Season 3 of Queen Sugar feels like a transition season as it wraps up the trials and tribulations of the first two seasons and preps for the show’s future.
|Davis||Timon Kyle Durrett|
|Micah||Nicholas L. Ashe|
|Aunt Vi||Tina Lifford|
|Hollywood||Omar J. Dorsey|
|Ralph Angel||Kofi Siriboe|
|Asha||Nikko Austen Smith|
|Too Sweet||Isaac White|
|Prosper||Henry G. Sanders|
A lot of things pay off for Charley this season. Her fully letting go of whatever hurt Davis can cause her, Remy can cause her, even her family making her feel like an outsider leads to both love and resolve. Love in the form of letting a man, named Romero, help her and make her laugh. Which may not seem like a big deal but with Charley constantly misunderstood and even Micah turning his back on her, at one time, her still being open to a stranger is really a testament to Charley’s strength and faith in humanity. Alongside herself. For she knows what she is doing is for her community, people who she may not have grown up with, but now mean so much to her.
Which taps into the resolve. Since the beginning of this crusade, Charley hasn’t had a whole lot of wins against the Landry family. In fact, it seemed her getting a win over them would be a series finale kind of treat. Yet, working with Frances, even if she burned Charley multiple times, got her some kind of win. Sam was taken down. Now, yeah, Frances, who is more formidable is in charge, but all it takes is one win to reenergize your base. Be it your base as in core, or base as in people who support you or who you have been fighting for.
At 60, Aunt Vi has lived a whole life. She has been a wife before, a mother to her nieces and nephews, and has found lived a handful of lives. Things are different now, however. Now she is doing more than surviving and existing, she is truly living. Hollywood is more of a man than most will ever find or even fathom to wish for. On her own, for the most part, she has started a pie business that got local media attention. One which leads to so many orders she doesn’t know what to do with herself, and even with Lupus forcing her to take a breather sometimes, she perseveres.
But, of course, while Aunt Vi’s relationship and professional life flourishes, there I always one or two members of her family complicating things. For this season, it begins with Charley’s plan to take down the Landry family but then Vi’s sights get set on Nova. Someone who still hasn’t found much stability in her life and continues to be one of the characters who attaches to others and causes drama in their life than really stands on their own.
Case in point, Nova gets with Remy this season. Thus making it where both, as cute as they sometimes are, seem doomed for it feels like this is made to cause drama between Nova and Charley. Which, because of their already established history, seems almost like overkill. For Nova already makes a point of coming after Charley for working with the Landry family. But to add on Remy, who is one of those characters who needs to pull a Lawrence and be written off, just seemed unnecessary.
But, Nova messing with Remy isn’t the big to do for Aunt Vi as much as it is Nova, for a lack of a better term, exploiting Ernest, if not the family, for her book deal. For in season 3, that is what consumes Nova – she has a publisher’s attention but how can she keep it? With quitting her job, she loses access to her old articles, at this point in her career, it is clear she has to go bigger with her platform, yet how to reintroduce herself, without her ex, is the question.
So, it seems Ernest having suicidal thoughts is part of the equation. Something she doesn’t run by anyone so it comes as a shock to them and a betrayal to Aunt Vi who is old school. Meaning, putting a family secret out there, making her brother look “weak” is a big issue. Add on Nova creates a whole book which goes even further, and it really leads you to believe Nova, as a character, may never have her own thing. She’ll just be a character who pinches another, runs away, and concocts the next thing for someone in her family to get mad about.
From dealing with a white girl getting him in trouble to being part of a young Black empowerment group, at a public school, Micah has come a long way. Problem is, a lot of what he has done has been by following Nova about or thinking what Nova would do. Which becomes a problem for Nova is idolized in Micah’s mind and sort of seen as the polar opposite to his mother Charley. Yet, with breaking down how she, Nova, got Too Sweet in jail and basically saying you can’t be a rebel without a cause, it is a wakeup call for Micah. Especially since his friend, Ant, is about to go to jail for something he and his group of friends did.
However, taking note of Nova, he turned a bad situation into a movement. One which aligned with his mother’s goal of stopping a private prison from opening up. Which began as a struggle, for Micah didn’t have his voice yet. However, once he put down a prepared speech and spoke from the heart, things gained traction. Making it where, using his privilege, it seems he may not stop MTC, but definitely will slow them down.
Ralph Angel takes back his narrative this season and becomes more than Darla’s ex. He becomes a man who, while not working in his community like his sisters’, does contribute. By taking on Benny, a fellow ex-con, as a worker, he provides him stable employment and Kevin, Ralph Angel’s PO, he talks about Ralph Angel using the farm, which gave him purpose and a second chance, as something which could provide that to many. After all, Ralph Angel has long been shorthanded and while he has used a lot of migrant workers, and they’ve done good jobs, helping guys like Benny get back on their feet could be Ralph Angel truly paying his debt to society.
