“Just because you wish something is meant to be, doesn’t mean it is.” ~Nova

There’s a beautiful, painful circularity to this week’s episode of “Queen Sugar.” It begins with Ralph Angel and Darla outside of their home, sharing optimism in a green field, and ends in that same space, with one of the most devastating twists of the show thus far.

But before we get there, we sit with Aunt Vi as she is diagnosed with Lupus. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting this diagnosis. It stunned me. It made me remember a woman, a kind of aunt, who lived near me, growing up. She had lupus. She was in and out of the hospital, in frequent bouts of pain, and in need of a kidney transplant. She was in many ways, like Aunt Vi- a caring, loving woman who looked out for her family, and for mine in our apartment complex. Aunt Vi sheds a tear after hearing the diagnosis. I felt her pain and surprise. It echoes the health struggles that so many black woman endure silently at first, because there’s so much we’re doing; working, raising families, caring for others, surviving. It made me think of my grandmother and aunt, both deceased, and what it means to take care of one’s self. It’s a beautifully rendered scene because it puts into focus what’s so important, but is often overlooked- our health.

Soon after, Aunt Vi, visibly distraught, cancels her plans to host a dinner for Darla’s parents at her home, without revealing the underlying cause of her sudden decision. It’s moving to watch because it reflects what so many people go through in dealing with epic personal battles, internally. When will Aunt Vi finally let her family know about her health problems? I am curious to see how this storyline unfolds because it is such a real situation.

Meanwhile, Charlie and Remy seem like they are finally making major strides toward a serious commitment to one another. However, a night of passion is interrupted when Remy exclaims he wants to be with Charley “forever” as they disrobe. Within an instant, Charley’s energy changes and she wants to ensure that it was just pillow talk. It’s not. In this moment, the scene goes from one of blissful intentions, to divided motivations. Charley isn’t thinking about forever, or having more kids, or getting married again. Remy is. This is another scene that speaks to the circular movement of this episode. When we first see Remy and Charley, they are talking about taking steps into intimacy, and when they finally do, they end up back in the same space, talking about what they want, and if their intimacy can sustain.

Nova, on the other hand, revisits the past she had with Calvin, whom she sees randomly in a coffee shop and invites over her place. After the sudden break-up with Robert, the appearance of Calvin does seem a little convenient, but provides a sense of closure to a relationship that was never quite resolved. Though Calvin is willing to give it all up for Nova, she is unable to do the same for him. Her community activism and unapologetic love for blackness runs up against his disinterest and privilege. Perhaps being alone is the best thing for Nova right now.

Later, When Darla’s parents finally arrive to meet the Bordelons, there’s a strange tension that permeates. While her mother, played by Michael Michelle, seems genuinely happy to be there, her father, played by Roger Guenveur Smith, seems to be avoiding something. At the dinner table, he looks past Darla and gloats about Nova and Charley’s accomplishments, while she stirs with irritation. Ralph Angel is quick to laud her accomplishments as a mother starting over. But, what is her father avoiding?

Later, a candid porch talk over sweet tea between Darla and her mother reveals a side of her that we’ve never known. We’ve accepted the narrative that her parents wanted nothing to do with her, even after her battle with addiction. Another narrative emerges in this scene, one in which Darla wanted nothing to do with her parents, disrespected them, lied to them, and pushed them away. Who then, was at fault? This scene is immensely layered, speaking to our understanding of addiction and the destruction it wreaks on families.

It only makes sense that after this heart-to-heart with her mother, Darla would want to make peace with her family and move forward. She goes to her father to apologize, and in a sudden twist, he advises her to tell Ralph Angel the truth. About what? Suddenly, it became clear that the avoidance I sensed in his character was coming full circle in this scene; he knows a part of Darla that we don’t.

And so, we return to the same green field where we began the episode. Darla approaches Ralph Angel, nervous, with tears in her eyes. She professes her love to him first, then in a beautifully-framed two-shot with a tree in the background splitting the frame, unleashes a secret that nearly knocks him down- that she slept with someone else while high on drugs and Blue may not be his son. You can feel the air leave Ralph Angel’s body. The camera seems to be mirroring his breaths. There’s a loss we feel because Blue is Ralph Angel’s breath.

Where will we go from here?

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About The Author

Nijla Mu’min is a writer and filmmaker from the East Bay Area. She tells stories about black girls and women who find themselves between worlds and identities. Her short films have screened at festivals across the country. Her filmmaking and screenwriting have been recognized by the Sundance Institute, IFP, and the Princess Grace Foundation. She recently directed her first feature, Jinn, starring Zoe Renee and Simone Missick (Luke Cage).

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