Sunday, May 16, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad: Season 1, Episode 4 “Chapter 4: The Great Spirit” (B)

This episode was markedly shorter than the three that came before it by almost half an hour, and also absent of almost all of the characters, at least as portrayed by the same actors. The insight into Ridgeway’s background was intriguing – make sure to read my interview with Joel Edgerton for more on his feelings about the character – and helped to inform the rather emotionless way that he handles his job. Unlike many of the horrible men and women we’ve met, he didn’t grow up seeing those with a different skin color subjugated and abused frequently, but rather the lack of a concrete distinction between the two is what caused him to feel such resentment towards them as he grew up without praise from his father. The eager manner in which he approached the slavecatchers and sought to become one of them was disturbing, but it’s also informative about how people are drawn to and entranced by malicious causes. I immediately recognized the actor playing Ridgeway’s father as Peter Mullan, who has been an influential part of both “Ozark” and “Westworld” recently and brought the same gravitas to this role. I certainly don’t feel that this extended flashback makes Ridgeway any more sympathetic, and it doesn’t offer much hope that he’ll compromise in any way in his dogged pursuit of the secret railroad network that is giving him so much more work to do, even if he does have a soft spot for one particular boy that others would be quick to cast off or persecute.

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