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Underground - Minty - Review: "Believe In Something Better"

Really? Seriously? No Emmy nominations? No Golden Globe nominations?

The episode focused on a talk/presentation given to a group of abolitionists by Harriet Tubman. I cannot recall ever watching an episode of television in which, basically, only one character spoke. Aisha Hinds was absolutely up to the challenge.

Tubman talked about her childhood and the horrors of slavery; the drive to escape and the transition from the desire only to save her family to saving other slaves.

Last week I criticized the opening scene of the episode for feeling too much like a history lesson and not part of the story of the episode. I expected to have that problem here as well.

I didn’t expect the entire episode to be just Harriet’s talk. I expected intercuts of Rosalee and Noah arriving in Georgia, or perhaps the hostage story with Cato and Devi.

I didn’t have any time to think about such issues, because once the episode started, I couldn’t look away. I felt like a member of the onscreen audience. Tubman’s words were compelling and personal. I knew some about Harriet Tubman, but in this episode I learned more about her life, never once feeling like I was getting a history lesson.

When her talk turned to her description of slavery as an act of war, I began to look at her as more of an American hero. For those of you are not reading this in America, there was a proposal getting underway to add women to US currency just before the last Presidential election.

Harriet Tubman was proposed to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Given that the current administration seems content to roll the clock backward in many ways, I don’t believe this is ever going to happen, but I understood the proposal in a different way by the time this episode was over.

Aisha Hinds career needs to take a step above the level of only playing supporting parts. There’s a big difference between having the screen presence to make me believe a slave hunter would decided not to challenge her and being able to carry an entire episode in which she gives a speech.

I don’t mean to diminish my respect for the writers of this episode. Hinds’ performance couldn’t have been what it was without a stellar script. For me they didn’t just deepen the universe of this show, they got me asking myself if I can afford to be just a citizen in the America I’m currently living in.

In the overall narrative of the series, Harriet’s call to the abolitionists before her to determine what it means for them to be soldiers in this war seemed designed to be Elizabeth’s call to action. She’s been trying to decide if she wants to be a pacifist or a fighter. I can’t wait to see which path she will decide to take.

This was one of those rare hours of television that makes me want to click something above awesome. I do realize that an episode completely devoid of action is not some viewer’s cup of tea. To those for whom that is true, I would really love to hear your thoughts and opinions. To all: What did you think about this episode?