I’m 1:30 into episode two of WGN’s Underground and I’m already crying. Sure, Venus is in Retrograde, my car is stuck in the ice and I’m craving salty snacks but I’m mostly crying because Bokeem Woodbine’s Daniel has been teaching himself how to read and write. This is courageous AF for any slave to do but his reasoning behind this is what has me boo to the hooing. You see, Daniel has been learning how to read and write for his lady. He comes home early one day (did slaves get PTO days when we weren’t even getting paid?) to share his secret with her by writing her a note that reads “Love”, something he feels deeply for her and their cute little baby that keeps cooing, “dada” in the background. Daniel’s excitement at surprising his woman is so touching. Meanwhile, I can’t get my dude to stop backwashing the orange juice from out of the fridge when he’s sick. These little displays of tenderness between black slaves during a time when African-American people were afforded little time for romantic overtures, having to prioritize survival above all, is something Underground does best. Even though she absolutely cannot keep the note, it’s scenes like this one and Noah’s determination to do anything to retrieve his engagement ring for Rosalee that keep me coming back for more each week. Otherwise, we’re just watching chattel slavery torture-porn. So glad we as a people no longer have to harden our exteriors against a world that criminalizes our color even to the detriment of our relationships. Oh wait!
We cut back to the steps of the courthouse where John Hawkes was last seen getting murdered by some fanatical sectarian. Now, Elizabeth just sits in shock, intercut with scenes of her panicked cries for help seconds after John was assassinated. I was reminded of the footage of Jackie Kennedy as she held the head of her husband JFK and the stoic despair she displayed up to and including the late president’s funeral. For the first time this series I felt empathy for the widowed Hawkes.
Rosalee is going through all the stages of denial at once and she really needs to get it together. Thankfully, Harriet Tubman and Georgina from the Sewing Circle are there to help her get in Formation and formulate a successful escape plan. Only problem is Black Moses has just suffered another bout of what appears to be temporal lobe epilepsy. She’s going to need a minute. While she is unconscious, Georgina and Rosalee speculate on the mystical or possibly biblical cause of her seizures. Some say Ms. Tubman receives special prophetic visions while unconscious. Me no know and neither does anybody else but when Harriet comes to she drops the whammy. “The plan has changed.”
Later in the woods, Rosalee is leading a group of three male runaway slaves to the water. For people trying not to be found these dudes sure do a lot of loud-complaining. And one of them can’t stop coughing. When they arrive at the safe-house Rosalee takes Harriet’s good advice to listen to her instinct and bails on the homeowner’s request to bring her “cargo” around back. It’s a good thing, too, because that house has been compromised by gun-wielding slave-catchers who hold a gun to the homeowner’s head. These slave catchers are led by Sadie Stratton’s Patty Cannon, a no-nonsense pioneer-type woman. I get that she’s supposed to be a badass but she’s a slave catcher so eff her. We later watch as a biographer documenting her escapades hoping to tell the tale of the country’s most famous slave-catcher throws major shade her way. He wonders why he even bothers writing a book about her when she has been as of yet unsuccessful in not only catching Black Moses but has an additional runaway (Rosalee has been nicknamed “The Black Rose”) ruining her trash reputation. I hate her y’all and I was happy to see her get read for filth.
Elsewhere, Noah is still being transported somewhere by carriage. He Houdini’s his way out of his chains and then sabotages their ride to escape. He’s quickly caught and Noah is lead into the woods by some guys who don’t appear to speak English and while the men work on fixing their transportation he takes the opportunity to add some much-needed levity to the episode by trash-talking. Surprise, surprise! These guys shockingly do speak his language and as they trade insults the position one lackey takes it upon himself to steal Noah’s ring. I mouthed, “You know you dun f*cked up, right?” at my screen and as they take him to a fancy plantation Noah quickly takes the master hostage to retrieve his ring and flip the tables. Except tables got flipped on him as the actual master is revealed to be none other than… Cato! Somebody in the comments called it last week and I am all like “what did I just watch!?”
The primary theme running through episode two is motherhood. We see this in the way Elizabeth mourns the death of her husband and the piqued loneliness she feels due to not being able to have a child with John. We also see the importance of motherhood and its hold on some women as we check in with Ernestine. Ernestine is having a bad week (what else is new?) Her lover, Hicks, ( The Perfect Match’s Robert Christopher Riley) is doing his best Ike Turner as he washes her feet, compliments her looks and gives some half-ass apology for slapping the dog shit out of her last episode. With his fine but raggedy ass. She’s still on that stuff and now she’s seeing visions of her deceased husband. His ghost both comforts her and taunts her for the decisions she’s been forced to make as a mother. To protect her children. To make matters worse, one of the Gullah Plantation slaves named Clara (played by Dewanda Wise who is married to Cato irl) is asking for her help in terminating her pregnancy. A pregnancy caused by her laying with her man! And this chick had the unmitigated gall to try to make small talk with her too. Poor Ernestine. Clara later has a change of heart however Ernestine goes through with this woman’s forced abortion under the threat of Hicks. Although this world makes no promises toward the safety and well-being of children brought up by black women during this era, the desire to recreate life even out of anguish has a strong hold.
Speaking of motherhood, The Black Rose and her Unmerry Men are making a run or the riverbank when she is shot down by none other than that Basura-arsed Patty Cannon. Rosalee falls straight into the muddy waters and I screamed, “That’s enough, Underground!” but my cries went unheard as seconds later it was revealed that Rosalee is eating herbs for two. Yep, she’s preggo.
Jordan Kauwling is an early thirties Philadelphian but she tells everyone she's in her late thirties because she doesn't understand how math works. When she's not busy writing, singing, eating all the falafel or unsuccessfully finishing another craft project you can catch her talking junk on Twitter.