TV Review: Queen Sugar
TV Review: Queen Sugar
By Kelisha Graves
August 31, 2016
Premiere date: Tuesday, Sept. 6, 10 p.m. ET/PT; subsequent episodes air Wednesdays, 10 p.m. (OWN)
At its core, the OWN’s latest production, Queen Sugar, is a chronicle about agriculture and family, specifically the Bordelon family’s journey towards reckoning with their unsolicited 800-acre inheritance. In the age of series like Empire and Power, the idea of a series organized around farming and sugar cane might forebode of an uneventful turn in black television. But what is immediately noticeable about Queen Sugar is the genius of Ava Duvernay’s narratology. Based on the book, Queen Sugar, by Natalie Baszile, Duvernay’s screen edition is zesty and significantly more pungent than Baszile’s original literary effort.
From the opening scene, the characters emerge onscreen full-born and troubled. The oldest Bordelon sibling, Nova (Rutina Wesley), is an activist-journalist who quarrels internally against her own better judgment. The second oldest sibling, Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner), is an outrageously successful business prodigy who struggles to manage the ugly debris kicked up by her husband’s basketball scandal. The youngest Bordelon sibling, Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe), is a formerly incarcerated single father who battles against old habits as he strives to emerge from his own immaturity. Supported by brilliant talent that includes Tina Lifford as “Aunt Vi” and Omar Dorsey as Hollywood, these respective narratives/storylines move at the tedious speed of everyday life. Queen Sugar is about the small moments, not the big bangs. In this way, she aims to deliver sensitivity and sincerity. The only way to enjoy Queen Sugar is to soak it in and to let it marinate.
In respect to narratology, Duvernay has a particular penchant for details; or, better said, the nitty gritty facts of life, the tedious nuances and gestures that might otherwise be considered trivial. What cannot be ignored is her particular ability to convey the most tender and intimate moments with equal amounts candor and restraint. She also digs color and color-ed people (of all hues) and the emotion this combination evokes. Speaking of color, the color palette on this project is bodacious, juicy and scrumptiously subtle. Bursts of mahogany, rouge, canary, amber, and aqua literally massage our optic spheres into an allegiance with the screen.
From shea butter to onyx, the Queen Sugar cast is replete with all kinds of combustible black beauty. In fact, Queen Sugar is the most aesthetically delicious journey you will experience this season. Duvernay’s penchant for eclectic camera angles, and wide shots of opulent emerald agriculture (the cinematography is luscious without being gaudy) lend a cinematic breadth and width to what could have otherwise been a routine television experience. While Duvernay directed episodes 1 and 2, other directors for the series include: Neema Barnette, Salli Richardson Whitfield, Kat Candler, Tanya Hamilton, So Yong Kim, Tina Mabry, and Victoria Mahoney.
Since its inception, OWN has been helmed by the Tyler Perry machine. However, Queen Sugar is destined to mark a new turn for the network. Greenleaf and Queen Sugar represent OWN’s first endeavors into scripted televisions. This is an attempt to re-brand the network’s image in spite of the soap-opera patina that has only slightly made it competitive. What’s clear about the network is this: Queen Sugar has officially raised the bar on anything else that comes after it.
Cast: Rutina Wesley as Nova Bordelon. Dawn-Lyen Gardner as Charley Bordelon West. Kofi Siriboe as Ralph Angel Bordelon. Tina Lifford as Violet Bordelon. Omar Dorsey as Hollywood Desonier. Dondre Whitfield as Remy Newell. Bianca Lawson as Darla. Timon Kyle Durrett as Davis West. Greg Vaughan as Calvin. Nicholas L. Ashe as Micah West. Ethan Hutchison as Blue Bordelon. Marycarmen Lopez as Reyna Velez
Creator: Ava DuVernay.
Extended Trailer 2
A Taste of Queen Sugar