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Underground - Soldier - Review: "The Road to Freedom"

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It’s the season finale and, for me, it, and the season, was a mixed bag.

Before I get to the major happenings in the episode, a quick rundown on Harriet, August, and Ernestine.

Harriet was informed, by a representative of John Brown, of a planned attack on Harpers Ferry and invited to take part. She seemed unsure about participating. Ernestine found August considering suicide and, using her own experience, stopped him. Then she headed off on her own.

Rosalee tried to apologize to Noah, but he’s still not sure if he can forgive her. Given that he’s headed off on a mission to rescue Daniel’s baby, and free slaves from three nearby farms, she only wants him to promise to come back safely.

Elizabeth, Noah and several others head across the river to rescue slaves from several farms. Two of the operations go smoothly, but the third is nearly a disaster.

The owner wakes up and, fearing that he will be shot, holds his house slave hostage. One of the members of the raiding party tries to negotiate, with the owner but they all realize time is running out. They need to meet up with the other raiding parties if they have any hope of making it back across the river to safety.

Elizabeth makes the decision that they need to move. She walks into the room, shoots the owner and walks out without a word.

They make the rendezvous, but find themselves under attack. Wisely, the raiders decided to take the weapons they found with them, so they are able to fight back. Noah convinces the rescued slaves that they need to fight for their freedom and they do. Successfully.

Unfortunately, while the raid is going on, Cato and Patty Cannon attack Olivia’s boardinghouse looking for Rosalee. Olivia tries to get everyone out, but Cato has mapped the hidden routes out of the house, so those going through the tunnels will likely be stopped. We only see the ones Rosalee runs into and she shoots them.

Of course, given this is a TV show, this is when Rosalee goes into labor. She gives birth to the baby boy she expected. But when Noah returns, she’s gone. Rosalee gave her son to James, told him to tell Noah to find her and didn’t fight when Cato kidnapped her.

There was an odd moment with Cato that threw me for a moment. He’s sitting, half dressed, in a brothel with a redheaded prostitute instructing her to say her name is Patty Cannon. I thought Cato was taking out his anger with a substitute for the real woman. But his plans were more heinous.

Cato sets up Patty Cannon, handing her a message Harriet supposedly wrote indicating where she will be. The note is a lie, and Cato shoots Patty and announces that he is the new Patty Cannon and the prostitute is her face.

I was pretty happy with the episode until Rosalee left with Cato. My problem with this wasn’t so much a problem with the writing of the episode itself, but the industry’s idea that a show can’t change and grow through its run. Cato taking Rosalee, presumably to sell back into slavery, felt artificial. It didn’t quite feel like the natural conclusion to that story.

I couldn’t help but think they needed a quick answer to ‘how does Rosalee remain active in season 3’, and this was the first answer they came up with. I think I would have been more interested in the idea of her involvement in the movement toward the civil war than yet another return to free her from bondage.

Looking back at the season, I have to use the phrase mixed bag again. We had characters return who were under used. August was completely wasted.

Cato’s return made no sense. Why would he leave the life he was living in England to return to America? He could have settled down to life that the slaves in America were risking their lives for. His making himself into ‘Patty Cannon’ was certainly entertaining, but not solidly enough plotted for my tastes.

That said, the character work was stellar. Ernestine’s road to forgiving herself was compelling. I also enjoyed watching Elizabeth’s transformation into a revolutionary. The episode with Harriet Tubman remains my favorite of the season.

It’s a shame that the future of the show is up in the air. Despite that I’d really love to hear what you have to say about the episode and the season.

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