But, of course, you can’t speak of Ralph Angel without bringing up Darla and Blue. Which, in this season, the main issue is Darla’s absence causing Blue to act out and this being followed by Darla returning and talking about gaining custody. Which leads to this big hullabaloo that Darlene seems to have pushed, that thankfully fizzles out. For, at the end of the day, Ralph Angel, Blue, and Darla love each other and while Darla and Ralph Angel may not be in love with each other, they are family for life.
Community & Justifying Your Presence
Though community and belonging have long been one of the central themes of Queen Sugar, it hasn’t necessarily been something nearly the entire family participated in. Aunt Vi had a sense of community through the parties she threw, making sure folks like Prosper, who were alone, were looked out for, and things like that. Then there was Nova’s activism. However, with Ralph Angel, Charley, and Micah, they didn’t really do that much. They’d attend Aunt Vi’s parties and be social, but that was it.
In this season, that changed drastically. Charley went beyond just trying to own a mill to present an alternative, she became a chosen voice for the people. Not someone who just asserted herself into a problem but because of how often she has spoken with farmers and presented herself as one of the people, she was chosen. Which was a big thing for, with her being bi-racial, as seen in season 2, she never felt like she belonged. She didn’t belong in LA, which didn’t have the same sense of community, and because of Nova and other factors, she formerly didn’t belong in St. Jo either. Yet, in her adult years, she has found what she has long strived for. To not be a guest visiting but have a home, a family, a community, and being able to contribute in a productive way.
Same goes for Micah. Until St. Jo, while he may not have had to deal with the same bi-racial issues his mom did, he did have to deal with that outsider feeling. Yet, through moving to St. Jo and experiencing both the good and bad of being a Black male in America, he gained a sense of community. Through Nova, he got to see the many ways he could contribute and with meeting KJ, Ant, Asha, and the others, he found a group of similar minded people to foster him. Which, yeah, led to some trouble, but who doesn’t stumble?
I mean, take Nova, her noting how she messed up bad with Too Sweet was so important towards Micah’s journey for it made her less of a saint. Which was the core issue that perhaps drove a wedge between what Charley was doing for the community, by trying to work within the system, and Nova working from out. It’s easy to judge someone when you don’t know all the details, or put someone on a pedestal when you don’t know their full journey. Yet, with seeing what his mom has gone through, hearing it as well, alongside hearing Nova has faults, he gets the full picture. We get the full picture.
For it shows how both sides have a place in addressing St. Jo’s issues. Nova, being the outsider, who can rally a community, she becomes a voice which gets media attention. Meanwhile, those like Charley, who have business acumen, negotiation skills, things like that, they are the ones who go into the lion’s den, who wrestle with demons and monsters, and make it so the attention outsiders bring doesn’t die once the news becomes bored. They bring something to light as people like Charley, in for the long haul, infiltrate and expose the beast’s heart from the inside out.
Which isn’t to downplay Ralph Angel’s part since it isn’t as dramatic. While his sisters get more props, and we even hear Nova take note that she respects Charley but just doesn’t get her method, you can’t discount what Ralph Angel is trying to do. Getting hired, with a record, is difficult. Especially for a decent job which will make it so, even if you don’t make as much as you used to, you can survive. Plus, with a lot of people having conditions, like Ralph Angel, that they have to work in order to fulfill the conditions of their parole, even probation, Ralph Angel is providing a service. He is teaching these young men, work ethic, about farming, and giving them a trade which, in their area, is quite valuable. Add in many come from farms so they can bring something to the table and it is a fair deal for all parties involved.
Aunt Vi’s Journey
While the diversity movement has produced a lot of different looking faces, primarily those faces belong to those 35 and younger. It is rare to see a character noted as 60 or beyond with as big of a role as Aunt Vi. Then, on top of that, being more than a matriarch, but having a full life. I’m talking about love, sex, and a career. All while showing that aging isn’t a pending death sentence. Like anything in life, it is something you figure out a way to deal with so that it doesn’t stop you from truly enjoying your life.
And showing that boosts the most significant part of diversity which is representation. Not just being seen but feeling you are actually on screen. That, as a Black woman of a certain age, you aren’t forgotten about. That you don’t have to live vicariously through young ladies because someone like you is experiencing love, laughter, and all the things you want. That make your life worth living. With, of course, some trials and tribulations, be it health or family, but nonetheless giving you media representation which doesn’t make it seem your life, after a certain age, means just yelling at kids, focusing on retirement and dealing with the side effects of aging.
Blue Expressing Feelings
When it comes to kids, as stated countless times, rarely are they ever more than a prop. Something to fight over or prove two people once loved each other and had sex. With Blue this season, while he remains a source of contention, his feelings about his parents also get explored. Whether it is the devastating realization they won’t get together or dealing with his mom not being around, Blue’s feelings may not play a huge role but how often does an actor at Hutchinson’s age really get to have these moments? To command a scene and have actors far older than him play off what he is doing?
