for the fallout. Charley is explaining to them about the insurance and the claims, but they are not trying to hear her out at all. They took a chance and milled with her, but the beef with the Landrys is too risky for them. There was a time when I was big mad at the fickle farmers for their abandonment of Charley at the last minute. And now I remember why they got on my nerBs so much. As much as she has done for them, they could have least pretended to have some sympathy for her…a little. And they acted like she set her own dayum mill on fire. They make me tired. They call out RA. How much did you lose? RA says he has some cane left to grind (1/3 of the harvest), but he will keep his people working. At that point, the farmers do what they have always done, and walk out on Charley. Prosper says he will talk to them for her. RA is left to comfort her. Charley looks defeated. Although the farmers occupy a place on my last nerve, this is another ripple of the fire. Where will the farmers grind their cane? With the Landrys and Boudreauxs? There really aren’t any options (which is why Charley was trying to build a mill and give them one). And if they don’t grind their cane, they won’t have enough money to plant next year. This isn’t just an attack on Charley. This hits the farmers as well. Maybe Charley can strike a deal with a mill in a neighboring parish for them? Idk. Do they even deserve it? Idk.
Dinner at Vi’s is in full swing. I always get scared when there’s dinner at Vi’s house because they always go awry. Deesha is there (word? she got a seat at the family table?) and she is giving them the legal lowdown on a case for arson. They need to have a motive, a confession (what Frances said won’t count) and evidence of criminal conspiracy to commit arson. Charley’s mind is racing. She is ready to be Olivia Pope-ish and put all the facts together and get all the evidence. She is pacing. She is thinking out loud. She is grasping at straws. It’s the second sign of the breakdown we know is coming. Vi reminds her that the mill burned down less than 24 hours ago and she doesn’t have to have all the answers. C’mon, Charley. Just breathe. This is a time to break bread as family (sans Nova). Hollywood leads them in the Lord’s Prayer. They hold hands and pray. Together. Charley starts but doesn’t finish. She doesn’t make it past “thy will be done.” Something also interesting to note is that Charley is sitting at the head of the table and the visual of them praying together was one of the most beautiful scenes of the night.
At the house, Charley is trying her best to cope. Taking a nap isn’t working. She is restless and she just can’t do it. She heads to the mill to see the damage. It looks like a total loss and Charley is at a loss for what to do. She takes pictures, probably hoping that it will help with the investigation. She picks up a broom and attempts to handle the heap of ashes. She sweeps and uncovers the Queen Sugar sign. She traces the letters and it reminded me of the end of Season 1, where she buys the mill and writes “Queen Sugar” in the dirt. The sign is what brings her to her knees and brings on tears and then deep sobs. I was crying right along with her. And then, Sam appears. What do you want? He came to pay his respects, from one business owner to another. Respect? Yall don’t know what R-E-S-P-E-C-T is. Sam told Charley to look out for Frances. He warned her. Well, Charley knows that old heifer had something to do with this, but she also knows that the fam is in business with Old World. Sam is still claiming that his hands are clean. He wouldn’t do this. He attempts to promise her something – but Charley stops him. She will never believe a word that comes out of his mouth. She dismisses him. Yall…why do I believe Sam? And, why do I think he might actually do what Vi told him to do and handle this? I feel stupid for even having these thoughts…but…
Charley made it home and is pouring herself a much-deserved glass of wine, when there’s a loud knock at the door. It’s Romero. There’s a slight smile on Charley’s face, but it doesn’t last long. He is livid. He shows Charley the newspaper. The news about the deaths of the migrant workers has finally made the paper (probably because she is running for office) and now she has to face it. Is this true? Charley walks away. Why didn’t she say something? She was embarrassed. Romero tells her she’s embarrassed because she was guilty of forcing people to work in a hurricane and now two people are dead. She tried to fix it, but she can’t change the past. That answer is not good enough. Is this who you are – the real you? Romero wants to know. And Charley tells him…yes…I guess it is. And my heart broke. Sis was too broken to even try to explain what happened. The storm didn’t kill those men. A meth addict did. She should have let them leave but she didn’t, but it wasn’t the storm that killed them. She didn’t even have the energy to defend herself. And the song playing… “I ain’t gonna make an empty promise, I ain’t got time to tell you lies. No, I ain’t gonna pull you through the darkness, but I could show you where to find the light.” And without anymore words, Romero leaves. This is what rock bottom looks like. I do question Romero’s timing. He was with her at the mill fire and he knew what she was dealing with, but he chose this time, late at night to confront her. In the past, he said that he wasn’t concerned with who she used to be, he wants to know who she is now. Is that still true?
