I love it when a television show is so in tune with its audience it can immediately address criticism as it develops. In last week’s episode, Charley said some awfully narrow-minded things about sex workers when she confronted Melina, but in “As Promised,” she acknowledges how terribly she acted. We also get more follow-up with the reveal of Nova’s sexuality. And Ralph Angel gets reassurance that his family will always have his back, even as he keeps making terrible decisions.
Nova joins Chantal Williams (Reagan Gomez), a Black Lives Matter activist, on a shock-jock radio show that quickly moves from discussing police corruption to the Davis West scandal. The DJs want Nova to spill the details, but she and Chantal keep trying to bring the focus back to her article. Eventually, Nova asks why people have such a hard time believing rape victims when they speak up. Hearing Nova’s statement on the radio, Charley thinks her sister is defending Melina, and therefore calling Davis a rapist. Charley still has a hard time thinking of Melina as a victim, but we’ll come back to that shortly.
After the radio program is over, Nova admires Chantal’s necklace, which is of the Hindu god Ganesh. Chantal makes a big production of telling Nova that Ganesh is the god of removing obstacles while she takes off the necklace and ties it around Nova’s neck. The scene is filled with downcast lashes as Chantal tells her the necklace is a loan. Nova promises to give it back — and based on the heavy pauses between them, maybe the necklace will not be all she gives to Chantal. I had a feeling we’d see a woman arrive as a possible love interest for Nova, but I didn’t think it would happen so quickly. And judging by the surprised look on her face after Chantal leaves, neither did Nova. Nevertheless, it seems the Calvin obstacle has already been removed, freeing Nova up to pursue whatever happens next with Chantal.
Romance aside, Chantal’s presence in Queen Sugar honors the fact that the Black Lives Matter movement was founded by black queer women, something that’s frequently overlooked. It’s also a reminder that black women often lead the way when it comes to pushing for justice within black communities, but rarely get the credit as charismatic male leaders rise to the forefront. Continuing that tradition of fighting for the community, Nova tries to make things right with Too Sweet (who’s out of the hospital and back in jail), just as Violet looks out for Ralph Angel after he gets caught up in a scam with his co-worker Melvin.
Melvin offers Ralph Angel an opportunity to make some quick cash by selling stolen goods boosted from the warehouse. At first Ralph Angel agrees to hide merchandise at the farm, but when he tries to back out, Melvin attacks him. Ralph Angel warns his supervisor that if he fires him instead of laying him off, Ralph Angel will prove that he cheats the parolees of time and money earned. (I’m not exactly sure how, but maybe being laid off as opposed to being fired allows him to meet the conditions of his parole.) Later that night, the police show up with a warrant to look for stolen property. Their search turns up empty, surprising Ralph Angel, until he realizes Violet removed everything. She’d been suspicious of his recent influx of money and the lock on the shed, and sure enough, she reveals that the boosted goods are at the bottom of the bayou. Ralph Angel cries as he hugs his aunt, as he swears that he’s trying.
Ralph Angel is certainly trying, but his impulsive nature keeps getting the best of him. Now that he no longer has to work at the warehouse, hopefully he can devote himself to the farm and stay out of trouble. He’s safest when he’s surrounded by family, especially Blue and Violet.
The farm needs a lot of work, even with Prosper agreeing to be farm manager. Remy offers to let Charley use his custom-engineered brand of seed cane for free so they can start planting. No other farmers were willing to use it — which means it is totally untested — but he asks Charley to take a chance on him. Pretty sure he means that in more ways than one. Charley is all smiles with Remy, something that Davis notices when he arrives after the family spends the morning planting.
Charley and Davis go to Houston, hoping to finally pay Melina off. In the meeting, surrounded by lawyers, Melina begins to read her statement about what happened. Davis had left her alone because Micah was feeling sick, so she took a shower. When she came out of the bathroom, Davis’s teammates Felix and Eddie were waiting. They claimed Davis said they could have her. But after three years together, Melina knew she was considered Davis’s girl. She knew Davis would never pass her around, but Felix and Eddie kept pushing. They attacked her and called the rest of the team in to join the assault. So, no: Davis was not a part of the actual rape. But that doesn’t mean he’s innocent.
After the attack, Melina called Davis to find out if he knew about what his teammates had done to her. She recorded the call, and as it plays for Charley and everyone in the room to hear, the ugliness in Davis’s voice is incredible. He sounds nothing like the person Charley thought he was. Gone is the polish and maturity. Instead, Davis is vulgar and demeaning, ordering Melina to keep her mouth shut unless he puts something in it for her. He claims that Melina had no problem with gang-bang sex, that he paid her to do the things his wife wouldn’t. Charley is devastated. Not only had she been wrong to trust Davis, she’d been wrong to make such damaging assumptions about Melina. Charley apologizes to Melina and stumbles out of the meeting. Davis follows her, but she tells him it’s over.
Melina’s case feels like it was ripped directly from the headlines, and it makes you wonder how often this kind of sexual assault happens. And who is Davis, really? Charley has to be reeling to discover the truth about her husband, especially after getting into a fight with Nova because she assumed she wasn’t being supportive. Earlier, when Charley revealed that they agreed to pay Melina $3 million, Violet quipped, “Well, that is one expensive piece of ass.” Dehumanizing language aside, Davis’s relationship with Melina has cost him more than he ever imagined, but any sympathy he may have briefly garnered is long gone.
I’m glad Queen Sugar showed us that Melina was telling the truth about her rape. Although we don’t know if Davis gave his teammates permission to go after Melina, he has proven himself to be cruel, dangerous, and totally untrustworthy. There is no such thing as a “perfect victim.” The episode tells us, quite definitively, that sex workers and mistresses can be victims. Every person who is attacked will not always garner sympathy or behave the way society thinks she should. However, every victim deserves justice.
Throughout “As Promised,” the Bordelon siblings keep taking chances: Ralph Angel’s seed-buying fiasco, his attempt to sell stolen goods, Charley trusting her husband, Nova using Calvin to write her report … and now they must hope that Remy’s seed cane turns a profitable harvest. They’ve taken a huge gamble on the farm. Will it pay off? Will the family be left high and dry? We’re halfway through the season, so we’ll find out soon enough.