Welcome to the Underground

I could barely get through episode three before I started writing this post.  Underground is an original television series on WGN America about a group of slaves on a Georgia plantation plotting to escape to freedom through the Underground Railroad.  Some scenes are excruciating to watch, but I enjoy this show.  The bravery of the writers, producers (John Legend is executive producer), and cast come through in each episode.

Aldis Hodge, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Christopher Meloni lead the cast with other familiar faces and a few unknowns that won’t remain that way for long if this show gains popularity.  It’s early, but I’m already hoping that it’s picked up for a second season.

This series is suspenseful.  I found myself holding my breath during certain scenes.  It’s unapologetic and raw – not for children or the easily offended.  Underground is a historical drama with a modern twist.  The opening scene with Noah (Aldis Hodge) running was set to a Kanye West track which was totally unexpected, but refreshing and creative.  The story is told in such a way that you don’t feel like you’re watching history being retold.  You actually feel like you’re in the story experiencing it from the character’s point of view.

There is romance and plot-scheming as with any drama, but hope and survival are the anchors of this series.  Exploration of the human condition is the star of this show, not the ugly history behind it.  The depth and variety of characters so elegantly demonstrate the universal truth that we all want the same thing out of life no matter what skin we’re born in…to be happy.

Now, I know what some may think – white and black alike, because I’ve heard and read these type of comments from both sides:

‘Haven’t there been enough movies about slavery?’
‘Can we move past this already?’

Here’s what I have to say about that – get over it.  It’s American history and black history.  It happened so that makes it just as valid as any other part of history that is featured in entertainment – Victorian era, Medieval, Revolutionary War, Westerns, etc.  The end.

I’m not naive.  I know race is a sensitive subject and will probably always be in our lifetime.  We need to continue intelligent conversations about race to focus on what unites us instead of what divides us, especially with the heightened tensions in our country right now.

That is precisely why I enjoy Underground.  It has the potential to constructively facilitate the discussion and close this needless gap.  Besides that, it’s just an all around entertaining show to watch.  A touchy historical subject has been transformed into an action-filled suspense drama…that happens to be about slavery.  Genius.

Kudos to the entire team in front of and behind the camera.  This cannot be an easy show to produce.  I can only imagine how emotionally draining it is, but it’s done with so much finesse.  To my knowledge (and from what I could find on Google) this is the first of its kind on television.  There have been mini series and made for tv movies like Roots (remake to air in May 2016), Queen, The Feast of All Saints, and more recently The Book of Negroes.  But Underground is attempting to be a long running regular tv series.

And I, for one, hope they succeed!

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