In less than 24 hours, Charley has lost what she spent 2 years building and someone that finally made her happy. And the camera does a Spike Lee-ish move, starting close to Charley’s face and traveling backwards for us to see her standing alone. Done.
After being rejected by her siblings, Nova heads to the diner. Why? I don’t know. But Vi isn’t there and Rhonda musta been on a lunch break, so she actually gained entry. Prosper was there and gave her a hug. I am sure she needed that. I still ain’t got no sympathy for her, but whatever. Nova vents to Prosper about how her fam didn’t call her and how she always treats them like family, regardless of what they are going thru. But, Prosper got a bone to pick with Nova about the book (you, too, Prosper?) It’s about the story Nova told that made the world assume that Ernest was a murderer. Of course Prosper knows what happened. Ernest was his boy. The guy from the bait shop came to the farm to harm Nova. Ernest *almost* killed him, but heard Trudy’s voice and stopped. He also took made sure the man was ok. He wasn’t burying a person, he was burying his pain, his anger, the bloody clothes, the bat and anything that reminded him of that night. So, what have we learned here, Nova? This is what happens when you tell pieces of a story. Now, what if they had come digging up the farm to find these people that Nova just knew were buried there? Nova is an “award-winning journalist.” Fact finding is literally her job. All she had to do was ask Prosper and make an attempt to verify, but she didn’t. Because having this shocking story in her book – true or not – was more important. Octavia questioned her methods, and she was right to do so. Nova was reckless with these stories. This is why forgiveness for Nova won’t and can’t and shouldn’t come easy.
Nova is back at her house. She calls Calvin. Her family is safe, but they aren’t speaking to her. She breaks down. She thinks she’s lost them. They looked at her like she was a stranger, like she wasn’t one of them. They looked at her like she was an enemy and it’s all too much for her. Calvin is coming to be with her. I am trying to feel for Nova, but I ain’t there yet – and neither are the Bordelons.
Calvin shows up for Nova. Nova is struggling and Calvin is there to be what she needs. Woke Micah comes by to give Nova her keys back and meets Calvin. Calvin from the book. White police Calvin. And, FINALLY, Woke Micah is seeing his auntie in a whole new light. Calvin dismisses himself so they can chat and Micah wastes no time getting to the bottom of the thangs. How long have they been together? How can she be ok with being with a white cop? She says Calvin isn’t like Orson (the guy who assaulted Micah). But, how does Nova know that? Did she ask him? No. She never has. She says that she doesn’t need to because she knows his heart (ok, Nova). Ok, but hasn’t Calvin seen other cops do it? Was he complicit in that? She doesn’t know. Right. She doesn’t know. And she’s never asked him, but she’s ok with being with someone who would be a bystander to the type of abuse that Micah endured. You know what EYE know. EYE know that Calvin could have called in the favor to get Too Sweet out of jail a long time before he did. He only did it to get back in Nova’s arms…not because Too Sweet didn’t deserve to be there. And again, Nova is a journalist, yet she never asked Calvin the important questions. She never asked because she never cared to know the answers. She cared about herself…while claiming to care about all the brown bodies being abused, while people like her boo watched. And for the THIRD week in a row, Micah is not on my trash list. And, finally, he has a bone to pick with Nova. And, that is one of the only bright spots in the night – for me.
