Underground brings the feels, leaving us ‘Black & Blue’ recap and review

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Recap

We open as Jeremiah has Rosalee, shackled and chained, being transported in the back of a wagon. Her gaze stares blankly at the sky, barely blinking, as the group stop at a nearby pig slaughtering barn. She’s dragged out and forced inside, where one of the men declare, “That’s a ‘white’ women’s dress, take it off!” A horde of grabbing hands appear instantly, trying to tear the dress from her body, but not before August stops them, reminding them that she’s “another man’s property,” and that he plans to bring her back to him intact. Coldly, Rosalee stares at August, not welcoming of his halting of the men. Keeping her gaze fixated on him, she begins to disrobe, removing the dress that was being torn from her, tosses the dress right over the red hot coals burning nearby, causing it to begin to burn. She’s then led over by August and Ben to a where they can bind and watch her.

Underground Season#1 Episode #1 Photo Credit : Sony Pictures Television

While August is tying Rosalee’s hands behind her back, she asks him why he’s protecting her, to which he responds that she can “thank her daddy for that,” that he’s paying as much for her as the total of all the others combined. She asks him if he said that, that he’s her father, to which he responds yes, not in so many words, but that the money speaks for itself, and that for men like that, that’s the only way they know how to talk. August tells Ben to keep an eye on her as he steps out, telling Jeremiah that his men need to keep their hands to themselves, not wanting to complicate things. Jeremiah tells him that Paddy can use men like him, but August reminds him that once they return the girl, that he and Ben are heading home, pulling the envelope out again from the bank. August reminds Jeremiah of the other two boys that will be coming for Rosalee, and that they need to be ready.

We jump over to Noah and Cato right in the middle of a scuffle with some other men, as Noah chastises Cato for not following the plan they had set to take out the stagecoach. Once finished, Cato breaks open the lock securing the door to the stagecoach, finding thousands of dollars in crates inside. Cato makes a jab at Noah, warning him to not order him around like he’s Henry, although he may as well be, seeing as he’s following one of Noah’s foolhardy plans to his death too. Noah walks up to Cato and punches him, to which Cato responds with a punch of his own. Noah reminds him that they need to stop wasting time and figure out a way to save Rosalee, but Cato tells him that nobody cares about that housegirl and that the only reason he’s helping is because she’s the only one who knows how to get to the next station. Noah then calls Cato out, telling him that he doesn’t believe that for one second, that he cares for somebody, especially with the way Cato looks at the bonnet from time to time. Cato, frozen in shock that Noah noticed it, looks on at him, listening as Noah tells him that he’s seen him looking at it, knowing that Cato has someone out there that he cares about. “I’ve seen you” are the words that he leaves Cato with, showing him that he can see through his facade.

We come to John Hawkes as he driving his wagon down a dirt road, looking disheveled. The bruise on his face and the bloody bandages on his hand are in focus as we flash back to earlier that day, where John is attending a slave auction at a man’s home, bidding on a young slave girl’s life. John ends up winning the auction (under the name Hawkings), finding himself in a bidding war with the owner of the plantation. We find that the man in question is well-known in the slave trade world, going by the name Bazil Abbot. Abbot is the man who, we soon find out, owns Clyde, the freed slave who was re-captured not too long ago. John offers Abbot an opportunity to win back the girl that he was bidding on, as long as he puts up Clyde on his end of the wager. Abbot agrees.

We find Elizabeth reading a book to a sleeping Boo, smiling as she looks down on her, but her smile soon leaves as there is a persistent knocking at the door. Afraid of who it might be, she quickly and carefully places Boo in the bed nearby, closes the door behind her, and goes to the door, finding Marshall Kyle Risdin. Kyle is enraged with passion for Elizabeth, not wanting to be without her for another second, and begins to throw himself on to her. Elizabeth, not wanting to do anything with him, repeatedly tells him no, but it falls on deaf ears as he continues to paw all over her. Elizabeth, in a moment of desperation, grabs the closest object nearby, which happens to be a candlestick, and hits him over the head with it, knocking him out. A little while later, John makes his way home, hiding a gun that he had on his belt in a drawer. Elizabeth walks in, seeing John, and introduces him to Boo, telling him about her journey and how she was able to make it to them. She tells John that the last few days she’s had with her have been wonderful, but that she worries that she’s about to lose both Boo and John. She begins to tell John about the visit from Marshall Risdin. John begins to worry as Elizabeth tells him that he knows they are running a station. John becomes perturbed, running to the windows and checking if anyone is outside, but Elizabeth tells him that he isn’t going to tell anyone. She tells John that she didn’t have time to think, and Kyle has always been in love with her. John freezes in his tracks, and slowly turns to Elizabeth, asking what did she do. With tears in her eyes, she tells him that Kyle would protect their secret if she would- and stops right there. John, fully understanding what she did, chokes back the tears as he pleads with her, “How could you?” She tells him that he had come back today, leading him to the underground tunnel under the house, where John finds him bound and gagged.

