Let’s rattle the cage a little. This year, we’re most likely going to see newcomers The Crown, This is Us, and Stranger Things receive Emmy nominations. There’s another newcomer to consider, OWN’s Queen Sugar. The Crown lures with the young Queen Elizabeth ascending to the crown after an abdication and her father’s death. NBC’s This is Us is a social media phenomenon every Tuesday night as viewers tune into the happenings of the Pearson family.
Consider Queen Sugar and its force in pushing television forward. With Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay attached, this show promised greatness from the start. Based on Natalie Baszile’s novel, Queen Sugar is a show where strong female characters take the lead and anchor the show. We see the world from their perspective. The male characters are shown to be sensitive and vulnerable.
The death of the family patriarch brings the Bordelon siblings to the sugar cane farm. Ralph Angel is the male sibling, the one just released from prison. He is a father trying to be a good father to his son, Blue, and give him a legacy to be proud of. Nova is the oldest, a journalist and political activist who wants to shed light on the criminal justice system. That’s something so brilliantly explored in DuVernay’s 13th documentary. The middle child is Charley, a successful sports manager living in L.A., uprooting her son to move to Louisiana to take care of and manage the farm. The move becomes an eye opener for Charley as she is made more aware of the divide between African-American farmers and white farmers, and how the latter are driving the former out of the area.
There are so many aspects of this show that plays like a visually stunning, gripping, and completely promising cinematic experience.
The funeral/homegoing scene in Episode 1 is one of many. DuVernay delivered a beautiful sequence because she didn’t put her characters in black. She clothed them in white. Symbolic of the family embracing the light and not the darkness. Aside from the beautiful contrast of the white against the beautiful skin tones, the colors in the scene of the sun setting in the background highlight Queen Sugar‘s beauty, shot like a movie with many scenes that leave you breathless.
The pallbearers in the scene place pines on the casket, the evergreen symbolizes the immortality of the soul. In that moment, the Bordelon siblings unite. In another memorable scene, they link hands. Early on, we know this sibling bond is going to be eternal no matter what.
The show is one that asks you to be patient. It’s a show to sink your teeth into with every episode, unfolding week after week.
What makes this show stand out is that we have one where we can relate to the characters. They’re dysfunctional. They’re messy, and they’re argumentative. Micah’s skin color isn’t an issue in L.A., living in a world of privilege. When he’s moved to Louisiana, we get to see the struggles and race problems that exist in America as he and his mother, Charley, swiftly learn how black men can be vilified.
The acting is the kind where the performances are so good, you are invested in their journey. Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Rutina Wesley and Kofi Siriboe all give performances that take us on the emotional ride each week.
Queen Sugar is fine television. It is beautiful television. A celebration that addresses issues with society today. It is a show that showed us a beautiful side of black lives, asking us to embrace these characters whose lives are just as complex and as nuanced as those we typically see on television. The incredibly shot shower scene between Ralph Angel and Darla that played at the end of Season 1 gave us so much to delight in.
Queen Sugar is a show that deserves to be watched. Its second season is back, and we look forward to all the questions being answered because that ending where Ralph Angel was revealed to be the rightful owner of the farm had us gripped.
Consider Queen Sugar for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series.