This week’s episode is all about choices. The choices that we make. The choices that we sometimes convince ourselves we have no other option but to make and the disparity that lies between those who choose to hide behind their choices and those who choose to stand in their truth. Cato is the latter, a character you’re either going to love or hate. A pragmatic agent of chaos who makes no apologies for his behavior and isn’t afraid to call others on their hypocrisy. He’s selfish, stubborn, quick-tempered and unloyal— in a word— he’s human.
Underground gives Cato a backstory this episode and while there’s very little here to make him seem sympathetic, Cato is a man that is oft-times misunderstood. We are also given a multilayered performance by Alano Miller and one thing is for certain, Miller did not come to play with you hoes, he came to slay. Step aside, Cersei Lannister! Television has a new scene-stealing, back-stabbing “big bad” in town. Cato seems to be playing 3D chess while everybody else is playing Chutes and Ladders. I could not look away.
The women of the sewing circle are planning their next power move in their fight against slavery while Rosalee returns badly beaten and nearly unconscious. I think Rosalee deserves some rest after the ordeal she went through last episode so I was a-okay with Jurnee Smollett-Bell being pretty much sidelined this week. Same goes for Ernestine who we don’t see at all this time around. I don’t know how much more suffering I could take from her character. Maybe next week we’ll find out she’s off the bath salts and recovering nicely but I doubt it.
Elizabeth Hawkes, a character I’ve been rough on in the past, is beginning to warm on me. I know she is a stand-in for white feminism and all the lack of intersectionality comprehension that goes along with it so I applaud the writers fleshing out her character a bit more. One of the men pushing for a war between ideologies inspires her to take a stronger stance on opposing slavery by fighting fire with fire. She wonders why a white man would risk his life and livelihood for black people in such an in your face manner. This makes sense when you figure her introduction to abolition likely came from her late husband and his desire to fight against injustice through the legal system. You see how that turned out though, Lizzy!
He spins a tale about his inaction adding to the suffering of a young slave boy who is made to watch his father starve to death. Hold the phones, though, because this story is one of pure imagination. The reality is that he doesn’t need a personal reason to fight for what is right and Elizabeth receives a timely sermon on the dangers of apathy. Message!
We learn that the mansion Cato’s men took Noah to is located in Philadelphia and he’s a little bitter about being left for dead last season. Cato’s feeling himself and wants to prove to Noah that he isn’t any better than he is once his true nature is revealed. Noah sees right through Cato’s basura. He pulls his card and lets him know he’s Drake in a world of Kendricks. Ouch. Both men have blood on their hands, though.
Noah states he would do anything to bring back the fallen members of the Macon Seven so Cato makes Noah an offer he can’t refuse: agree to go back into bondage and he’ll pay for the freedom of seven slaves. His life for the life of others. After taking just about two seconds to think it over, Noah regretfully declines. The confrontation between the two is spliced between flashbacks to Cato’s past. He’s been living the high society life in Paris, Ireland and England (set to a Dizzy Rascal soundtrack that made me milly rock on any block in my living room) Cato comes from a wealthy background and he uses the power of his wealth to court a high class British woman of Indian heritage named Devi. She’s one of those one-dimensional female characters that have little agency outside of how she challenges the male lead to recognize his potential. That “potential” here is his ability to use his past pain as a conduit in prize fighting.
She grows tired pretty quickly of his grandstanding and wants to know the man behind the self-created persona Cato creates. Snooze. Still, I was rooting for these two cray kids to make it. Their love story is blown through pretty swiftly here, more than likely due to the time constraints of the structure of the season, and seems doomed from the jump. In the fighting ring, Cato has his Oberyn Martell moment and loses a fight due to his ego and a non-regulation sucker punch from his opponent. As he lies on the ground, shaken, Devi looks on, pleading with him to get up. Cato knows, at his core, he ain’t shit, so he decides to break off their engagement rather than deal with her seeing him as broken.
At a rally against slavery the women of the sewing circle are reading statements to a rowdy crowd of onlookers. The widow Hawkes has inspired Georgia to give a speech but she is overcome by a fear of public speaking and rushes off of the stage. Elizabeth jumps in to finish her words and is rewarded with a rock to the face by some stranger in the crowd which sparks a riot. I didn’t cackle loud enough for my neighbors to hear me when she got hit so I guess we’ll call that progress. Elizabeth picks up a bottle, ready to square up, but Georgia steps in and tells them they need to blow that proverbial taco stand. You ladies are going to have to get your petticoats dirty sooner or later, doll.
Noah and Cato have a good ol’ fashioned fist fight in which the former is raining down blows like Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out but the odds are still in Catos favor as he has the hired guns to do his dirty work. Once removed from the scene of that beatdown, Noah meets with George Still who praises him for his heroics but Noah doesn’t see it this way. He is living with the regret of his decisions and the knowledge that he is every bit as selfish as the next man. He’s going to have to let go of these feelings if he’s to move forward because men like Cato and the men in the letter Daniel intercepted seem more than willing to make all of the choices for them.