Queen Sugar Continues to Make Beautiful Television. I Hope It Never Ends

Illustration for article titled Queen Sugar Continues to Make Beautiful Television. I Hope It Never Ends
Photo: Cindy Ord (Getty Images for Vulture Festival)

In the ending of “Copper Sun,” the second to last episode of Queen Sugar’s second season, the song “Fall Into My Arms” by Ngaiire plays as Ralph Angel stares at and walks into Blue’s room. Blue is his son; he’s largely raised him alone but with the help of his family, particularly Aunt Vi, but he recently found out at that Blue may not be his biological son, (SPOILER ALERT: It is confirmed early in the third season).


It is one of the most powerful scenes of the entire series, and that song in particular is the literal perfect music to accompany the heft of the moment. That episode was emotional by itself, but that scene? I didn’t have to chase waterfalls, they found my face.

The song itself immediately became part of the soundtrack to my life; the 3:30 minute mark of the song until the end changed my life. And I’m not even being unnecessarily hyperbolic. I have listened to it no less than a thousand times since that episode. It’s so powerful, effective, emotional, etc. It is all the things at all the times. It is an actual perfect song and piece of music.

And as I watched the most recent episode of Queen Sugar, “Come, Clad in Peace,” it played in my mind for the entirety of the episode. I don’t know how the entire team of Queen Sugar is able to so accurately and effectively inform the relationships on the show, but they get so much so right.

Over the course of the season, we’ve watched as Mr. Prosper—a family friend and likely best friend to Earnest, father to Nova, Charley and Ralph Angel—has to deal with deteriorating health and the shady loss of his home at the hands of the Landrys. It’s a sad situation all around. But last night? Last night??

We get the human part. We see Prosper on the last day he’ll be in his house, not having packed a single thing because, where is he supposed to go? He’s a prideful man, but he’s a man whose been on his own for many of his waning years. He has a daughter he doesn’t want to bother, so he doesn’t even ask her if he can come stay with her while Charley figures out what’s happening and tries to save his house. I watched a man lose the only thing he had left and try not to break, using his pride as the last possession he could rely on. I saw a man with nowhere to go and no idea who to turn to come face to face with uncertainty and I felt terrible. Because he’s our parents who get older and all they want is peace, and for many, peace isn’t in the cards. Unrest and loss become the new struggles.

When it seemed impossible that you could just be this low, when you feel you just want to leave this world...when no words can suffice to say what you feel inside, I’ll be here, but you decide, yeah you decide, when you want to fall into my arms.


And then I see Charley—whose pride is legendary and whose methods may be questionable but her love for and desire to keep her family afloat is never in doubt—see what Prosper is going through and refuses to let him go through it alone. She requires him to stay with her but in a welcoming way and though Prosper struggles with it, she implores him, just as Aunt Vi does, to realize he’s family, and he reluctantly agrees to live with Charley.

The scene, which shows him sitting on his rocking chair outside, as he’s done for so many years as Charley joins him, is punctuated with him telling her that she’s “stubborn just like her daddy”—something that Charley takes as a compliment. I lost it. I can’t imagine being in his situation where I don’t have much and lost the last things I did have. It’s not real but I wanted to help because it moved me so. He was able to let go, because ultimately he had the arms of family to fall into. Hard as it was for him, he had to trust that he’d done as much for himself as he could. He keeps his pride, but he has family to share it with and the episode illustrated that perfectly. Water. Works.


Another subplot of the season is Darla coming back to St. Josephine’s after leaving to sort things out, leaving Blue behind with Ralph Angel. She moves back to St. Joe’s, gets a place and decks it out in preparation to spend more time with Blue. This episode contains a scene where Ralph Angel and Darla attempt to work out a schedule regarding Blue, something any parents who have had to co-parent know all to well and the stresses and fights that come along with it are as real as presented.

Take your time, take a breath, when you’ve had it, take it back, yeah you can take it back, it’s never gonna stay this way.


Darla wants split 50/50 time with Blue and Ralph Angel isn’t ready and he doesn’t think Blue is ready, but it’s clear that Ralph Angel is afraid he’s going to lose Blue to nicer surroundings. He’s already dealing with the fact that he knows Blue is not his biological son, and he’s concerned that, at some point, he may lose Blue because of it. Now Darla shows back up and wants to take more of his time away from the person who has mattered the most to him and who he’s sacrificed for and attempted to get right for. They get into an argument because Ralph Angel refuses to concede to the request; they take personal shots at one another and he leaves.

We see him later sitting in Blue’s room at his home, on the floor drinking a bottle of Henny straight to the head. Nova comes over and walks in, sees him in that state and he says to her, “I don’t want to talk about it.” And she does the most perfect big-sister thing of all time: she says, “I don’t want to talk about it either,” as they share swigs of the bottle.


I know that you’re hurting. I know it’s a sharp pain. I’ll be here, but you decide when you want to just fall into my arms.

As somebody with siblings, and sisters in particular who I know have my back no matter what as I have theirs, seeing that scene so closely resemble the love and understanding between siblings nearly brought me to tears. I don’t know if I’m just overly emotional lately or what, but there’s something special about needing your space with somebody present as only a sibling can really be. They get you. They’ve been where you’ve been. They know you. They know what you know. I know that isn’t everybody’s situation, but for me, it’s true to life.


And of course, they eventually talk about it, with Ralph Angel sharing his fears about losing Blue to Darla and fancier things. And Nova rights that ship and lets him know that Blue needs him, not fancier things. As a father in a co-parenting situation, I will honestly admit that there have been times where I worried that my daughter might just get over me for any number of reasons and it scared me. It’s debilitating to love somebody so much and worry that one day they might just decide they don’t need your presence. As unlikely as that is, being human and feeling fear is natural, especially in nontraditional parenting situations.

Ralph Angel allowed himself to be vulnerable with Nova because he needed to. He fell into her arms. Because he had to. For himself. For Blue.


As I said, I don’t know how the writers, directors, actors, hell, the grips, everybody involved in Queen Sugar are so good and effective at displaying the nuance of and need for family, but they really get it right. Every relationship is so layered in so many realistic ways. I hope it never ends.

It’s beautiful television.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.



Queen Sugar is one of those shows, that demonstrates to me that, it doesn’t matter what black women do. It really doesn’t. The fact that it got shut out completely from 2018 Emmys is a joke. Not to mention it’s pretty much completely ignored by white critics (who matter if you are trying to get awards/buzz for your show). I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if you made queen sugar, the exact same show, word for word shot for shot, but you replaced it with white people and set it in Iowa or Ohio. White people would never stop masturbating over how, it’s one of the most important shows of our time. And it’s a spectacular insight into “Real America” And you would have headlines like, The Great American Novel is Actually The Great American Televison Show, King Grain. Ugh Whatever. Rant over.