Kofi Siriboe as Ralph Angel.
As expected, the late Ernest Bordelon left his children his land. Queen Sugar could have drawn out the dilemma of what to do with 800 acres of sugarcane farm, but thankfully, that question is answered by the conclusion of “Thy Will Be Done.” This first season is a mere 13 episodes, so it’s important to get to the heart of the story without much filler. With a sensible pace set, we’re able to learn about Charley, Nova, and Ralph Angel without sacrificing any of the family drama we’ve tuned in to see.
Shortly after Ralph Angel was born, Ernest wrote out the will that’s now being executed in his name. Charley and Nova both agree that their father did not expect them to honor it, but Ralph Angel knows that’s not the case. When Charley tells them about Landry wanting to buy the land, Ralph Angel gets upset. In last week’s episode, Charley was the one left out, but now it’s Ralph Angel who’s getting overlooked. He wants to keep the land, if only to give him and Blue a fresh start. Nova isn’t interested in being a farmer, and Charley wants to get back to Los Angeles to deal with Davis’s legal troubles.
In the midst of grieving, Ralph Angel also misses a job interview. It’s a costly error: According to the terms of his parole, he must find a full-time job or else risk being sent back to jail. He tells his parole officer that he may have the option of farming, but that’s not good enough. He has to present a pay stub that reflects a 40-hour work week. When some men come to repossess a tractor for lack of payment, Ralph Angel can barely contain his anger. He aims a pistol at the group, and one of them levels a rifle right back. Ralph Angel invokes Omar from The Wire, warning the men they “best know how to use” their weapon. Blue appears on the porch, yells for his dad, and Ralph Angel lets Nova take the gun from him, avoiding a potentially disastrous stand-off. Ralph Angel’s love for Blue saves him from making a huge mistake.
Ralph Angel feels like he can’t get ahead, that he’s losing the little stability he had. His father is dead. Charley and Nova are sorting through Ernest’s belongings without him. And they want to sell the family land — land that even if he could farm, it wouldn’t fulfill the obligations of his parole. Ralph Angel is willing to do the work, but it’s ironic that the only jobs he’s able to get as a parolee are back-breaking manual labor, like working at a crawfish plant or a warehouse. Instead of using his hands to rebuild his family’s legacy, he is building a stranger’s. Ralph Angel’s struggle shows us how former prisoners continue to suffer, even after paying their debts to society. How much punishment is required once they regain their freedom?
Ralph Angel’s situation frustrates him so much, he turns to his ex, Darla. He stands outside her trailer home, drinking, before walking to her door. In one look, Darla knows why he’s there. In a recent interview with Another Round, Queen Sugar creator Ava DuVernay spoke about how she approaches sex scenes: She’s more interested in the before and after than the clichéd thrust-and-grunt of the middle. Episode director Neema Barnette faithfully carries out DuVernay’s philosophy, lighting Ralph Angel in a sensuous yet lonely blue as he stands silently in front of Darla, the Alabama Shakes’ “Gemini” heating up the moment. (Also: Kofi Siriboe used to model, and he knows how to work that beautiful face.) Darla steps briefly into Ralph Angel’s blue light; now they can be lonely together. Eventually the door closes behind them both. We don’t get to see what happens next, but we don’t need to. Watching Ralph Angel seduce Darla with silence and need is enough to make anybody reach for a cigarette.
As we recover from that steamy scene, the siblings meet with Landry to hear his offer for the land. It appears Landry lives at a former plantation and wears a huge belt buckle that’s clearly compensating for something. Ralph Angel surprises them all with his knowledge of the farm, proving that he’d been paying attention to Ernest’s lessons. Landry’s offer is less than half of what the Bordelon land is worth. Charley asks for a week’s time to think it over, and he counters with two days, raising Nova’s hackles. He quickly switches to a condescending tone, and Nova, already uncomfortable with what she calls his museum to slavery, takes note of his entitled behavior. Charley consults with Remy, who tells her that Landry deliberately targets black farmers in distress.
In the end, Ralph Angel takes the warehouse job, knowing he has to do what’s right for Blue. When he gets home from his first day at work, Charley and Nova explain the plan: Ralph Angel and Blue will live in the house, Nova will handle all of the administrative tasks, and Charley will run the finances. After they work the farm for a year, they’ll discuss selling again. When Charley tells Landry they’re not accepting his offer, he threatens her that business is done differently in St. Josephine Parish than in Los Angeles, but Charley is all smiles as she prepares to take him on.
She relishes the challenge, since it will take her mind off Davis, who just confessed that the woman accusing him and his teammates of rape is a hired escort. He even admitted he had sex with the woman. Micah is determined to go back home to support his dad, but Charley keeps putting it off. She claims she’ll fly between Los Angeles and St. Josephine to help with the farm, but between her reluctance to be around Davis and her growing attraction to Remy, it’s obvious she’ll be in Louisiana for a while.
While Charley struggles to support the husband who betrayed her, Ralph Angel strives to avoid falling into old habits. Going back to Darla is the only kind of trouble he can allow himself right now, and even that probably won’t turn out well. Both of them are trying to clean up their lives and move beyond their pasts, but it’s never easy, especially when it seems like you can’t get ahead. It’s touching to see Ralph Angel’s happy face when his sisters tell him they’re keeping the farm, but it won’t last long. They have a lot of hard work and a slew of obstacles ahead of them, from both inside and outside the family alike. Even Violet knows that something isn’t right. It all leaves us wondering: How will the Bordelon family survive what’s next?