Much of this season has been rooted in Charley’s interior life. Her struggle to redefine herself in the wake of her divorce, her search for respect as a businesswoman in St. Josephine, and of course, her relationship with Lorna all work to create a rich portrait of a woman reborn. Charley’s identity has provided television a character I feel we haven’t quite seen before. But Wednesday’s episode, “Fruit of the Flower,” while still exploring Charley, brings Nova further into the spotlight by detailing her animosity with Lorna and how much her conception of her parents’ relationship affects how she approaches romance.
I love Rutina Wesley’s performance — she brings a fierceness to the role I admire — but I’ve felt for a while that Nova is a bit too disconnected from her siblings. As much as I like her with Robert, their dynamic has become too much of the focus of her story when that isn’t the most interesting aspect of her arc. I’ve longed to see Nova and Charley interact more so Queen Sugar could explore the rich divides between these women — class, skin color, and of course, Lorna. As much as I think this episode should have simmered on the issues between Lorna and Nova, I appreciate how the sisterly bond between Nova and Charley is put into focus. The episode opens with Charley coming over to Nova’s home in order to help her figure out what she should wear for her on-camera appearance. Looking through Nova’s wardrobe, Charley bluntly says she needs to go shopping. This gives way to a scene full of light humor and camaraderie. (Nova: “You’re right.” Charley: “I usually am.”)
Charley also provides Nova with advice about a far more important dilemma: her relationship with Robert. Nova was visibly uncomfortable when Robert gave her a key to his home. “It’s less about the speed than where it’s going,” she explains to Charley, noting that she’s uncomfortable because she can’t quite see the end of the relationship. Charley advises her to be open and honest, especially since her professional life is intertwined with Robert. But what’s most fascinating to me is the ways Lorna’s emergence in St. Josephine affects both Charley and Nova.
It was only a matter of time until Nova was in the same room with Lorna. The most tense and profound scene this week is when Nova rushes into Charley’s home with more outfit options from her shopping trip, only to find Lorna in the room as well. The moment Nova sees Lorna, she tenses up. Rutina Wesley plays this scene immaculately: The chilliness of her voice and tension that marks her body communicates how impactful Lorna’s presence is for Nova. Lorna of course can’t leave the problems between them unspoken, leading Nova to admit, “Lorna, I could stand here and try to wade through all the pain you caused my family with your personal affairs but I choose not to.” Despite the anger simmering beneath the surface of Nova’s words, Lorna continues saying that what Nova has been told all her life hasn’t exactly been the truth. She says that it was Nova and Ralph Angel’s mother, Trudy, who wanted to have an open relationship while Ernest yearned for a more traditional domestic life. Trudy pushed him away and Ernest connected with Lorna in San Diego. While their relationship was still nascent, Ernest found out Trudy was pregnant with Lorna. She insists she didn’t tear their family apart and she could never take something that Trudy didn’t want to give away, especially since Ernest still loved her. I think Lorna is very bold to put all this on Nova. It’s less about helping Nova see the truth than it is about alleviating her own conscience. What’s surprising is that Lorna turns out to be telling the truth, which Nova learns when she confronts Violet.
“I just want to know what’s real,” Nova pleads to Violet. Violet admits that her issues with Lorna are because of both her whiteness and how she stood in the way of Ernest rekindling his relationship with Trudy. The relationship between Trudy and Ernest proves more tangled than how it has presented to Nova. Since childhood, she has had animosity toward Lorna, which she is now just realizing is from Violet’s own issues. My issue with how this plays out is that it’s too easy, eschewing the more complex issues of why people still bristle when seeing white women and black men together. Violet is right when she tells Hollywood she is from a different generation. I wish this were unpacked a bit more. Furthermore, when did Ralph Angel come into the picture? I almost wish we got a whole flashback episode to detail the dynamics between Ernest, Lorna, and Trudy.
Ralph Angel also finds growth by actually attending a preliminary premarriage counseling at church with Darla. While he is apprehensive about this, the episode even ends with him making important overtures — even doing the communication exercise. But I still worry about Ralph Angel. When he sees Darla’s anxiety speaking about her parents’ marriage and the controlling nature of her father, why doesn’t he comfort her? Why does he lash out so dramatically at Remy, who teaches the class Ralph Angel attends in order to learn more for his farm and business? Even though Ralph Angel softens to Remy, who proves to be immensely caring and fully in his corner, this represents a cycle. Ralph Angel often lashes out when pushed out of his comfort zone or perceives an attack, which often isn’t there when it comes to his family. As much as he makes an effort, I worry about what this means for the future of the farm and Darla.
At the very least, these revelations lead Nova to question how she uses her free spirit as armor in order not to fully commit to any romance. She eventually goes to Robert in Atlanta, apologizing for her reticence to talk on the phone and the distance she allowed to bloom between them. While I feel the narrative was a bit rushed in some respects, I love how the Queen Sugar writers are reckoning with the ways daughters inherent patterns from their mothers.
• Lorna proves to be a useful ally for Charley’s business. She finds a man with 20,000 acres and is a distant relative to Samuel Landry, who is upset with how he’s been treated and is looking for a different mill. It’s very smart of Lorna to tap white people with lots of land who have issues with Landry’s interest in exclusivity.
• The writers are heavily highlighting that Violet likely has fibromyalgia. If her health continues to falter, how will that affect her expanding business and the family?
• How long will Darla and Ralph Angel’s marriage last if it even happens? I worry he is too immature and lashes out too much emotionally for their marriage to work.