When we last saw the Bordelon clan, it seemed that everything they had worked for was beyond repair. The future of the Queen Sugar mill hangs in the balance and Charley’s plan to revive it is not a sure bet. Heartbreakingly, the betrayal between Ralph Angel and Darla means that nothing will ever be the same between them. The complete ramifications of Darla’s secret about Blue’s paternity have yet to be seen. Despite all of this, the Bordelons are back and all the cards are being slowly laid on the table. The season two finale left many story lines untied, and so the season three opener does its due diligence to provide some answers.
“A Rock, A River, A Tree” begins with Charley calmly jogging around St. Josephine. At her new home (a move she tells Micah was precipitated by her need to separate her work and personal life), boxes are strewn and all the windows must be closed. A text from a contact (Investigator? Friend?) reveals that Charley has been seeking the name of the police officer who assaulted and brutalized Micah last season. She now has a name: Officer Orson. It was in the cards that Charley would soon come to face to face with Orson at the St. Josephine high-school basketball game. I was worried that Charley would approach him, but Queen Sugar writers do a good job of straying away from the expected. Instead, Charley address Orson’s grandson and exchanges pleasantries with the elder Orson. His day is coming, but it won’t be today. I was on edge, hoping that Micah didn’t run into Orson himself and have to relive the trauma inflicted on him. Later, when Charley tells her contact to leak a video of Officer Orson assaulting another black man, we know that a reckoning is coming for him, eventually.
Officer Orson isn’t the only fish Charley plans on frying. After the rumor debacle last season, she has set her plan in motion to destroy the Landry family’s mill from the inside out. Her contract to hand over Queen Sugar to the Landry family stipulates that she has a one percent ownership in the Landry mill. One percent ownership may not seem like much, but Charley plans to use it to turn the Landry operation upside down from the inside with the help of her ally, Jacob Boudreaux. The agreement between Landry and Charley will leave her as the face of Queen Sugar, ensuring that her sale remains undetected by the community. Relatedly, the Landry patriarch is a fine villain. His backhanded comments about Charley’s business acumen, the Queen Sugar mill, and her father nearly deter Charley from following through on her plan, but she signs the papers anyway. Charley is certain of victory. “When I finally own Landry Enterprises, I’ll bring power back to the people where it belongs,” Charley says to Ralph Angel as they toast. I can’t help but think, What if her plan fails? Nothing about Jacob Boudreaux seems trustworthy. Charley is playing a dangerous game and I hope she has a clear exit plan.
Meanwhile, Nova’s fiery op-ed from the end of the last season has landed her a meeting with a prestigious book agency. They want to turn her essays into a book with the offer of a six-figure deal. With a book deal and college speaking tour in reach, Nova’s professional dreams seem imminent. Nova being Nova, she is not quite ready to sign on the dotted line. Is a book deal really what she wants? Nova is one for following her convictions to a fault: I’m not sure she’s willing to twist herself in the ways having a best-selling book — and being in the public eye — may require.
Ralph Angel spends this episode floating. He’s clearly mulling over the predicament that Darla’s truth has left him in. On top of that, Blue is acting out, and really, who can blame him? His home life was disrupted in a matter of days and his mother is on the other side of the country — her return date unclear. Our first look of Blue this season is him on sitting on the couch finding ways to avoid school and test Ralph Angel’s patience. Ralph Angel chides him about his behavior in school. Blue has been hitting other kids — a clear departure from his typically reserved personality. The audience knows that Ralph Angel is pursuing a paternity test. What will happen if the results are negative? What will the irreconcilable issues between Ralph Angel and Darla ultimately mean for Blue?
Elsewhere, Aunt Vi and Hollywood are living it up. Hollywood’s settlement money is burning his hands and the couple has recently returned from an European adventure. Vi’s health seems to on the up-and-up and she makes it clear to Hollywood that she will do what she can for herself, as long as she’s able. In the meantime, she and Hollywood have a wedding to plan and money to save (or spend). Relatedly, Charley, as she is wont to do, offers unsolicited financial-planning advice that Hollywood quickly and politely shuts down.
The last ten minutes of the episode finds Ralph Angel anchored side by side with his sisters in a doctor’s office. The moment of truth regarding Blue’s paternity is near and the anxiety in the waiting room is palpable. Kofi Siriboe has always lent an unwavering stoicism to Ralph Angel. In the clinical setting of the doctor’s office, unbridled anxiety is bubbling up underneath Ralph Angel’s typical stoicism. He reads the results quietly, with a nearly unreadable face, but the audience knows the answer once Ralph Angel begins to repeat, “It don’t change nothing,” as tears stream down his face. “It don’t change nothing” is a declarative statement about his love for Blue, but surely, this news is life altering.
The last scene ends with Ralph Angel drinking on the porch and waiting for the woman whose advances he rebuffed earlier. Drowning his sorrows in alcohol and sex probably won’t end well for Ralph Angel. Time will tell.
• It’s no surprise that the national conversation of kneeling during the National Anthem played out at the St. Joe basketball game. I imagine it will be revisited once Officer Orson’s history of abuse is leaked.
• I’m rooting for Aunt Vi and Hollywood. I hope their next vacation is on one of those jazz cruises for the AARP crowd.
• Charley and her request that Micah keeps the windows closed seems to be a metaphor about keeping things in and out.