In this game you can never let your guard down, but at some point everyone does just that.
Writer Nina Manni begins “Sleeping Dogs” in a dramatic way, with Juliana getting kidnapped by Unique, leaving the status of her safety and Unique’s motives in question throughout the episode. Not only does he kidnap Juliana, he clears out the stash house, leaving Raq with nothing. The desire for revenge motivates people to do the unthinkable.
Per usual, because Raq is in her own way she doesn’t notice the attack on the stash house. She’s too busy working on expanding the business, even though things are not fully under control. Now that she has most of Southside on lock, Raq has her eye on setting up shop in Jersey. Worell’s cousin lives out there and the crew who was running the block recently got picked up by the feds, leaving an open demand for suppliers. Marvin reminds her that she’s moving too fast, bypassing street rules, but Raq doesn’t pay Marvin’s input any attention. Expanding is her number one priority. She’s proven ten times over that she understands the game.
To Raq’s surprise, when she arrives at the stash house, the door is locked and the lights are cut off. There is no sign of a forced entry, or a trace of Juliana. Can Raq’s understanding of the game be debatable? A better question is, could she survive without her brothers? If Juliana is dead, Raq is in trouble and out of a lot of money. She runs to vent to Marvin about the attack on their crew, and is equally pissed that Lou-Lou hasn’t responded to any of her pages in the midst of an emergency. With one foot in the game and one foot out, Lou-Lou was busy at the studio making beats on new equipment. The team has a large reup in a few days, though, and with no money they risk not being able to provide product to Baisley, 40, and their newest territory: Jersey. Raq’s ambition has ultimately put the family’s business at risk.
While she and Marvin try to figure out who would set them up and take Juliana, Kanan and Famous hit the streets again to make some cash off of Famous mixtapes — kind of. Unique ain’t the only one robbing folks. While Raq and her workers weren’t paying attention, Kanan swiped a small amount of product from his mother, and he and Famous replaced the unsellable cassette tape with his mother’s drugs. “Looks like sales are picking up,” teases one of the officers who previously harassed them, after noticing an increased amount of activity on the corner. The joke is really on the officers. In the end, Kanan and Famous hustle enough money without getting caught to secure Famous an apartment, with the help of Crown Camacho. Although the music producer despises the existence of Kanan’s uncle Lou-Lou, he has a thing for Famous’ sister, who is also Lou-Lou’s ex-girlfriend. The two business partners have been in a power struggle and in this game, the only way to come out on top is to fight fire with fire. Aware of Raq’s disappointment in Lou’s activity in the streets, Crown presents her with an offer that would make both of their problems go away. If she invests in his record label, she would not only be able to clean her money, she would also have more power to force her brother back to the streets. She’s interrupted by an important phone call, though, and unable to finish their conversation.
Worell has found Unique — or, technically, Unique called Worell to set up a meeting with Raq. It’s hard for her to automatically trust Worell and not think he’s setting her up. The two don’t have the same history she and Scrappy did. The four of them enter the meeting spot with Marvin, Lou-Lou, and Raq armed and prepared for war. In this game if you’re smart, you only get caught slippin’ once. Unique is well aware of this. With Raq’s money and workers, the ball is now in his court. “I just wanna be left the fuck alone! You see what I did here. You know I can make problems for you and these Columbians,” he tells her. “I just want my family safe.” The two rivals make a verbal agreement to peace. Unique is officially out of the game and can remain in Southside without the fear of retaliation from Raq and her crew.
Season two’s development of Patina Miller’s character depicts Raq as a strong leader who makes bad decisions in her personal and professional life. More importantly, her decisions have an impact on those she cares about, like Juliana getting kidnapped or Kanan being at the mercy of the information Detective Howard surprises him with. Raq doesn’t even tell Kanan the truth about Scrap. Her detailed lie about his suicide is so believable even I was convinced. What we see from her behavior and the way it affects Kanan allows us to better understand how he could kill his own son later in life. “Remember when I said the truth was like that J train. I was wrong about that,” says a more mature and reflective Kanan. “The truth is more like that Metro North shit. Fast, heavy, pulling a lot of weight.” The use of voiceover narration is effective in giving us access to Kanan’s inner, adult thoughts: He is the product of a vicious mother who sees love as lying, manipulation and pain. Not only does Howard tell Kanan that he is his father, he also confirms, just as Kanan suspected, that he knows he shot him.
In trying to one-up Raq in order to get closer to Kanan, Howard’s unable to see that his partner doesn’t trust him, nor does she believe his memory-loss alibi. Burke spends most of episode three staking outside of Howard’s house. In an earlier scene, we get introduced to her ex-girlfriend. When Burke complains about Howard’s “secrets” and his changed behavior she reminds her that “we all have secrets.” Now that Detective Howard let one of his secrets out of the bag, it’ll be interesting to see what other secrets will follow. Will Kanan ever find out that his mother is the one responsible for murdering D-Wiz and Scrappy? Will Jukebox actually meet her mother? Does her mother have secrets that will affect her? What about Crown Camancho? Will Lou-Lou find out he went behind his back and offered Raq a deal? Hell, will Burke’s secrets come out? She’s been quite close with Jukebox and spying on her partner. What’s that saying? What’s done in the dark will eventually come to light.
• I’m so happy that Jukebox found her mother, and even more ecstatic that Letoya Luckett is playing the role of Kenya. With the combination of singing and acting, it is the perfect role for her, and so far, even though we only got to see her for a few seconds, her performance is a 10/10 — them vocals babyyy!
• The fashion of this show! Two seasons in and they kill it every time! It’s one thing to have a well-cast series, but it’s another thing to have a well-cast series that also successfully recreates the series era in an authentic way.