Queen Sugar is a show for directors. From the first frame of this episode, to the last, we are let into a carefully designed visual canvas of color, performance, and meaning. There was a time when the anticipation of a director’s choices on a television show, didn’t exist in the way it does now. “Queen Sugar” has helped changed the game, bringing women filmmakers into the fold, and allowing them to build on a rich tapestry of visual design that helmer Ava DuVernay set up in the pilot.

This week’s episode, directed by Garrett Bradley, continues that tradition. We begin the episode with Charley and Remy as they stand in a large green field, making preparations for the Brown Sugar Harvest Festival. The camera frames them in a two-shot amidst expansive greenery, then slowly tilts above them in a sweeping celebration of their union, and the openness that they can now inhabit. Not too soon after, obstacles start to pile up for Charley as Sam Landry does everything in his power to make sure the festival doesn’t happen, including blocking access to that expansive green field that seemed to hold so much promise.

Meanwhile, Nova and Robert prepare for their first televised appearance on a news station to discuss the threat of Zika Virus in the Lower Ninth Ward. Before they go on air, they practice and Robert gives Nova a lovely black pearl necklace. Things, however, take a wild turn when Robert attempts to spar with her on-air to boost ratings and Twitter buzz, much to her disappointment. She thought they were a team. But, what does it mean to be a team, or better yet, a team of black activists and academics, in our current climate of internet virality and divisiveness? What does it means to be a voice of the people, today? Does it mean having 150K Twitter followers, and going viral with controversial statements, or does it mean representing your community without drawing attention to your personal brand? Can it mean both? Robert and Nova have two very different definitions of how she should use her platform, and what her voice represents. As she rips off the necklace he gave her after the broadcast, she warns him not to return to New Orleans with her, or come near her community.

One thing this episode does well is portray the awkwardness, pain, and vulnerability that its characters feel as they continue to pursue the new circumstances in their lives. Darla tearfully confides in Aunt Vi that her mother called her and will come to her wedding. What should be a happy moment seems to bring worry to Darla as she remembers her parent’s judgement of her. Aunt Vi reveals to Darla that she was once a victim of domestic abuse from her husband, and worried about the way people saw her after the marriage ended, but she survived and didn’t let the past define her. This a powerful statement, shared between black women, which echoes the themes of this episode.

While trying to salvage her original vision for the Brown Sugar Festival amidst Landry’s constant opposition, Charley is again tested by her past with Davis. As she kisses Remy, Davis and Micah walk into her home, and the awkwardness of balancing new love with old loyalty overcomes the scene. Later, when Davis pitches in to help with the festival, offering to get the singer Tamar Judith to perform, Charley realizes he’s romantically involved with her. The festival commences but not in the way Charley envisioned. Nova is there to remind her that Landry can never crush something that means so much to black community.

While people have a good time and dance, Robert shows up for Nova, apologizing for what happened between them. Nova declares that while she knows he’s a “good man,” he’s no good for her. It’s one of the more surprising, painful moments of this episode because there has to be some kind of resolution, some way that they can merge their approaches to community activism and success. Both characters are isolated in separate frames until Nova tells him to leave, and is left standing alone in a wide shot.

Later, Davis visits Charley, telling her that he will be leaving to California the next day. She doesn’t ask him why. The air becomes thick and Davis attempts to make his way back into her heart by saying his relationship with Tamar isn’t a big deal. But “Remy is a big deal” she says, standing in the middle of an expansive wide shot, framed by turquoise walls. She is in the middle of Remi and Davis. The middle of the past and the present. She chooses the present.

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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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