Why the ‘Queen Sugar’ wedding was just what we needed
Another 'Queen Sugar' couple walked down the aisle this season and it was a long time coming
Last June, I went to a wedding. In the midst of a global pandemic, about 70 people came out to see my friends Shalon McIver and John Welch get hitched in Philadelphia at an outside venue. They were late. It was 200 degrees, easily. The groom forgot the ring. But it was, in a time of uncertainty and with scary stories about superspreader events and daily headlines about COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on the Black community, a beautiful day.
That’s what Tuesday night’s wedding of OWN Network’s Queen Sugar characters Darla Sutton (Bianca Lawson) and Ralph Angel Bordelon (Kofi Siriboe) reminded me of. The two have gone through five seasons of ups and downs that could have broken another couple and almost did break them.
If you’re unfamiliar with the world of Queen Sugar or need a reminder of how it all got started, the three Bordelon siblings, Ralph Angel, Nova (Rutina Wesley), and Charley (Dawn Lyen Gardner), inherited their father Ernest Bordelon’s (Glynn Turman) farm when he died in the first season.
Even that didn’t come without its issues, as the ownership of the farm was first believed to be shared between the three siblings but ended up being solely Ralph Angel’s. Then he and Charley – Nova and Ralph Angel’s half-sister, clashed over it as Charley had invested heavily in the farm. But the siblings ultimately united as threats to their land came from outside sources.
When we first meet Ralph Angel, he’s just coming home from jail and doing a petty robbery while his son Blue (Ethan Hutchinson) waits in a park. He does it to prove to his skeptical father that he can take care of his son. When we first meet Darla, a recovering addict who is Blue’s mother, she’s working as a parking attendant. She and Ralph Angel are estranged and Ralph Angel’s Aunt Vi (Tina Lifford) and her brother are Blue’s primary caretakers.
Over time, we find out that Darla was once turning tricks in a motel room to support her habit and with Blue in tow. Aunt Vi’s man, Hollywood (Omar Dorsey), pulls her out of that mess. One of the most heart-rending scenes of the series was when Darla eloquently asked for Aunt Vi’s grace in the wake of all she’d been through. But she spent a good portion of the time in the first few seasons as a pariah both for her past and when she confesses that Blue was likely conceived in a sexual assault during a drug orgy.
Blue turns out not to be Ralph Angel’s biological son. But it doesn’t matter to him. He and Darla continue to struggle with their relationship – going from lovers, to engaged, to broken up, to back together after Darla’s brief relapse.
Another haunting scene pre-relapse is when Darla can’t be found, and Ralph Angel goes looking for her at her old drug haunts. Instead, he finds her swimming at a local pool. That’s when he tells her that they can’t be together. The couple eventually reunites, but only after they become embroiled in a custody battle.
So yeah, it’s been a journey.
Somehow in the middle of a pandemic, that Queen Sugar creator Ava Duvernay incorporated into the current season, Darla and Ralph Angel are finally in a good place. He’s grown to the point where instead of feeling like giving up when the harvest has to be put on hold, he steps up as his father did and gets a job doing manual labor at a nursing home.
Like many women contending with the realities of the COVID-19 crisis, Darla is stressed by having to juggle homeschooling Blue, and work and finances. She’s laid off right after she was preparing for a better job opportunity. When she realizes that Ralph Angel has her back, she begins to revel in the family’s cozy domesticity. She’s certainly earned some of life’s sweetness.
When Ralph Angel meets a nursing home resident on the job who is forcibly separated from his wife, also a resident, their love story springs him into action. Why wait to make Darla his wife when they can get married….as soon as possible?
The family prepares to celebrate despite short notice and a directive to wear yellow because who just has that in their closet? Hollywood is in Baton Rouge burying his mother, who has passed of COVID and won’t make it as Ralph Angel’s best man, so Micah assumes the role in his place. Aunt Vi makes a wedding cake despite the short notice. And somehow, Charley, Aunt Vi, and Nova all have the color in their wardrobes, so they’re all good.
Sometimes TV weddings can be cheesy but in this case, it felt right to see a once-troubled couple evolve and mature. It felt good to see actors Lawson and Siriboe step into their fictional lives with such skill and grace.
Given that they filmed this season in the height of the pandemic with a cast scattered over various ‘pods’ so they couldn’t interact with each other as freely as before, it felt Kofi and Bianca stood for everyone on the cast, crew, and fans whose lives changed overnight when the pandemic hit last March.
Everything hit the right note – from Blue’s excitement over his parents making it official, to pulling together a Zoom bridal shower for Darla, to Nova, who as we all know can be contentious, finding a letter her mother wrote praying for her son to find true love and sharing it with her new sister-in-law.
This wedding was what we needed to see. We know trouble’s coming because the wedding episode is entitled “May 19, 2020,” and we know what happens in America in June. From the season’s trailer, we know some tears are going to be shed.
But what we also know and what we saw so beautifully rendered in this wedding episode is that family comes through. Like Hollywood, who shows up anyway because sometimes we are crying and celebrating all at the same time. Sometimes life is messy and sad, while sometimes it’s beautiful and empowering.
Through five seasons, the Bordelon clan has embodied what it means to be a family through moments good and bad, reminding us of our beauty, resilience, and ability to love our way through anything and everything.
Congratulations Ralph Angel and Darla; we needed to see you find this joy as we struggle to manifest ours. And thank you, Kofi and Bianca, for your work and commitment to telling their story.
You and the entire cast and crew of Queen Sugar should take a bow and celebrate yourselves. We’ll try to follow your lead.
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