Underground – after viewing Episode 8 – Initial Thoughts

Initial thoughts after watching episode 8 of Underground, a show which I have previously blogged about here and here

The sense you get is that after a time, they’re both trapped in this Carnival of horrors.  Both of them, the one who initiated and/or inherited the power position in the plantation based slavery economy and the one roped in to it and too often hanging from the end of a rope as a result of it. Far be it for me to feel even a thimbleful of pity for the owner of the Macon plantation and his political ambitions, or the slave catcher on the hunt as he tries to stay ahead of his financial obligations – they can make other choices but it’s easier not to, and when we consider, when I consider how often we find it easier in life to take the path of least resistance, I can see their point of view even if I don’t want to, even when seeing it doesn’t crack my heart to feel anything like empathy for them. No my empathy is all sucked up by the ones fleeing to freedom and paying a deadly price for it. But what the show does so well is show how they’re all caught up in a spider’s web, even if that web, for the enslavers, is of their own making.

That reminder that if you walk in with confidence, looking and acting like you belong wherever you are, people will be less inclined to question your right to be there…

When the mother was being forced to maim her son as punishment and deterrent after his runaway attempt…the show pulled the tension tight…here and at several other points but here especially…my stomach twisted up in knots at what was coming and then the exhale when it didn’t…and then the reminder that life has never been merciful to its abandoned children…I couldn’t even work up any outrage at the bait and switch…should’ve seen it coming.

Counterpoint to the narrative of enslaved people as beasts that must be kept in line, the smarts the runaways demonstrate time and again against the odds…planning, negotiating, remembering, plotting, showing courage…and surprising everyone, maybe even themselves, e.g. by playing the piano as Rosalee had to this episode as part of a ruse… playing it beautifully like she had been born to it…under duress

…and the reminder of how much potential was killed by turning humans into brutalized beasts of burden.

Everybody’s loss.





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