If I had to classify Queen Sugar, I would call it a womanist show. It is a show that prioritizes the experiences of Black women, while recognizing the important role that Black men play in shaping those experiences. Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe), Hollywood (Omar J. Dorsey), Michah (Nicholas L. Ashe), Davis (Timon Kyle Durrett), and even young Blue (Ethan Hutchinson) drive the story of the Bordelon family in very important ways. As such, Queen Sugar — helmed by Oprah and Ava Duvernay — has undertaken Black masculinity as a major theme, and it's done a great job. Last night’s midseason finale was the ultimate display of how healthy masculinity is better for everyone.
Ralph Angel, the male lead in Queen Sugar, is the new patriarch of the Bordelon family now that his father Ernest has passed away. He is moving forward as a parolee, having inherited his family’s farmland and raising his son Blue with compassion and love. Not to mention, it can’t be understated how fine he is. Nevertheless, Ralph Angel has been one of the most difficult characters to get behind this season because of what can only be described as fragile masculinity. He makes rash financial decisions about the farm without consulting with his sister Charley (Dawn Lyen-Gardner) — who is financially backing the farm and Queen Sugar Mill — because he doesn’t like asking her for help. His partner Darla (Bianca Lawson) is also getting her life back as a recovering addict, but he was less than happy about the healthy distance she wanted to keep between them while she maintains her sobriety. When Darla accepted a job as Charley’s assistant (being employed is an important part of her recovery), Ralph Angel felt betrayed, operating under the belief that his girl should support him, even in his prideful resistance to accepting the help he needs.
On Wednesday night’s episode, Ralph Angel showed up for Darla’s two-years sober anniversary celebration. Finally accepting that her place in a fellowship of recovering addicts is permanent, Ralph Angel also proposes to Darla, insisting that he doesn’t want to “distract” her from her recovery. It was a beautiful display of selflessness on his part, admitting that his own needs are not the center of their relationship or world.
Michah, Charley’s teenaged son, has been finding it difficult to cope with the aftermath of being pulled over and arrested. Charley and her soon-to-be ex-husband Davis have noticed a change in his behavior but can’t get him to open up about the incident. And while his father hasn’t offered much to the story except the knowledge of his rebound affairs with other women, he finally gives Micah the space to let it out. Literally, Davis hesitantly stands by while Micah throws stuff around the room. When Michah insists that he can “take it,” Davis tells him he doesn’t have to do it alone. It was a tender moment between two men where one was inviting the other to lean into pain and trauma so that the other could help him through it.
The truth is that women can’t always be the gatekeepers of everyone’s emotional well-being — especially not in the case of Queen Sugar, where female characters are also taking the lead on everything else. This is why I love Hollywood and Aunt Violet’s relationship: he makes an intentional effort to be supportive of her dreams and feelings, not just the rent. Envisioning a world absent of toxic masculinity is a theme that makes Queen Sugar a nearly utopian drama about a Black family.