8.7

Rising Beyond Expectations in Queen Sugar's "My Soul's High Song"

(Episode 2.04)

TV Reviews Queen Sugar
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Rising Beyond Expectations in <i>Queen Sugar</i>'s "My Soul's High Song"

Charley’s (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) Hollywood customs against a rural Louisiana backdrop of an old kitchen tries to coexist as she stands in a suit and a French roll, blending a green smoothie yelling “breakfast!” Not bacon, eggs (or even grits) as Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) points out.

Jumping from house-to-house in her family, she and Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe) have found a new place to nest at Ralph Angel’s place in “My Soul’s High Song.” Given how they both struggle to mend their strained relationship, it has already trickled down to their children when Micah snaps at Blue (Ethan Hutcherson) for decorating his missing calculus binder—leading to an awkward silence acknowledging him lashing out. Charley, as usual, brushes it off and moves along.

Charley’s reliance on her lifestyle, stubbornness, and champagne taste have been served a spoonful of humble pie throughout the episode that makes her ask if her “bougie bitch” (as Nova called her in Season One) personality makes her butt of the joke. This comes to light after she and Remy (Dondre L. Whitfield) meet with a group of black farmers at the site of Queen Sugar Mill to discuss the ongoing renovations that’ll soon be ready for harvest. Standing starry-eyed of the future in the empty space, she invites Remy to come with her to look for a new home before having their lunch date in celebration of securing the mill contracts.

“What do you see here?”

“Cobwebs?”

“Possibility. Queen Sugar will be a major brand someday.”

During their lunch, as they watch a video of an aerial cleaning of the 30 acres of sugarcane, Charley voices her worry of potentially losing $1.5 million due to the white fly infestation. A disagreement starts between them over the contradiction of her renting an expensive home to be “living large right down the street from the Landries” yet having farmers take a risk to grind at her brand-new sugar mill. He points out that her disconnect from the community she’s serving sends a message that she’s too good to be a part of it, suggesting her money will serve her in St. Josephine. She, on the other hand, argues that being a role model is enjoying the fruits of her success.

“What is so wrong with black success looking like white success?” – Charley

“Why does white have to be the model for our aspirations?” – Remy

Later that night, Charley and Ralph Angel are at the house discussing the farm when Micah’s brooding agitation comes to a head. He hits Blue, who innocently sneaked up from behind, out of reaction resulting into him crumbling into tears. This triggers Ralph Angel to slam Micah against the wall, snarling to never lay a hand on his son. Charley intervenes, yet she doesn’t reprimand her son for losing control.

It has come to the point that Micah’s acting out can no longer be ignored, especially by Charley, who has excused it over the past three episodes. But as she comes to apologize to her brother, he holds them both accountable—and rightfully so. She continues to rely on the “he’s going through a hard time” spiel hoping to conjure up sympathy. Because of course, no one should understand that better than her brother. Right?

“I know you ain’t saying we had it the same? His four hours of custody and my four years in prison?” Ralph Angel says. And from then I knew he was ready to deliver a “knock some sense into you” kind of clapback that would overcome Charley’s tendency to dance around the real issue. It’s like someone you know being called out and the relief you feel that somebody finally did so—and this moment was no different.

“You and Davis messed him up! Micah even know any people who ain’t famous? Micah’s soft and it’s your fault raising him like that. Money don’t make you safe here, Charley. It just makes you forget who you really are.”

When Remy rallies a group of people to clean the 30 acres of sugarcane, two farmers—and friends of her father—made a $30 bet if Charley would risk ruining her manicure to help. (The irony of Ralph Angel’s “field negro” crack toward Charley and her privilege). Beyond the perception of being a basketball wife, she feels the sting of being underestimated.

After Aunt Vi senses tension, Ralph Angel finally confides that his father left the house and the land to him. Ready to use it as ammunition to make it clear to his sister who’s really in control, Aunt Vi is leery, warning him to be prepared for what’s to come if he reveals the letter. (A potential conflict she’s right about when earlier Charley says to Nova, “This house is ours as much as it’s his. I’m not going to let him run me off.”)

“You can let your mouth and your pride write that check if you want to, but you best be ready to cash it.” – Aunt Vi

As officers came to the door looking for Ralph Angel, due to a parole violation for firing a gun in “To Usward,” Charley turns on her “Mrs. West from Hollywood” charm, claiming ownership of the gun. It’s so cunning that it works, convincing the cops that she’s an L.A. girl trying to rough it in the South among “snakes and rats” that they leave peacefully.

“No matter what you think of me Rah, I will always have your back.” – Charley

She continues to display that she’s capable of rising to the challenge and despite her stubbornness to follow her customs, just as quick as you’re frustrated with her she has a way of surprising you. With Charley, there’s always more than meets the eye … and the manicure.


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.

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