Queen Sugar has been on a slow burn these past few episodes, as it moves every character into place for the season finale. Audiences don’t need to be hooked with lots of dramatics, although this show certainly doesn’t lack them. In “Next to Nothing,” the Bordelons clean up after the hurricane and their own family explosions.
Most of the damage at Aunt Vi’s appears to be pretty easy to manage. The family helps clean up the yard. The farm seems to be okay, too. There won’t be any need to pump out excess water from flooding, but they’ll need to keep watch to make sure the humidity doesn’t attract blight-causing insects. While Charley, Remy, and Ralph Angel inspect the farm, they come across the dead bodies of two migrant workers whom Charley refused to let go home. They’d been shot and robbed.
When a local deputy comes to Vi’s house to ask questions, Ralph Angel tries to hide in Blue’s room, but Vi forces him to go up front and be a part of family business. He can’t hide from the law because of his past. Charley is ashamed that she doesn’t know the names of the workers, and it doesn’t help that the deputy uses an accusatory tone when he questions why the men were still working and not taking shelter. Ralph Angel knows who the men are, but he’s afraid to bring attention to himself. His troubles with the law will forever affect him. Even though he wasn’t helpful to the sheriff, he calls Blue’s teacher Reyna Velez so she can translate the bad news about the deaths to the other workers.
This show needs a sponsorship from Kleenex. As Reyna communicates between the workers and the Bordelons, it’s almost impossible not to be moved. There are no captions for non-Spanish-speaking audiences, but the emotional responses from the men learning about the losses need no exact translations. The dead men, Miguel and Alejandro, had families. They were working to provide for them, with no eyes on citizenship. There are many misconceptions about guest workers, but they have the same needs as anyone else — earning a living wage to keep their families alive. Charley vows to have their bodies returned to their families regardless of cost.
Nova reaches out to Charley to comfort her, even though the two of them just had that huge fight in last week’s episode. At first, Charley rejects Nova’s platitudes. She doesn’t feel like a good person. Not only did she endanger her employees’ lives, but she leaked Melina’s name to the press and ruined her life. Nova reminds her that Charley played the card she had to play, and the two share an understanding about the ugly things they said to each other the night before. The sisters’ relationship isn’t fully repaired, but they’ve started down that road.
As the family healer, Nova keeps checking in with Violet, who’s having a hard time dealing with Darla still being in the house. She refuses to sign Blue’s guardianship over to Ralph Angel. Hollywood tells her she’s wrong not to do so. She’s not concerned about Darla as much as she’s concerned about Ralph Angel cutting the apron strings. Nova tells Violet to stop trying to force all her attention on Hollywood, Ralph Angel, and even Blue. She needs to give time to herself; she needs to find another purpose in life besides caring for other people. As Violet realizes Nova might be right, the electricity comes back on and light surrounds the two. It looks like Aunt Vi will soon learn who she is when she’s not a caretaker.
Violet is a southern matriarch to the bone. She fusses over the men in the family, making sure they’re taken care of, while knowing the women will take care of themselves. Ralph Angel and Blue are the baby boys and Violet has spent so much time tending to their needs, she hasn’t cultivated her own life.
Not only does Nova use the migrant workers’ tragic deaths to try to heal her relationship with Charley, but she also sees an angle for a story and begins to take notes. It’s a little predatory, but that can be the life of a writer, particularly a journalist. Nova helped expose police corruption, after all. Investigating the migrant-worker industry could go a long way in helping make changes. Nova once compared sugarcane farming to slavery, saying they had replaced black bodies with brown. When Charley reminds her of this, you can see the wheels turning in Nova’s mind.
The sheriff arrests a meth addict for the deaths of Miguel and Alejandro. I appreciate how economically the show resolves its mysteries. It doesn’t drag out plot lines unnecessarily. The men’s murders might give Nova a new story to work on — and probably bring Calvin back into the picture — and so far, they have been treated with dignity. Their murders are solved and their families will be able to give them a proper funeral. It’s this kind of careful attention that makes Queen Sugar quietly stand out above the rest of television’s current dramas.
Elsewhere, Ralph Angel and Darla bond over how precious Blue is and make tentative visitation arrangements for Darla. During the clean-up, Micah meets Keke (Tanyell Waivers), a local teenage girl, who leaves him a blushing mess. And Remy tells Charley that he’ll wait for her to figure out what she wants to do about their budding relationship. All in all, this is another quiet episode that aims to move everyone along, and that’s fine. We don’t always need shouting matches or revelations about cheaters to push the story. The Bordelons show us that family is sometimes all we have. We have to be able to move forward, even if we haven’t finished healing.