The plot is intriguing. Several storylines converge into the bigger plot. Each scenario makes us what to know more, how they’re connected, waiting for the next twist change our journey. The writers, Misha Greene and Joe Pokaski, doesn’t pull any punches. They’re not afraid to show us the ugly side of slavery.
This is very difficult at this point. The show has made a solid program. The only con was ending the episode with Noah and Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) in the situation they’re in without giving us more. Really?? Just leave us hanging like that??
Underground continues to show us intelligence is not always born of education. They showcase the talents of all the characters.
The Underground shines a light on the intelligence of a people who were stated to be unable to learn, only built for manual labor. We love that slaves have trades and marketable skills. Noah (Aldis Hodge) is a black smith, known for his ability with metal. Noah is also a thinker and a strategist. He’s able to see the strength and weakness in people and situations. He can swiftly assess situations. We understand this as he works with Sam to see if the harness and hooks with carry them across the bridge. We also recognize it when he figures out the clue to the song fishing at the river. This is not the mind of a lesser man. He holds strong in his convictions and uses his talents to get what he wants.
“When everyone is resting, we’re going to be running.” – Noah
Cato, Cato, Cato! Cato (Alano Miller) is to damn smart for his own good. He’s an example of the person who’s learned how to play the system. This is why we want to hate him but just can’t quite get there. He’s using his intelligence for survival. He’s knows if he caters to the white man his life will be easier. Can we hold that against him??? We surely want to as he sits back and watches the rest of the field slaves take their punishment with the railroad tie. You want to smack the smug look on his face as Noah stares him down as they struggle to carry their heavy burden. Then, we understand the danger of his cunningness when he gets Zeke out of the box stating Noah wanted to leave Zeke (Theodus Crane) there. Yes. Just like that child who makes a huge mess but did it so smartly you really don’t want to punish them, Cato is the man you would love to totally hate but can’t.
Sam (Johnny Ray Gill) is the good and faithful friend you want to have on your side. He’s also brilliant. To be able to understand engineering of building bridges and woodwork takes a firm grasp of mathematics. He’s never been formally educated that we know. He’s learn this from the person before him and whatever his taught himself. Sam realize they can use the beams in the shop to practice crossing the bridge because they are the same width apart. He also knows how to placate to the master when he comes in unexpected. Sam’s that person who sneaks up on you, the one you didn’t expect to rise to the occasion but he does.
“In another life, I would’ve like to work with my hands.” – Tom Macon (Reed Diamond)
Crimes of opportunity are everywhere!
Sam doesn’t believe Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) should run. She has bared the hardships that the field slaves have, which makes her soft and unprepared for running. But he presents her with Noah’s request to see what she’d do. We can understand his concern for his sister and wanting to keep her from a plan that could get them all killed, especially when he thinks she has it good living in the big house. Noah wants Rosalee to steal the Master’s seal so they can complete their freedom papers.
“Can’t turn no house girl into a field slave” – Sam
This must be the first thing Rosalee has ever done to break the rules. She’s so nervous and rightfully so. She gets the seal fine, well with a little craziness. But putting it back is not so easy. When she opens the office door the Master is sitting at his desk. That damn missing seal causes all kinds of havoc around the plantation. Poor Rosalee. Her confidence on whether she was made for running was already shaky. This sealed the deal. She decides not to run with the others.
Our favorite abolitionist couple come home to find people working on their “nursery.” They came to build out the necessary space to harbor the runaways. The Hawkes run into an old friend on the train. The Constable reminds them about the Governor’s Ball, which plants a see in their minds. John (Marc Blucas) and Elizabeth (Jessica De Gouw) decides to contribute by spying at the Governor’s Ball. This is a bold and dangerous move. They have some complications, but Elizabeth saves the day with a “saucy” cancan dance. Elizabeth is a spunky character. Love the way she’s a non-conventional female for the time. She independent, sassy and smart, while still being a devoted wife to her husband. She’s the type of woman you want on your side in a fight! And the song playing, We Are the Wild Ones by Glitch Mob, was so appropriate!!
Love overcomes the impossible!
Love in the time of slavery is like seeing the beauty of the rose but constantly being stabbed by the thorns. How do you give your heart to someone never knowing if they might get sold off or taken away from you for some other reason? This happens when you have no other choice but to love someone. Zeke’s love for his wife is heartbreaking. First, he goes through the pain of knowing his wife killed their child. How many of us would’ve walked away, the loss too devastating to recover from? Then, they tell Zeke his wife is being sold to the slave traders. This man nearly demolishes the wagon to get to his wife. Most women would beg for a man to show that kind of love, to be willing to die just to say goodbye.
Rosalee is just learning about love. She’s trying to figure out what this thing is between her and Noah. The attraction is undeniable. The way they look at each other would make wax melt on a cold day. But the difference between infatuation and love is love moves you to put someone else’s wellbeing before your own. Infatuation is selfish, only seeking out its own satisfaction. Love drives us to give more. So, when Noah sends the message by Sam for Rosalee to steal the seal, she does it without question. At the end of the episode, when Rosalee needs Noah, he doesn’t hesitate to run with her, regardless of his life.
“When he came to me, he just stopped, as did my heart, and it never be right since.” – Pearly Mae (Adina Porter) to Rosalee
Love makes us do funny things. It makes us stupid, it makes us vulnerable, and it makes us brave. A mother’s love takes a lot of patience and courage. We raise them to be the best we can. In a time when the life you bore doesn’t truly belong to you, courage takes a whole new meaning. Ernestine (Amirah Vann) has to pat down the house slaves when the seal goes missing. Somehow, she realizes that Rosalee was the one who took the seal. Like any crazy, worried mother she gets frustrated and slaps Rosalee when she tries to lie. Also, like most mothers, she figures out how to get her child out of the mess she created. Ohhh, the look on Suzanne’s face was priceless when she found the seal in T.R.’s hands. But no apologies, she just screams to tell her husband the seal was found.
Final Verdict: The cruelty of slavery was heart wrenching but the truth of the Underground is grounding us into the reality of the time.
As we watch the field slaves battle with the railroad ties, we wanted cheer them on and pray they make it. Mass punishment can do one of two things: bring people together or tear them apart. Every field slave, except Cato, struggled under those ties to keep the whip off all their backs as Tom Macon sat drinking lemonade watching like he was at a sporting event. How many people wished they would just throw one of those huge wooden ties right on Tom’s lap?
Scenes like that drag us into this show with its harsh reality. But there was no harsher truth then when Overseer Bill (P.J. Marshall) stops Rosalee drunk and crying about his late wife. You know what’s coming. We wait for it with our breath trapped in our chest. White people in Bill’s position seemed to struggle with their standing in life. They weren’t as good as the plantation owners and barely above the position of a field slave. So, he was going to show Rosalee who had the upper hand. She fought for her life, but now she has to run!
The writers and producers have developed a world within a nightmare. You want to wake up but don’t know how to escape. The storyline is electric, shocking us with every turn, reminding us of a time we wish we could forget. The scenes make us want to scream at the characters, tell them a better time is coming, root for them to fight, hope for change that we know has come. At times, it’s so well done, that you can’t keep in the emotions, evening feeling sorry for the people you want to hate. Well done, Underground. Well done!
Questions, Comments, and Concerns:
Will Noah and Rosalee make it?
What about the others?
Can Sam get over the abandonment he feels from his mother?
Does anyone else feel that Tom Macon could’ve been a very different man if he never came south?
Who wants to beat the crap out of Cato?!?!?
Underground Review 1×03: The Lord’s Day