Why Underground’s Rosalee and Noah Have the Best Black Relationship on TV

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley
Noah (Aldis Hodge) and Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) are definitely ride or die.

After Wednesday night’s episode of WGN’s new hit show Underground, I am obsessed with TV’s hottest new pairing, Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Noah (Aldis Hodge), two enslaved Americans from the fictional Macon Plantation in Georgia who have escaped bondage and are currently on a North-bound run. They have the best relationship on TV, even if, um, technically, they’re not in a romantic relationship and haven’t really discussed being in one—I mean, love kind of takes a backseat to survival and freedom—and may not ever technically get into one. 

But still. They’ve got this “I will support you, I believe in you, ride or die” sort of thing going on that is the stuff that romantic-relationship dreams are made of. Case in point: In episode 2, Noah’s big romantic gesture to woo Rosalee, whom he met only briefly before, is asking her to escape with him. Isn’t that romantic? And if that ain’t a grand gesture and sign of interest, what is? 


In the following episode, Rosalee, who is enslaved in the big house, has resolved that she will not join Noah and a group of other slaves who are planning to escape that weekend. She’s let her own brother, who is planning to run (and didn’t), convince her (wrongly) that she’ll be a liability.

But then Rosalee is assaulted by the plantation overseer. She kills him and flees in a panic, encountering Noah, whom she’s interested in but barely knows. She tells him what she’s just done. “He dead,” she says of the overseer, who actually wasn’t, but the broken bottle in his neck was a worthy try. Noah abandons his plans to bail from Macon that weekend, and he and Rosalee make a mad dash off the plantation right then. That’s so ride or die. 

Of course, their journey to freedom isn’t smooth. When Rosalee is separated from the group as they are headed to Atlanta to catch a North-bound train, it’s Noah who refuses to leave without her, despite protests from the group. And when they finally make it to said train—with a new, kind of crazy plan for one member of the group to jump on board and then have his 7-year-old daughter thrown to him—it’s Rosalee who convinces a doubtful Noah that he can throw the child successfully. That’s a lot of faith. It’s also Rosalee who celebrates him when he accomplishes the goal. 

On the run, Rosalee has plenty of doubts about her own capabilities, and an adversary in the group who constantly reminds her that she’s a “house girl,” i.e., not about this on-the-run life, isn’t helping. But it’s Noah who repeatedly tells Rosalee that he believes in her and reminds her of what she’s been able to accomplish on the run. Battle the overseer—and win? Check. Poison the dogs that were chasing them? Check. Escape a slave catcher? Check. Swim? A completely unexpected check. 


Noah believes in Rosalee so much that he comes to rely on her. When the group of nonswimmers plus Rosalee are trapped on a boat in episode 6, Noah’s initial grand plan is to have Rosalee swim them all to shore because he has that much faith in her. 

Rosalee has other, better plans. Raised by a mother who, though enslaved, always made a way somehow, and encouraged by a supportive could-be partner in Noah, Rosalee solves the boat dilemma by stealthily escaping unnoticed, swimming to shore and joining up with a Native American tribe, who save the men on the boat, whose grand escape plan at that point was the equivalent of duck and hope that the slave catchers waiting at the shore don’t see them. But Rosalee saves the day and her group. It’s amazing what a woman can accomplish, right? Especially when she has the support of a good man.


Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She is also a blogger at SeeSomeWorld.com, where she covers pop culture and travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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