S1, Ep. 101 – “First Things First”
I am in my feelings. Like, legit heartbroken. My last name is Cosby, not Bordelon, and I’m affected by this episode. Why? Because: Great storytelling. So now, I guess you can consider me a distant cousin of the Bordelon family.
Let me run this back.
Welcome to Saint Josephine, Louisiana.
This is the first season of Queen Sugar, so of course the first episode is an introduction to the characters and their stories. I struggle with first episodes of first seasons because they are often a bit boring. After all, I don’t know the people and haven’t decided whether I want to know the people. I watch, trying to gather information on them and wondering if I’ll tune in the next week to give the show one more chance to pull me in.
Queen Sugar grabbed me from the moment I heard the piano intro of Meshell Ndegeocello’s “Faithful” in the opening scene. I was all MJ in Thriller, like ‘Oh, this is gonna be good. They are ready to tell the truth!’ Maybe you have to know the song to understand why I was immediately intrigued.
So the scene featured Nova Bordelon and her “piece,” a White man, in bed together. It was morning and they had apparently slept the night away. Because of the song lyrics, I knew someone belonged to someone else. Maybe both of them belonged to someone else. Turns out his name is Calvin and he’s a police officer.
(We later learned that he’s married with children, though he and Nova have been seeing each other for years.) Anyway, they got it in one more good time before they said goodbye and went on about their days.
Then there’s Ralph Angel Bordelon. (Address him by his first and middle names, per his request.) He was watching his son, Blue, play at the park when he suddenly needed to go to the convenience store to steal some snacks and a couple hundred dollars from the register. He told Blue to sit on the bench and not move while he did so. Told him to be disciplined. When he returned from his brief and stupid robbery, (He never covered his face.), Blue was right where Ralph Angel had left him, holding his Barbie doll named Kenya tightly. (I am thoroughly intrigued by this little boy’s attachment to Kenya and can’t wait to get to the meat of why he is all about this doll. Most men don’t agree with boys playing with “girls toys,” but none of the men in the family seem to take issue with Blue and Kenya Doll. There’s a reason, and I’m waiting for it.)
Turns out, Ralph Angel’s heart was in the right place. He was a thief with a cause. He visited his Aunt Violet and tried to pay her for all of her help with Blue. She refused to take his money. She suggested that if anything, he offer it to his father because he needed it more. Also: Auntie Violet is a freaky little something. She and her younger boo, Hollywood, were doing some major flirting, and I’m here for the middle-aged get-down. She seems like she can be inappropriate as hell (in a good/funny way), and I like it.
Charley Bordelon West, Ralph Angel and Nova’s sister, is living a polar opposite life of her family. She’s married to NBA superstar, Davis West, and they live in a mansion in Los Angeles, where they are raising their teenage son, Micah. Charley is Davis’ manager, and off the bat she had some big shit to manage. While meeting with some other basketball wives, they all learned of a rape scandal involving the starting lineup – not Davis, though. The golden boy wasn’t named in the scandal. Charley was quick to wipe her brow, but I was bracing myself. Their life was too perfect. They were too happy. And like Meshell sang to us in the first scene, “No one is faithful.” *swaying and snapping my fingers*
Daddy Bordelon, Ernest, was in the break room at work when he heard the fellas discussing the scandal with Davis’ team, the Gladiators. When he got settled at home, he called Charley to check on her. Like usual, she had it under control. She proudly spoke of how she was going to help with the strategy and had thought of talking points. Ernest wasn’t surprised, but seemed bewildered that she was helping everyone else but had only spoken about helping him. What did he need help with? His farm. When Charley said she would come soon, his face showed that he’d heard that a time or two… hundred. Ernest looked tired, mentally and physically. It was obvious that life was taking a toll on him. He was doing it all: Helping to raise his grandson (Blue), working a secret job, trying to get his farm up and running again, and pretending he was okay. Unbeknownst to his family until much later, he hadn’t had any crops in two years and was working a job that was taking a toll on him. That’s that old man pride, I tell ya.
