With its return this week (the first two episodes of its new season aired Tuesday and Wednesday on OWN and can be streamed at Oprah.com), Queen Sugar seems intent on continuing to mine themes of familial inheritance and societal baggage as they affect the lives of the siblings and, increasingly, of their children.
The second-season premiere finds the Bordelons congregating for a family tradition: a group dinner to mark Juneteenth, the emancipation holiday commemorating the belated liberation of enslaved people in the Confederacy more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The dinner is jubilant—in the name of so-called “freedom day,” Aunt Violet approves blueberry pie before dinner for her grandson, Blue—until Charley’s son is noticeably late.
The siblings, of course, are there, all with their own troubles: Charley, is trying to smooth over the reservations of investors in the mill she purchased at the end of Season 1 and finalizing her divorce with her philandering husband, the NBA-player Davis; Nova, an often conflicted journalist and activist, is attempting to raise money for a community bail fund; and Ralph Angel, a freshly paroled single father is juggling tractor breakdowns and soybean prices as he struggles to be taken seriously as a full-time farmer—by his neighbors, at times, but mostly by Charley.
The show has always made it clear that the knotty interactions of the Bordelons—notwithstanding their differing visions for the farm—form the primary lens through which they perceive each other, and the broader world. For the Bordelons, family is at once a security blanket and a liability, and a test of their bond to each other and their community. But Queen Sugar has gone a step further, wrestling with how one processes a family legacy so deeply mixed up with the violent history of race in the U.S.
Nowhere was this more clear than at the end of the previous season, which saw the Bordelons still reeling from an effort to sell its land that revealed a disturbing piece of information: The neighboring family trying to purchase it, the Landrys, once owned the Bordelons and later lynched some of their family members on the land they sharecropped. This discovery reenergized the Bordelons’ desire to build on their father’s hard work, and the closing shots of the finale had Ralph Angel staring pensively at his father’s will, and Charley carving the name of her recently purchased mill into the dirt.
The new season is poised to continue critiquing the long shadows of privilege and injustice. In the premiere’s most poignant moment, Micah, Charley’s son, is driving down the highway on his way to dinner in the brand new car his father bought him for his birthday, when he is stopped by the police. It’s moving to see this character, who has grappled in subtle ways with how his access to wealth affects how people see him, feel that privilege turned on its head. He’s no longer the privately educated son of an NBA player and a former executive; he is, instead, a black man in a car too expensive for his surroundings, being approached by a cop whose hand is already on his holster.