As Rosalee struggles to loosen her bonds back at the barn, she tries to strike up a conversation with Ben, telling him that her name is Rosalee. He responds, uncouthly, that he knows, because it’s on the slave bill. Rosalee begins to tell Ben that she hates when her mom looks over her shoulder, that she likes the sound of the trees on a windy day, the smell of the cookies miss Suzanna would buy, and her favorite color; she isn’t just a name on a slave bill. She isn’t just a runaway, or just a $5,000 reward. At that moment, Jeremiah walks in with some of Ben’s clothes for Rosalee, and a book for Ben. He tells him that he had just finished reading it and that it’s a good book an obsessed hunter. Ben looks down at the book, examining it, as Rosalee changes into her other clothes. Once changed, she begins to notice the smoke that’s been rising from the burning dress. Ben jumps up, as if snapping out of some kind of trance, and asks her if she wants any more water, to which she politely responds no. She asks him if the book interested him because it reminded him of his father, to which Ben looks sheepishly down at the floor. Rosalee tells him that she’s seen her father every day of her life, but never really talked to him about anything. She doesn’t think it was out of spite, just that he probably never noticed her. Ben tells her that when his dad used to leave to go on a hunt, he had wanted to go with him, but now, he just wants to go back home. Rosalee tells him that he’s going to be getting his wish, now that they’ve got her, and Ben apologizes. He tells Rosalee that they need the money to save their land, not knowing the revelation that August found out about the bank notice. He then sits down on the floor in front of Rosalee, and begins reading the tale of Moby Dick. But just as he begins to read, Rosalee then sees Tom Macon walk past the doorway, looking in briefly. She shakes her head as if it was a vision of sorts.

Underground Season#1 Episode #1 Photo Credit : Sony Pictures Television

We see the exterior of the building, as Noah and Cato are still plotting their rescue attempt. Noah reminds Cato to make sure that he is where he needs to be when he comes out with Rosalee. Cato, with his face looking stoic, tells Noah that he was right, the bonnet did belong to someone he cared about: his daughter. Cato tells Noah that he has a daughter someone out there, and a wife. He describes their smiles, reminiscing about the two, and how they were sold to a different plantation one day. He ran from his master, and followed the slavers for days, but sadly he got dragged back. But his visage changes as he explains to Noah that the bonnet in his pocket is not to remind him that he’ll see them again one day, but to remind him that a heart “ain’t made for nothing but pumping blood; that’s the only thing it needs to survive.” He tells Noah to remember that, while he goes in there, risking his life to save a girl.

As Noah makes his way to the side of the building, he stands by a vat of pig blood and organs, awaiting Cato’s signal. Right away, we see Cato driving the stagecoach by the gang, throwing fistfuls of dollars in the air. The gang lose their focus momentarily, grabbing frantically at the cash on the floor, forgetting that the runaway they’ve been looking for drove right past them. One of the men runs inside, telling Jeremiah that the runaway is driving a stagecoach and tossing wads of cash in the air outside. August warns Jeremiah that it’s only a distraction, that they’re coming for the girl, but Jeremiah tells him that he isn’t going to pass up a chance for free money. We see Rosalee and Ben, as they’re struggling to stay coherent. We jump momentarily back to the dress, still burning, as Rosalee is practically in a daze. At this moment, Noah stealthily rises from the vat of blood, knife in hand, carefully making his way to find Rosalee.

Underground Season#1 Episode #1 Photo Credit : Sony Pictures Television

August, knowing that the two men are coming, quietly makes his way to a noise that he is hearing, thinking it’s one of them. To his surprise, he pulls back one of the hanging hogs to find Ernestine, butchering one of the pigs. We go to Ben, struggling to focus on the words in the book he’s reading. As he gets up, it looks as though a letter falls out of the book, more than likely placed there by Jeremiah. Ben picks up the letter, recognizing that it’s from the bank. After opening the letter and reading the letter, Rosalee asks him if something is wrong, to which he tells her that his dad has been lying to him. He walks over to one of tables and pulls a knife off of it, stating that they don’t need Rosalee anymore, looking coldly at her. Jumping back to August and Ernestine, August asks her what is she doing there, to which she responds, “In the slaughterhouse, or in your head?” That’s when August puts it all together: it’s a hallucination caused by a plant called Devil’s Snare. Rosalee must’ve put some in the pocket of her dress before she threw it in the fire. Ernestine tells August that she thinks on her feet and that she’s not soft, like Ben. At that moment, Ben, still walking oddly towards Rosalee, ends up using the knife he found to cut her loose, handing it to her and telling her to run.

