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Queen Sugar Series Review: Is Sugar This Sweet?

Queen Sugar Series Review: Is Sugar This Sweet?

The Oprah Winfrey Network’s debut mini-series, Queen Sugar, has been herald as “ visually stunning” and “chock full of characters to care about” by various print outlets for good reason. For those with a serious sweet tooth, the 13 episode series satisfies every craving the audience could want.

Queen Sugar followed the Bordelons, a sugar cane farming family with roots in the heartland of rural Louisiana, reminiscent of the classic movie Eve’s Bayou.The farm that has been passed down through the generations was in serious peril. But nothing compared to the discord in the family after a major tragedy affected the Bordelon siblings, Nova, Charley and Ralph Angel. They lost a loving parent. 

Soon, the farm became their joint responsibility and they each struggled to balance personal lives and family obligations. Charley Bordelon-West (Dawn Lyen-Gardner), a business woman with a high-profile husband. Nova Bordelon (Rutina Wesley), a journalist with a heart for her community and Ralph Angel Bordelon (Kofi Siriboe), an ex-con starting anew to provide for his young son. The casting was perfect as each actor brought a raw authenticity to the often heavy dialogue.  

Additionally, the ensemble cast of characters heightened the drama filled storyline with heart, humor and all around visual pleasure as one of the most attractive casts featuring actors of color. QS did a great job of showcasing each character, gave the audience time to connect and know them intimately. Like family. This way everyone became the main character in their own storyline. But critics everywhere complained about the pacing of dialogue as compared to other primetime shows featuring strong black female leads like ABC’s Scandal. They failed to take into account that Queen Sugar has something unique called Sugar Pace, a languid flow of events almost like music that translated on screen when a character had a particularly compelling monologue…which was often. 

Among other things that made the show special was the way inter-dynamics of black families were explored, strong racial overtones, candid discussions of class and power and influence. QS was full of emotional turmoil that tugged the heartstring to the limit. Charley & Nova’s strained relationship came full circle as Ralph Angel finally grew into his own as a man. Where QS truly hit a sweet spot was a combo of on and off-screen collaboration. Tenure director, Ava Duvernay (Selma, the 13th) employed an all-female directorial staff that featured some heavy hitters with impressive resumes of their own. Tina Mabry,  Neema Barrete (Being Mary Jane, Civil Brand), Vic Mahoney (Survivor’s Remorse, Yelling to the Sky),Kat Candler( Hellion) and actress Salli Richardson (Being Mary Jane, Stitchers) helmed the ropes of the show. With such talented visionaries behind the lens, it was no wonder viewers got cavities from watching every episode.

The close of the series packed an artful mix of bittersweet and hot in our mouths. I’ve never been able, as a viewer, to turn off the TV after a season finale and enjoy the conclusion of the episode. The usual formula is for writers to throw in a jarring cliffhanger so close to the end that we’re forced to tune in next season. This may or may not be followed by viewers like me hurling objects at the screen. But “Give Us This Day” as written by Ava Duvernay left me nothing but sated. This end was like coming home after a long day at work, like happened the way it was meant to. 

So on a scale of slight craving to diabetes inducing, Queen Sugar ranks high on the sweeter side. If you want a series where reclining in your seat after each episode is part of the digestion process and subtly leaves you salivating for more, then set your DVR’s for the return of the series’ second season in late 2017. 

All in all, Queen Sugar is just that sweet. 

Sources: http://variety.com/2016/tv/reviews/queen-sugar-review-ava-duvernay-oprah-winfrey-1201847148/, https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/sep/06/queen-sugar-oprah-winfrey-own-review

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