Tuesday, May 18, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Underground Railroad (Series Finale)

The Underground Railroad: Season 1, Episode 10 “Chapter 10: Mabel” (B+)

I don’t think this is what I expected the final hour of this show to be, but it speaks to the emphasis on character and the struggles of those who might otherwise have remained anonymous if not for the representative stories told here. We barely saw Sheila Atim’s Mabel over the course of the previous episodes, and she took center stage here as a strong, resilient woman determined to do everything possible for her friend Polly after a devastating stillbirth and a lack of advocacy from Moses on her behalf, not that it would have done much since Polly’s mental wellbeing wasn’t considered by anyone except for Mabel. There’s a cruel irony to the fact that the language Connelly and others use to dehumanize the slaves much more accurately reflects the way in which the masters so inhumanely treat their alleged property. Though Moses did little to look out for Polly, it was nonetheless horrible to see him whipped repeatedly in the wake of her death, beaten down again and again at a time when he should have been permitted to mourn. This episode powerfully transitioned more than halfway through to Cora and Molly, both escaped from the violence in Indiana and about to set out for unknown territory. While I might have appreciated some closure and a more definitive ending, I think the notion that they’re back on the road, hoping to reach somewhere better is the most optimistic possible way to close out this saga. It’s been a grueling, deeply affecting journey, one that I have no doubt will reap numerous accolades come awards season.

Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Thuso Mbedu as Cora

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