Underground Season#1 Episode #1 Photo Credit : Sony Pictures Television

August, still hallucinating as he’s now shirtless, discusses with Ernestine about how he’s raising Ben. Ernestine tells him that Ben doesn’t look at him the same way anymore. August tells Ernestine that everything’s fine, that they’ll be going home soon, and the hunt will be over, but Ernestine warns him that the hunt is never over. Rosalee, still reeling from the Devil’s Snare, is still trying to find a way out of the barn, without being seen. She finds a doorway, and goes through it, only to find herself surprisingly back in Tom Macon’s office. She turns, wearing her old uniform from working on the plantation, to see him sitting at his desk, demanding a drink. She goes over to the decanter, per the norm, about to pour the drink, when she quietly says, “No.” Tom soothes her, telling her that she’s safe, now that she’s back home, but she tells him that she was never safe here. She throws off her gloves (literally and figuratively) and rolls up her sleeves, showing her scars from the whippings she got, and blamed Tom for them, stating that he let him do this to her. “I’m you daughter, and you just sat there, reading the newspaper, like it was any other day,” she screams in his face. Tom turns to her, telling her how ungrateful she is, and that he should have her whipped again, as a Bill, standing right behind her, says, “It’ll be my pleasure, boss.”

Bill throws her across the room and against the wall, telling her that she’s always going to remember him, as long as she has her scars. Mustering her courage, she declares that trying to kill Bill was the first free thing she’s ever done and that it won’t be her last. The scene jumps over to Noah, creeping through the barn, finds August talking to himself, about to come up behind him and take him out. As Ernestine fades away, August breaks out of the trance he was in and moves just as Noah comes in for the kill. Recognizing that he’s only using a knife, August holsters his gun, pulls out his bowie knife, and motions for Noah to engage him in combat. The two go back and forth, exchanging slits and cuts. We bounce back and forth between the scenes, as August and Noah fight, to Rosalee fighting now with Tom. Tom yells at her that even though she’s his daughter, there’s no freedom for her. Back to the knife fight, Noah is able to disarm August’s knife, but not before August is able to do the same, reducing the fight to a bare knuckle brawl. The two have at it until Noah is punched to the floor, as August pulls his pistol out to finish the job. Back with Rosalee, she leaps off the floor, only to find the wounds on her arms strangely opening up. Tom begins to yell at Rosalee that she’s coming back home and that “that boy” isn’t going to stay fool for long; Rosalee’s pent up emotion begins to build as Tom tells her that she isn’t made for running, as she begins to cry out that she’d rather die than be back at the plantation. All kinds of emotions are boiling past the redline as Tom screams that he owns Rosalee, to which Rosalee then grabs a nearby letter opener, pulls back, and stabs Tom in the chest. Only, it isn’t Tom who is stabbed: it’s Ben. As Ben falls to the floor and cries out for his Pa, Rosalee is overcome with grief and shock and runs away. August finds Ben on the floor, telling him that he’s got him, but Ben slowly fades away.

Underground Season#1 Episode #1 Photo Credit : Sony Pictures Television

After Noah comes to, he finds Rosalee outside of the barn, looking for Cato. He’s late with the stagecoach, as Jeremiah is right on their tail. They come to a point in the road where a tree has fallen over, so they have to go the rest of the way on foot. After going only a few yards in front of them, Cato finds himself caught in a snare, sending him upside down and tied to a tree. Jeremiah’s men catch up to the stagecoach and begin shooting at them, so Noah sends Rosalee looking for the bridge they need to come to. Noah hands his gun to Cato so that he can climb up the tree to cut him down, and Cato is doing all kinds of Boondock Saints moves, firing two guns while upside down at the whole gang of other guns and bows firing at him. Noah finally cuts him loose, but as Cato gets up off the floor, he’s hit by an arrow in the leg. Noah looks at him, trying to figure out what he needs to do, and Cato looks back, knowing exactly what Noah is going to do. Noah throws down the knife for Cato, as Cato looks on at Noah, smiling, realizing that his words have come back to haunt him. Noah runs off, leaving Cato to fend for himself, running almost right into Rosalee. She tells Noah that she’s found the bridge, but asks where Cato is. Noah just looks at her, as the sound of a single gunshot rings out louder than all the rest of them. The two realize that they have to go, and head for the bridge.