After helping Blue blow out the candles at his birthday party, one of the little girls found Ernest unconscious in a chair. He’d had a stroke. Blue was absolutely devastated. Ernest was his father when Ralph Angel was in prison and still took on the fatherly role in many ways.
While everyone was gathered at the hospital, Ralph Angel stepped away to call his babymama, Darla, from a payphone. For the millennials who know not what that is, see below. Insert coins. Have a conversation. It’s like magic. And it’s why no young lady was to leave the house without a purse full of quarters back in the day.
For Ralph Angel to be so pissed at Darla, it was interesting that she was his go-to when he sought comfort. We don’t know much about her in this episode except that she is/was an addict who hasn’t seen Blue in a while and doesn’t contribute financially. Darla didn’t answer Ralph Angel’s question about where she was quickly enough, so he hung up on her. She showed up at the hospital anyway, and he read her for filth in the parking lot for being an addict and not taking care of Blue. This was while she was telling him about her new job and asking if she could have supervised visits. I was a little bothered by his read. Ralph Angel isn’t a model parent, either. He’s six months out of prison (They haven’t revealed why he was in yet.), he’s stealing shit from the convenience store, and he didn’t even know Blue’s teacher’s name. I’d like him to remove his ass from his shoulders and stop casting stones. Bianca Lawson played that part, looking pitiful as hell, honey. This may end up being the best role I’ve seen her play. My heart went out to Darla. Maybe I’ll change my mind once I learn more about her character, but for now: ass off shoulders, please and thank you, Ralph Angel.
Detective Side Boo (I know Nova is the side piece, but this is what I want to call Calvin. Let me live.) showed up at Nova’s to comfort her after hearing of her father’s stroke. He was upset that she hadn’t called him and could have. She was basically like, No, I can’t call you and I don’t want to call you. That’s my choice. Understandable. He’s somebody else’s and she doesn’t want to pretend that he can be what she really needs him to be. This became very apparent once Ernest passed away and she drove to Detective Side Boo’s house. As she sat in her car, she watched him play with his children and smile at his wife. If she didn’t need him any other time, she needed him then; and he was unavailable.
While all of that was happening, Charley was blindsided by news that her golden boy husband was a fake. During one of his games, an alert (think ESPN text alerts) came through on the majority of the crowd’s phones. Fans immediately booed him, prompting Micah to check his phone, too. Oop! His dad was involved with the alleged rape after all. The surveillance video at the hotel showed him hoisting the drunken woman over his shoulder and smacking her booty before walking into the room. Micah showed the video to Charley, and “horrified” isn’t a strong enough adjective to describe what she seemed to feel. I didn’t think she had it in her, but Ms. Charley left her decorum in the seat and walked onto the court in the middle of a play. My face:
I was all, GO ‘HEAD CHARLEY! When Davis turned around, she asked, “What did you do?” repeatedly. She was able to get one good swing in before being escorted away. Unfortunately, she wallowed in her marital sorrows a little too long because when she finally made it to the hospital to see her dad, he was already dead.
- The scenes with no dialogue were some of the most powerful. When Ralph Angel lay Blue onto Ernest’s chest and adjusted his arms so Ernest could hold Blue??? JESUS!!
I was done. Their tears led to mine. Ernest’s eyes said more than he lips could have. (Also add when Charley arrived at the hospital and when Nova was at Detective Side Boo’s house.)
- Shout out to Glynn Turman for playing the hell out of his role.
- Nova is into holistic medicine and medicinal marijuana and such.
- I wonder if Ralph Angel is gonna hook up with Ms. Velez.
Ahh… I’m here for this show. I love a well-developed story, and it seems like Queen Sugar is just that. We’re getting information as we go at just the right times. The drama isn’t in-your-face. It’s in their faces. It’s in their backstories. I look for the tension to grow with each episode, and I hope it only gets better from here! Bravo, Ava! Bravo, Oprah!