Queen Sugar S1E1/S1E2 – “First Things First/Evergreen” | Starring: Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Kofi Siriboe, Tina Lifford, Omar J. Dorsey, Dondre Whitfield, Timon Kyle Durrett, Nicholas L. Ashe, Greg Vaughan, Ethan Hutchison, Marycarmen Lopez, Bianca Lawson, Glynn Turman | Directed by: Ava DuVernay | Created by: Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey | Based on a novel by: Natalie Baszile
It feels like the world has been blessed with an abundance of Black Girl Magic lately, with the most recent taking the from of Queen Sugar, a new drama from Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey. Queen Sugar centers on the Borderlon family: siblings Nova (Wesley), Charley (Gardner), and Ralph Angel (Siriboe).
Ralph Angel is just a few months out of jail and struggling to provide for his son, Blue (Hutchison). Despite the help provided by his father Ernest (Turman), aunt Vi and uncle Hollywood (Lifford, Dorsey), Ralph Angel still resorts to robbing a grocery store to get by.
On the surface, his sisters’ lives are more stable. Nova is a respected journalist and Charley manages her husband’s, Davis West’s (Durrett) multi-million dollar NBA career. However, the glossy veneer is shattered when West is implicated in a gang rape, and we learn Nova’s lover (Vaughan) is married.
The family is further tested when their father suffers a stroke and eventually dies, bringing Charley and her son Micah (Ashe) back to Louisiana for his services.
Everything about this series is so unapologetically black. While these stories could happen within any family, Queen Sugar captures the nuances that are unique to black people. Seriously, who else could make a flirtatious conversation about soul food so damn sexy? And Nova’s reaction to Charley’s surprise that the crabs for the repast were purchased alive…. “Charley? Really? Really?” So black! I love it.
“First Things First” introduced the family and their various obstacles, but “Evergreen” was our first opportunity to watch them (mainly the Boderlon siblings) interact under pressure. Nova acknowledges that she and Charley aren’t “close like that,” yet she still bristles when her editor asks her to write a piece on Charley’s marriage trouble and the rape allegation. This doesn’t stop all three siblings from clashing over paying for the funeral services (Ralph Angel and Nova reject Charley’s offer to shoulder the entire cost). Like most family dynamics, it swings with pendulumlike swiftness, and all three come together, holding hands, and they lay their father to rest.
The story and acting aren’t the only things good within Queen Sugar. The cinematography and direction are on point as well. Black skin is lit wonderfully, the sets feel authentic, and the camera placement in some of the most emotional scenes, like Ernest’s last moments with Blue and Ralph Angel, was perfection. Meshell Ndegeocello serves as the series’ musical director, and the song selections are beautiful.
With Charley deciding to remain in Louisiana to save her father’s sugarcane farm, despite interference from a shady local man looking to purchase it; Blue’s mother Darla (Lawson) looking for a place in her son’s life now that she’s sober; and Nova hoping to uplift and amplify black voices, the season promises lots of drama.
Queen Sugar serves bittersweet, black realness. And I’ll be there for it every week.
Make sure you leave your thoughts on this week’s episodes on our Facebook post for this review, and we’ll read them on the Queen Sugar podcast this weekend.
Queen Sugar S1E1/S1E2