After Micah questioned her, Nova decides to ask Calvin the questions she should have asked him a LONG time ago. Has he ever used excessive force on black people? No. Has he ever seen people use excessive force on black people. Yes. And did he look away. Yes. Houston, we have a problem. Calvin makes excuses. He was a coward. And it was hard. He ran away from the force because of it. He wanted to change and be better and he’s sorry. But the past will always be there and there’s no way to erase it. So where do they go from here?
Darla learns about the fire at Queen Sugar on the news. She calls RA, but gets no answer. That may be because he is with #lawyerbae tryna figure out how to save the re-entry program. They are on the front porch strategizing and kissing when Darla rolls up. Oh, Lawd. I am not getting a good feeling about how Deesha and RA will be able to grow their relationship. Will Darla hold RA back? Anywho…RA introduces Darla to Deesha…but…he just says that Deesha is his lawyer friend. It’s mad awkward. Darla wants to make sure everyone is ok. Deesha tries to give them some space, but Darla stops her and she leaves.
RA goes before the board to make his case for his re-entry program. The program is named for Ernest, his father, and he would never do anything to jeopardize it or shame his father’s legacy. The panel is not moved. In light of Benny’s arrest, they will have to review the program. Deesha provides the panel with the receipts on Benny’s arrest. It’s bogus. They take that part very lightly. They are moving on to the next thing that will close the program down. The Queen Sugar Mill is no more. Turns out RA had already had 2/3 of his cane milled. But the question the panel has is how he will employ his people with 40 hours per week and pay them, considering the substantial losses. How will he plant next season if he doesn’t make enough this season? They are taking his “new losses” into consideration. This fire is burning everybody.
Back at the farm, RA is passing out checks for the week. He tries to dispel any myths and tells them that the program is under review. They are worried about their jobs. RA is trying to talk to other farmers about open positions. Until the review is over, he can’t keep everybody. RA looks defeated, too.
RA and Deesha have a candlelit dinner at his place. RA is still very much in his feelings. I remember when RA was a constant sour patch kid. This episode reminded me of the old RA. RA is thankful for everything that Deesha has done. RA had to let his workers go and that was tough, but she encourages him to keep his head up and look forward. Even if they save the program, there’s still the highway to contend with. That could take the whole farm away and he feels like he’s letting Pops down. Deesha shares with him that she had an infant and a bar exam and an absent baby daddy to deal with, but she did it. It was hard, but she did it. She tells him that he can let fear stall him, or let it drive him. Let it drive you, RA. That, too, is a sermon. RA got tears rolling down his cheeks while they kiss and RA asks her to stay with him tonight. Ok, RA, I see you!
Deesha stayed. They are all cozy in the bed and sleeping when Darla calls! RA tips out of the bed to take the call and RA and Darla have a convo about stuff and about Blue. Darla has been crying. Her pillow is actually wet. She needed to talk to RA. It’s like RA is the only one who can be there for her. I hate this. RA is moving forward with Deesha. But, Darla still needs him so much. And I don’t think RA will turn his back on her. So…how is this going to work out?
Aunt Vi is at the diner eating her breakfast all casually, when Sam Landry drops by. Apparently, he’s been summoned by Vi and she been waiting. Vi tells Sam she ain’t here for no small talk and asks him if he done lost his dayum mind. She didn’t call him when the vandalism happened, but this is too much. Sam said that this ain’t his style. He doesn’t go around causing physical harm to people. Vi tells him to go tell that to Charley who has just had “the heaven knocked out of her.” I have never heard anyone say that, but I guess that’s what just happened to Charley. And what a mighty blow it was. Vi tells Sam that it may not have been him, but it’s prolly his people and he needs to tell them to stand down. But Sam pulls the “it’s above me now” card and tells her it’s bigger than him. Vi’s not done with Sam. She is “calling in that favor” and he better fix it. Now…I got questions. Why does Sam owe Violet a favor? What other secrets Vi got hidden in her wig closet? I am intrigued. Sam looks shook and Vi tells him to “find a way to put the dogs he’s lying with back on the leash.” Sam said he was gonna try, but Vi told him that wasn’t good enough. Don’t try. Do it. Whew, chile. Vi was acting like a member of the mob tuhday.