Heck, just him taking control of that vigil for Ernest puts you on notice a little bit. For how often do you really see a kid step forward and direct another character?
Still, No One Communicates Much With People Who Aren’t Family or Significant Others – Outside of Micah
As much as this show is about community, it is weird to me only Micah is actively in contact with people he considers friends. Yes, Nova has a friend as well, Sierra, but she comes along maybe once or twice a season. Heck, if it wasn’t for IMDB, I wouldn’t even be able to fathom her name. And yeah, Ralph Angel has Toine but, again, once or twice a season and their name is only remembered due to the notoriety of the actor being trans. Not because they have decided to invest in this character and develop their story past the anecdote.
Davis and His 13-Year-Old, Tia, We Don’t Meet Once
Davis, like Remy, seems like a character that no one knows what to do with but either because of their contract or wanting to hold onto the actors, just in case, they are given something minor to justify them sticking around. For Davis, it was him having a 13-year-old while married to Charley. A kid we never meet, just hear about, and no sooner is she talked about does Davis disappear. At least until Charley needs him to help her present a united front as Micah considers turning himself in for arson.
On The Fence
Ralph Angel and Trinh Relationship, Remy and Nova
It isn’t clear what was really going to happen with these two relationships. With Remy and Nova, there was a whole lot of chemistry, but then there is Charley being Remy’s ex, him wanting kids, and things beyond the Landry family drama that led to him breaking up with Charley. Then, on the flip side, Nova always finds a way to mess up her own relationships. As if she can’t deal with being held accountable or dealing with someone’s expectations. Yet, despite each one’s issues, I must admit it seemed like a troublesome road they’d have to travel on, but one worth checking out.
But when it came to Trinh and Ralph Angel, things were a little bit more complicated. On one hand, Ralph Angel was going through yet another ho phase before Trinh and considering he chose to date this Vietnamese woman when all these Black women were trying to win him, came with a side eye. But, it was interesting to see Trinh, like Charley’s Romero, present how other ethnicities in the south maintain their sense of culture.
Unfortunately, with the custody drama, among other things, Ralph Angel ended it. Yet, who knows, maybe Trinh might comeback in season 4. That is, unless Darla and Ralph Angel go for another round.
Nova consistently seems like a top bill character who more so works best as a supporting character. A s*** kicker, or stirrer, if you will. For it is really only when she is causing unnecessary drama do you really take note of her. This season isn’t really much different for it is when she upsets Aunt Vi, making it the first time those two aren’t tag team partners, you take note of Nova this season. That is, alongside what she contributes to Micah’s story. But, as for Nova having her own thing? Being presented on the same level as Ralph Angel and Charley? That remains to be seen.
However, with this explosive book, while it may just mean more drama, considering how Blue’s paternity took over half a season, Davis’ affair, Charley taking on the Landry family, and so many stories which barely dealt with, or featured, Nova, maybe it is about time she is put front and center with people coming to her instead of her to them.
The Custody Battle Over Blue
When it comes to Darla and Ralph Angel’s relationship, I think we can all agree that it is usually one unnecessary drama after another. Last season it was the paternity test and this season it was a custody battle. One which was seemingly all Darlene’s idea and was immediately stopped once Darla took back control over her life. Thankfully keeping it from involving Blue and becoming a nasty, dragged out fight.
Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)
Recently, on The Breakfast Club, Lena Waithe noted there isn’t any real Black prestigious productions in the likes of Mad Men, The Handmaid’s Tale, or Game of Thrones. Now, considering Queen Sugar and Greenleaf, unless she means productions which sweep mainstream awards shows, then that isn’t true. However, one of the issues with Queen Sugar may have had is that it was made to become what Waithe thinks Black entertainment currently lacks.
Yet, one can argue season 3 threw that out the window and thus became a transitionary season. One that decides to stop hunting for the awards with over the top and dramatic storylines but get back to basics. Hence Charley’s first win against the Landry family, the Darla, and Ralph Angel saga being made peaceful, Aunt Vi having nearly all she could ever want, and Nova have perhaps her biggest story of the series.
It seems Queen Sugar is ready to stop trying to prove itself and just be. Which may have meant some awkwardly writing, like for Remy and Davis, but in its growing pains Queen Sugar can potentially become, once more, a stand out from what is often delivered and a forbearer for a new generation to Black dramas. Especially those not rooted in taking things in a soap opera direction.
Hence the mixed label. While Season 3 didn’t necessarily reach the emotional highs of past seasons, perhaps it was because it stopped trying to up the ante and just wanted to tell a story. One which was real, presented lives we don’t often see, and not make it so those lives are rooted in struggle as so many Black dramas are. Instead, it will celebrate wins, culture, and growth. Thus taking it back to what made Queen Sugar worthy of being put on a pedestal vs. just another Black show benefiting from this diversity wave.
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- What happened to Jacob after his mother, Frances, was introduced?