We come back to John and Elizabeth arguing about what she did. Elizabeth defends herself by saying that she was alone and scared and that it was him who brought this danger to their home. We jump back and forth, like before, between this scene, and what had happened earlier with John and Abbot, as they are about to get ready for a friendly game of darts. As John reaches in to grab his set of darts, however, the game takes a turn from friendly to deadly, as Abbot slams down the set of darts that are in his hand right on to John’s hand. Abbot reveals to John that he knows who he is, being an abolitionist and Tom Macon’s brother, punching him profusely. We jump back to a tearful Elizabeth, asking how John can blame her for what she had to do to save them. Boo quietly comes into the hall where they’re arguing, unnoticed, as John tells Elizabeth that he doesn’t know what to do, but he feels like he wants to hit her for letting Kyle touch her. Jumping back to Abbot, John finally gets up, punching Abbot clear across the jaw and sending him flying into his dartboard. He begins to wail on him, hitting him over and over, jumping back to the hallway argument, as we see Boo walking closer, but now we see what she has in her hands: the gun that John had tried to hide earlier. John states that he wants to kill Kyle for even thinking that he could touch her, as the camera pans the large gun in her tiny hands. As Abbot drops to the floor, John continues to bludgeon the man to death, finally pulling out the gun on his side, ready to shoot him dead. Clyde gets to him before he can do it, however, telling him that if he does, it will look like a slave got loose and killed his master. We come back to Boo, slowly raising the gun towards John, as John talks about what he did in the South, almost beating a man to death. Boo aims the gun slowly, pulls back the trigger, and fires the gun….missing both of them. She drops the gun in shock, as John and Elizabeth rush over to Boo. John picks up the gun, as Elizabeth throws her arms around Boo, comforting her. “The bad man was going to hurt you,” she says. Elizabeth reassures her that he’s not a bad man, hugging her tightly. Just then, at that exact moment, there’s a knock at the door. Could it be the rest of the Marshall’s looking for Kyle? Maybe a local lawman who heard the gunshot? Or what if it’s a lawman who followed John all the way from the Abbot plantation looking for him? John goes to the door, apprehensive about opening it. He looks through the window, and quickly swings the door open, revealing Rosalee and Noah on the porch. Boo quickly screams out, “Rosalee!” running over to her. Rosalee grabs her and hugs her tightly, knowing that she’s still alive.

Review

Phew, I know that recap was a bit long, but there was so much in last night’s episode, I didn’t really want to miss a beat of it. Titled “Black & Blue,” the show became the culmination of so many key character arcs, and allowed the climax of many emotions to come to a head, and then just lose it throughout the episode. Finally getting to see moments like that of Cato being vulnerable, speaking about the family he had, Rosalee fully realizing and facing her father, Tom Macon – which, by the way, I had no idea that he was the father! I mean, it slipped me right on by during the episode that I had to rewind and rewatch that scene again. Tom’s her father? What?! Those kinds of moments when your stomach drops out from under you, and you didn’t see certain things coming that are riddled throughout this episode!

As I’ve said before, I love Jurnee Smollett-Bell. Her portrayal and continual evolution of her character are so incredible, and it’s complementary of everyone on screen, from Aldis Hodge, Alano Miller, even P.J. Marshall when they have a brief moment talking about his deceased wife… right before she puts a broken bottle in his neck. And yes, I know, I know, she’s been around for a long while, and that she’s had great performances in other works such as the 1997 film, Eve’s Bayou, the hit TV show, Friday Nigh Lights, and other great things, but just like many wonderful things, over time, they tend to either evolve, or devolve; Smollet-Bell has truly evolved, as her many opportunities to shine in this show have proven. Underground has become her culling ground, putting her in a role that she honestly has never done before, with a directorial team she’s never worked with before, and she has thrived.

I swear, this show better get an Emmy for sound, because I know that I’ve found myself in the midst of some great storylines before in other shows, and even films, but they fall flat due to the lack of, or even the bad choice, great music and scores. This show delivers EVERY TIME on the music end. Music supervisor Laura Karpman spoke with Zap2it last month about the music and score selection done for the show. “You’ve got a musical metaphor for the basic organic material of the show,” she states, as how they introduced modern music alongside classical. “The idea of both genres of music really makes you sink into the piece.”

As much as I’m excited to see how this season comes to a close next week, I’m also saddened, as the chapter of this story will come to a close. WGN America has created lightning in a bottle with Underground, shining a new light on our nation’s dark past. A whole year is too long to wait for a new season, but for now, all I can do is sit in anticipation for what is in store for the season finale. Despite feeling “Black & Blue” after seeing last night’s episode, I can honestly say that this show is one that I would willingly sit idly by in front of my television to wait for the next episode. Great job, again, tonight, WGN America. You’ve stolen our hearts, our minds, and now, our TVs.

What did you think of last night’s episode? Are you ready for the Season Finale? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Underground airs its Season Finale next Wednesdays night on WGN America.

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Eddie Villanueva Jr.
Eddie Villanueva Jr. 298 posts

A movie connoisseur of only the finest films, and an Encyclopod of geek and nerd knowledge. And if you know what an Encyclopod is, you're cool too!

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