Bokeem Woodbine’s Daniel has been blinded since we saw him running from the overseer raid from last week. As a skilled craftsmen who depends on his eyes in order to create intricate granite work, it’s particularly disgusting that he would not only be punished in this way for knowing how to read but have the thing he derives worth from stripped from him.
Okay, we’re off to a rough start because I’m already in my “I just watched Rosewood then went to hang out with my white friends” bag but let’s push forward. Cato sneaks up on Patty Cannon as she’s sleeping in her quarters to share a swiped excerpt from the piece that is being written about her. Unfortunately for Patty, she’s currently sitting at a dismal 13% rotten tomato rating in the whole “catching important slaves” category. It appears the history books will look back fondly on Harriet Tubman where Cannon will merely be an annoying footnote.
This doesn’t sit well with our raven-haired racist who expresses her frustration that there isn’t just some kind of map that would lead her to all of the safe-houses on the Underground Railroad but, as luck would have it, Cato knows of such a map. The map is actually a song and Cato is willing to share this information with Patty Mayonnaise because he ain’t shit. This leads to a breathtaking animated and scored opening credits sequence reminiscent of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman accompanied by Alano Miller’s surprisingly melodic singing voice which almost made me forget for a second how much of an opportunistic turncoat Cato can be. Almost.
Speaking of music knocking it out of the ballpark, I take back everything I’ve said earlier in the season about the modern music being a distraction from the series. The jazzy updates of classic Christmas staples that accompany this episode are pitch-perfect and only add to the melancholic tone of hypocritical glad tidings in the face of human suffering. Taura Stinson’s rendition of “What Child Is This” and “I See Red” by Truth Ali are standouts this episode.
Last week we saw that rescuing James was not going to be as cut and dry as originally planned and this week the series expounds on why. Young James is being dressed by one of the house slaves on Christmas morning and overhears his sister Rosalee being forced into her old servant dress which does not accommodate her very-pregnant belly. She is back under Suzanne Macon’s thumb thanks to little James dropping the dime. Damn (Damn, DAMB) James! Andrea Frankle plays the Macon matriarch as a perfectly sickening-sweet concoction of unhinged desperation and pure evil. As we watch her take favor on James while tormenting his sister right in front of him or play her own son T.R. against his newfound “brother” I made a silent wish on a set of birthday candles for her demise. Let’s put a pin in that for now.
August Pullman is transferring Ernestine via river to Patty Cannon and his loquacious “red shirt” of a partner let’s it slip that Rosalee is still alive. Ernestine is already aware of who Patty is because she be knowing things. They are being pursued by the men Ern escaped from and in addition to that they have to contend with Ernestine trying to escape at every turn. Shooters cause the trio to abandon the boat and opt for the woods instead on foot. Christopher Meloni does double duty this episode as director and cast member.
The fireside scenes between him and Ernestine where they talk of regret and parenthood are some of the best of the episode and forge a bond between the two (not to mention their shared struggle with addiction) that I am sure will be fortuitous for ‘Stine down the line. Oh, and Ernestine gets her arm broken by “Red Shirt” just before he gets “red-shirted” because it wouldn’t be Underground if Ern wasn’t suffering in some way.
Georgia is having an outdoor bake sale to raise funds for the cause and to be able to help Noah and Rosalee but nobody has the Christmas spirit. Plus, rumors have spread that Georgia is passing so nobody wants to help because racism. Elizabeth runs into an old friend who is all talk, no action as she disrespects Georgia to her face and makes toothless platitudes about the slave plight while not lifting a finger or her coin purse to help. Later, in a scene between Elizabeth and Harriet Tubman (who gets far too little screen time in this episode), the widow Hawkes expresses her frustration in “good people” doing nothing. This is the problem with white feminism. People like Lainey aren’t “good” and they will protect their whiteness above all. Elizabeth’s learning curve is too slow for my taste. It was nice to see Georgia finally get her Ocean’s 11 on though when they rob a church offering box on Christmas day. Plus Elizabeth blackmailing her friend made me snap for ol’ girl in circle formation while whistling The Schuyler Sisters (work, werk!)
Noah and Corra are staking out the slave quarters to select a potential slave to bring into the fold for their mission to rescue Rosalee and James. The plan is to attack during the nice dinner in the big house that one lucky slave is invited to. While James is playing with the new horse he received for Christmas, Noah confronts him and tells him he needs to choose his real family and get on board with the plan. James thinks the Macons are his real family and blames Noah and Rosalee for ruining everything.
Blood is thicker than water but I say leave that lil guy where he is since he knows so damn much. On Christmas night the plan finally comes into focus. First things first, Noah goes to see the overseer responsible for branding Rosalee last episode to serve his ass with some ice cold payback. The two men struggle but was there ever really any question who was going to get got? Next up, we head back inside the big house to play guess who among the guests who’ve been invited into the big house to partake of the fatted goose. Who can we trust? Turns out nobody as Noah runs up in the house with guns blazing. Rosalee knocks James out to take his old stubborn behind anyway. As they exit T.R. makes chase with a gun of his own and ends up getting him and his mother shot! Oh, young Calvin Candie! You and your mama had it coming!
And that’s not even the best part.
Earlier in the episode Rosalee can be seen dusting in a room she did not have permission to be in which sparks a confrontation between her, T.R. and James. Rosalee was really there to lay down the foundation for the final stage of their plan: to light that entire muddacussah up and burn it down. She must have borrowed some of that wildfire Cersei Lannister had last season because that place goes up like the Fourth of July!
As the Macon plantation burns (um, did they tell the other slaves to get out of there first?) to the ground and Suzanne Macon wails one could be forgiven for thinking this was the happily ever after to this tale but alas that’s not how America works. While Noah and Rosalee are getting their Django on, miles away Cato has just weaseled his way into Georgia’s safe house as a stowaway.