Vi is preparing dinner for the kids. They need some good comfort food. Wood heard about the fire and he rushed home. I am glad he’s back!
Vi is saying her nightly prayers. We are being tried, Lawd, but I know you got us, so I thank you. Thanks for keeping them safe. She thanks Him for all of them, and names them all, except for Nova. She asks Him to help her because she misses Nova, but she can’t with her. So, she asks Him to watch over Nova and bless her, touch her mind and heart, help her to know the hurt she has caused and keep her safe. I felt that prayer in my spirit and couldn’t help but to think of all of the prayers my mother and grandmothers might have prayed for me – especially when I didn’t have no act right and I didn’t deserve it.
In other news…
The fire done made Keke realize that she loves Woke Micah. In a parked car, they make out and make up for lost time. Keke tells Micah they need to plan for prom. But more importantly, they need to plan for prom NIGHT. Yes, Keke is ready. Micah wants to be sure she is. Now…I have mixed feelings about this. BuT, this episode was so dreary that Micah and Keke’s young love was a ray of sunshine. If they gon do this thang, I need them to be safe tho. For real. Charley don’t need no grandkids. She got enough problems.
I predict that we will see Charley rise like a phoenix from the ashes – stronger, smarter and more powerful. They have burned down the mill, but given her an opportunity to build a brand new one (remember she only did renovations and updates before). With the fire, comes fuel for Charley to do what she does best – persevere. Pain fuels her. Remember? The mill was more than a building to her. It was one of the ways she was keeping her promise to her father. It wasn’t about money or power. It was personal. It was driven by guilt for all the things she didn’t do when she had the chance and by the love she has for her father, his legacy and the community as a whole. So, basically…it’s on. But, we have to get through the hard part first. This is the thing that will break her. After all she managed to get through, this is it. And, it looks like it will be Nova that will come to her rescue. Perhaps this is the perfect time for Nova to be back. Charley is literally outta gas. And what about Romero? I hope Charley will get the strength to go back to him and tell him what happened. I hope that she doesn’t just let him go without a fight. She finally had someone who made her happy. He may be worth fighting for.
And who burned down the gahtdamb mill? I know as soon as Charley’s head stops spinning, she will be back on the case, but I really believe it wasn’t the Landrys – but they know who did it. And Sam might just rat them out…because Vi told him to. So what did Vi and Sam have going on in the past? I ain’t letting that one go.
So now the migrant worker story has legs two years later. Charley was just starting to make progress with the Latinx community and now this. I think she will have to take the advice she gave to Davis. Own it. Tell the truth.
Will there be a point where the community comes together for Charley? Like they did for Vi? Will they help her clean up and offer a hand in rebuilding the mill? Will they really support her campaign? For all she has done, it would be nice if she could get some support. She needs it.
And RA and Deesha. I am not feeling so optimistic. RA is worried about Darla. How can he be in a relationship with Deesha with Darla tagging along? That ain’t gon work. I like #lawyerbae. I wanted that one to work out.
And Nova meets Cousin Martha! What will she have to say about Tru? I really hope it’s a lot. I hope Nova gets all of the answers she needs about her mom. She needs something to stabilize her. She is all over the place! I really want to know why she fell out with Trudy. There’s some tea there.
Well, I am going to go cry now. I feel broken like Charley, defeated like RA, overwhelmed like Vi and confused like Nova. I don’t know why I allow Queen Sugar to do this to me every single week. It’s tew much. But I shall return next week. Until then, yall pray for the Bordelons and especially my girl, Charley. Imma let her feel all the things she needs to, but soon it will be time to fight again.