In “To Usward,” Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe) is still coping with being racially profiled and arrested in the Season Two debut of Queen Sugar—concerning Aunt Vi (Tina Lifford), who confides in Nova (Rutina Wesley) that he’s barely eating. Even with Nova trying to get him to open up about his experience, his “I’m fine” cuts off any attempt to speak of it. Nova and us viewers know too well that “I’m fine” is the biggest lie as Micah internally processes his confusion and anger. Everyone sees this but Charley, who is too immersed in her juggling act, securing the sugar mill contract and attending her final divorce mediation with her soon-to-be ex-husband, Davis (Timon Kyle Darrett).
Face-to-face for the first time since their argument outside the police station in the season premiere, that proves to be but the beginning of their battle. Davis declares that he not only wants joint custody of Micah, but also wants to raise him—helping him through his recent trauma with the police. Now, readers, if we know anything about Charley Bordelon-West, it’s that her son is in the center of her world, and she’ll protect him at all costs. So it’s no surprise that she snaps at Davis like a viper: “You ain’t shit, Davis, you know that? You are the last thing Micah needs”—only to be blindsided by Davis when he reveals that Micah is in favor of it.
Micah, who’s drifting around the city of New Orleans in his school uniform, looks lost and out of place. (Especially when he has only a credit card, instead of $1.50 for bus fare.) Once Charley calls him from outside of his school, he stings her to give him his space, which she agrees to before crumbling in the parking lot in tears. It’s a parallel: She’s hurt by the rejection from her son, while he’s hurt by having to come to grips with racism.
On the other end of the spectrum, Ralph Angel’s (Kofi Siriboe) intention of bringing money to the farm continues to impress his father’s colleagues, but there’s a brick wall he can’t break through: Charley. After she critiques him for saving money to fix their father’s tractor than buy one, he tries to avoid her as the tension between the two over honoring their father’s wishes intensifies:
“I’m tired of going to Charley every time I need something. This is about the future, Remy. Pops wanted us to keep farming.” —Ralph Angel
Remy (Dondre Whitfield), like everyone else except Charley, commends Ralph Angel for his actions. Convincing him to apply for a loan with the Farm Services Agency, Remy assures him that he can run the land alone: “I believe in you and I believe in that farm.”
Ralph Angel coming into his own makes him want to step up and be there for Darla (Bianca Lawson) as they take things slow. He turns on the charm with beignets, café au lait and an invitation for a date night. (Talk about a southern gentleman.) When he stresses the importance of him providing for her, though, leads to a moment in which Darla’s endearing words center him:
“Ralph Angel, you don’t have to play a role. We’re so beyond that. Let’s just be us. Who we are.” —Darla
The most moving moments in “To Usward” center on mourning the love you’ve lost, as Remy mourns the fourth anniversary of his wife’s death. In the presence of Charley, who comes by unannounced, he begins to open up about his wife, a soldier in the Army Reserve killed in Afghanistan. He’s fully in tune with his pain as Charley stands still and speechless. As he narrates, Aunt Vi stands shaken after receiving news of an explosion at the rig where Hollywood (Omar J. Dorsey) works, watching as men start walking off the bus. Is he dead? It’s the internal, heart-dropping question no one wants to be true. As Hollywood steps off the bus and locks eyes on her, they run to each other and embrace. This was the moment we’ve been longing for since their relationship ended in Season One, after Hollywood’s bipolar wife showed up unexpectedly at Aunt Vi’s party, leaving her devastated. Their love for each other—the way they kiss, the sweetness in the way they look at each other and are present for one another—is true, and a kind of love that everyone would want to experience in their lifetime.
So as we see Remy and Charley on the coach talking, you see what’s compelling about a character like him: his willingness to be emotional and not suppress it, even in front of the woman he likes. We know that there’s a gravitational pull between Charley and Remy, one they briefly explore in the first season until Remy draws a line between the two to protect himself. But in this moment, their energy is undeniable—even in the way he leaves her speechless. Through his grief, he tells her not to ignore hers, and on the other side of it, he’ll be there:
“You are the first woman I wanted to know since my wife, Charley… I want to know everything, but before that can happen, you need to mourn the loss of your marriage. You need to push past the anger and allow yourself to grieve.” —Remy
After wandering for hours, Micah’s footsteps lead him into a crowd of black people chanting at the NOLA Community Bail Fund event as he follows the sound of his Aunt Nova’s voice. Flinching at the sight of a cop, Nova spots him in the crowd and runs to hug him. He finally says, “I just couldn’t go to school today” and that he isn’t fine. Knowing that experience has forever left a mark on him, Nova once again holds him close, acknowledging that his pain is the biggest presence in this space.
Ashley G. Terrell is a freelance entertainment writer based in Michigan. Her work has appeared in Ebony Magazine, The Huffington Post, Black Girl Nerds, and more. She is currently working on her first novel and is the creator of the blog, The Carefree Black Girl Chronicles of ASHLEMONADE. You can follow her on Twitter.