**SPOILER ALERT** This posts contains information regarding episode plots of WGN’s Underground.
“Underground” is a new series, created by Misha Green and executive produced by John Legend (for the full cast and crew, visit here), that depicts “a group of slaves who plan a daring escape from a Georgia plantation to cross 600 miles to freedom.” Truthfully, I usually don’t like shows and movies about slavery because they’re upsetting to me, but this show is different. It often uses modern music, and the depth of the characters is something that I haven’t seen before. Each episode, I go through a myriad of emotions, from sadness and fear to elation and amusement. Here are my top ten moments from the season so far — and it’s only on episode 8.
When you realized that Noah was faking his limp and wasn’t actually injured:
The series starts out with Noah running through and woods and being captured, then taken back to the Macon plantation. He insists he wasn’t running, but Tom Macon, the plantation owner, gives him five lashes anyway. When Rosalee, a house slave, is tending to his injuries, she figures out that he was faking his leg injury. We’re only one episode in, and you realize that this series is going to have a lot more than meets the eye. Paying attention will be important.
When Rosalee gets lashes due to James playing with T.R. and upsetting a cart in the road:
James, Rosalee’s young brother, is playing outside with T.R., Tom Macon’s son. They’re running around in the road and a cart dodges them, causing some merch to fall off of the cart. The angry cart-owner grabs for James, but Rosalee offers to take the lashes for her little brother. We watch in horror as he bloodied her wrists and she winces in pain.
When Tom Macon meets Ernestine in the wine cellar — she’s completely naked and begins to pour wine on her body after insulting his guests!
This scene is key because it’s the first time that we see Ernestine and Tom be intimate with one another, and it’s obviously not the first time it has happened. On one hand, I was thinking, “OH MY,” because Ernestine is a house slave and here she is insulting her master’s guests and providing him with bedroom commands. On the other hand, the scene is sad because before Ernestine allows Tom to touch her, she makes him promise that he won’t put James out in the fields and the look on her face as he kisses her reveals that she’s willing to do anything to protect her children at all costs — this tryst isn’t motivated by desire. Damn.
When Noah tricks Cato into going to the plantation dance and he’s forced to “pleasure” the Shaw mistress while Noah steals a gun for their escape:
I know, we probably shouldn’t have laughed at this, but honestly, Cato is so terrible to the other slaves since he’s in a somewhat position of power in the fields and it’s clear that he thinks that he’s better than them. So it was pretty amusing for Noah to trick him into this position, especially after he cringed when he thought Noah would be the selected party and he was going to be the one to steal the gun while Noah distracted Mistress Shaw.
When the overseer tries to rape Rosalee and she stabs him in the neck with a bottle:
Two gifs were needed here. The entire scene with Rosalee is incredibly uncomfortable to watch, and the drunken overseer will give you the creepies to the umpteenth power. You’re scared for her and you know something bad is about to happen, especially when he tells her that she thinks she’s better than him even AFTER she offers to pick flowers for his wife. He drags Rosalee into his house and you hear her screaming and a struggle — then she runs out and sees Noah, telling him they have to leave NOW. When he asks why, she replies, “ ‘Cause he dead!” Well, after portraying Rosalee as weak episode after episode, you realize that she has some backbone to her and it’s glorious.
When Josey gets hit over the head by his accomplice, then his accomplice gets shot in the head by a police officer after saving the Hawkes’!
John and Elizabeth Hawkes are abolitionists on the show, and they frequently help escaped slaves evade capture. However, Josey is a slave who thinks that the Hawkes’ sold his wife and he’s out for revenge. Both John and Elizabeth try to maintain their innocence, but then John lies to Josey to “admit” the wrongdoing, Josey flips out and you think that’s the end of them…then his friend/accomplice (who had previously left because Josey was erratic and irrational) returns and stops him. Just when you think everything is now okay, a police officer enters and shoots him in the head without warning or asking questions. He just saved them!!!
When Cato lights the cotton field on fire after dribbling rum on it all day:
Okay, I did NOT see this coming. Earlier in the day in the fields, you see Cato’s flask with the liquor Tom gave him leaking all over the place, but when someone lets him know, Cato tells them to mind their business in typical jerk Cato fashion. Later that night, Cato is “scolding” Zeke and Moses, then all of a sudden throws a torch on the liquor-soaked cotton field and tells everyone to run! Obviously, the white workers are more concerned with ensuring their income doesn’t go up in flames and the Macon 7 (except Pearly Mae, which is heartbreaking) get a head start. Point, Cato!
…But then you find out that Cato is still evil when he shoots Zeke in the leg:
Just when you thought Cato was woke…nope. While he helped the Macon 7 escape the plantation, he quickly went back to his selfish and evil ways when he and Zeke were running together from slave catchers (the group had to split up after an ambush). He shoots Zeke in the leg so he is unable to run. Zeke gets surrounded and ultimately dies (but not before taking a couple of the slave catchers out). Cato, we were all rooting for you.
When Rosalee comes out of the woods with the Native Americans after saving the rest of the Macon 7 on the boat:
We don’t see a lot of Rosalee during this episode after she gets into an argument with Cato, and I feared he either killed her (because that’s what evil people do) or she decided to go back to the plantation so she didn’t jeopardize their escape (the slave catchers know her by name and Tom specifically told them to not hurt her because she’s his daughter). The others are currently floating down the river on a boat they stole from a group of white people, but they are unable to steer the boat because of a broken part. Another group of bounty hunters find them and line up by shore with guns to get them to surrender. All of a sudden, gunshots come from within the woods and take out all of the men. You see a group of Native Americans emerge from the woods led by none other than Rosalee (who is also looking like she was finally able to bathe)! COME THROUGH, ROSALEE!
“Underground” airs on WGN America every Wednesday at 10pm/9pm CST. I can’t wait to see what happens next, but I only hope my heart and soul can take it.
UPDATE: Since this post was initially written, episode 7 aired, which was full of heart wrenching and “help me” moments in my soul. I’m literally about to cry just thinking about. The episode told the story through the eyes of the children on the show, and I’ve never seen something so upsetting that was so well done. You can watch all the episodes from this season on the WGN website if you need to catch up and don’t have On Demand.
Have you seen “Underground”? What are your thoughts on the show?