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Underground - Run & Gun - Review: "Whatever It Takes"





I'm a little later with this review than I'd like to be. One of those weeks that was saved by an excellent hour of television.

Macon has been forced publicly admit that slaves have escaped from his plantation. He’s put up a $1000 reward for each of, what we learn are being called, The Macon 7. $1000 in 1847 is a LOT of money. I wouldn’t be surprised if slave catchers from far and wide show up to try for a piece of that reward.

I don’t often find the directing something that comes to my attention. I’m usually focused on character and story. This is the second time in this series where a directing choice stood out for me. The first time was the contrasting church services. Though the content of those scenes made me think it was more a writer’s choice than director’s. In this episode it was the way they handled the intercutting of August teaching his son, Ben, about reading the runaway’s tracks with the their bickering about their situation that had me rewinding and re-watching the sequence.

Moses, reeling from the loss of Pearly Mae, lashes out at Noah for abandoning his plan in order to protect Rosalie. Cato, who has never had much use for Noah, escalates the situation to the point where Noah wants to punch him. I guess Zeke believed Cato’s lies about Noah not really caring for him because when Noah went after Cato Zeke stepped between them.

As with previous episodes the goal is stated early on. As August points out, the runaways shift from simply running for their lives to running toward something. They are heading for the train Ernestine mentioned last week; the one leaving Atlanta and heading North.

Moses has a connection he believes will help them get onto the train. The group splits up leaving Rosalie and Boo in the care of Zeke and Henry. This is one of the moments where we see the wisdom in Noah’s basic theory that their odds of success are increased by running as a group. August and Ben arrive at the cabin of the Trader who gave Noah the paper. August sets a trap, but Henry spots Ben and warns the rest that they are in a trap. With a little luck (August’s rivals showing up to beat him to a pulp) and Zeke doing what he does best, they manage to get away.

Unfortunately they have to abandon their initial plan because the hunters that beat up August catch up to the them. Noah freezes for a moment when everyone looks to him to answer the question “What do we do now?” It’s the first time he fully accepts the mantle of “leader.” He quickly overcomes his hesitation and sets a plan into motion. Cato, Zeke, Noah, and Henry split up to draw the hunters away from Boo, Rosalie and the injured Moses. They will meet at a water tower on the edge of Atlanta then jump onto the train.

Cato finally did the kind of thing I’ve been expecting from him since we first met him. He shoots Zeke in the leg so he can get away. Despite that injury (and an axe to the back) Zeke manages to kill all of his attackers. He dies just after August and Ben arrive on the scene. August does nothing (he still gets the $1000 for Zeke’s corpse), but Ben thinks they should have helped him. It’s a spark of humanity that many would condemn him for. I’m not so sure August would condemn Ben, but he would likely argue the practicality of it.

Rosalie runs into August, after a pretty good pep talk for a disheartened Moses. August runs the same con on her that he did on the runaway in the pilot episode. Rosalie buys into it until she hears August mention his son. (Henry mentioned “the slave catcher and his son” in the opening sequence.) Rosalie confesses to the others that she told August their plan to catch the train. The encounter wasn’t without purpose though. She now knows what another part of the “map” means. She realizes that “Blue Haze” refers to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

They decide to go along the roof of the train station and jump onto the train, but August spots them and starts shooting. Noah manages to get Moses and Boo on the train but he and the others have to keep running.

We found out why Sam didn’t run with the others at least I think we did. In a very odd scene, Sam is brought behind a cabin and asked to tell Tom something he doesn’t know. Sam confesses that he was surprised to find that he was too afraid to run when the moment came. Somehow this confession led a drunk Tom to hand Sam a loaded rifle and teach him to shoot it. Although it seemed that Sam gave it some serious thought, he managed not to kill Tom.



I was expecting Pearly Mae to have a difficult time this week. I knew they were going to push to find out where the others were headed. As usual though, this sequence held some unexpected moments.

Suzanna grew up in this world. She’s extremely practical about the whole situation. Slaves ran away all the time when her father ran the plantation. But Tom is really upset. He asks Suzanna to help get the information from Pearly Mae.

Tom has Pearly Mae brought in, bathed and dressed in a nice dress. This freaked Pearly Mae out more than if she’d been hauled out to be whipped. Earnestine has seen this tactic before and briefs Pearly Mae on what to expect and how to handle it. After all, Earnestine has a vested interest in Pearly Mae not talking.


Tom was smart enough to hand the situation over to Suzanna. She circumvents Tom’s tactics. Instead, she has a frank discussion with Pearly Mae. It turns out that Pearly Mae is Suzanna’s half sister. She makes it clear that she’s fully aware that this means as little to Pearly Mae as it does to her. Instead Suzanna hands Pearly Mae papers that would make her and Boo free. It is a tempting offer.

When Earnestine arrives to plead for Pearly Mae to remain strong she realizes it’s a losing battle. They’re both mothers. They’re both willing to do whatever they can to save their children. Earnestine is just willing to do a little bit more. She poisons Pearly May then slits her wrist to make it appear that she committed suicide.

I commented that I believed that the writers would get around to fleshing out Suzanna Macon. They did that in this episode in spades. That scene took Suzanna from a stereotypical rich pampered wife to a pretty interesting character.

Ernestine brings new meaning to the phrase “do anything to protect my child.”

While the runaway story was filled with tension and excitement, it was Pearly Mae’s story that pushed the episode from great to awesome for me. What did you think of the episode?

About the Author - Prpleight
Prpleight is a screenwriter and senior software engineer with solid geek cred. When not writing code, screenplays, or watching TV (sometimes she does all three at the same time), she uses her broadsword Bessie to battle evil. She's been a frequent contributor to the SpoilerTV discussion boards for several years now.
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