After Sam’s (Johnny Ray Gill) surprising demise in episode eight of “Underground,” titled, “Grave,” it’s pretty safe to say no one is safe in WGN America’s groundbreaking series. Then again, during this time in American history, not many in the slave community were. If fans were shocked by the final turn of events that happened last week, Wednesday’s (May 4) episode probably left the collective audience with their jaws on the floor.
The penultimate episode of Season 1, aptly titled “Black & Blue,” literally put a few of its main characters through the wringer. With Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) captured by August (Christopher Meloni) and his men, Noah (Aldis Hodge) and Cato (Alano Miller) are forced to go on a rag-tag rescue mission of sorts to help break her free once again. Yet, while they set up camp outside, staking out the digs where Rosalee is tied up, the real meat of the story transpired inside.
Being forced to strip out of her civilian dress in front of the slave hunters is definitely a demeaning gesture but Rosalee capitalized on that vulnerable moment. Tossing the clothes into the fire, no one in the room was the wiser that sneaky Rosalee put Devil’s Snare in the dress.
What is Devil’s Snare, you ask? It’s an herb really, and one that not only comes with medicinal qualities, but can also cause hallucinations and even death. Also known as Jimson Weed, the plant is from the nightshade family and there’s even a reference to a magical version of the herb in “Harry Potter” but the strangling effects felt here are more of the mental variety.
While Noah and Cato formulated their own plan outside, the hallucinogenic smoke filled the barn causing August to slowly lose his mind. Coming across a vision of Ernestine (Amirah Vann) amidst a crowd of hanging animal carcasses, the two have a mind-bending escapade which suddenly finds Mr. Pullman shirtless and Rosalee’s mom licking blood off her fingers. Revisiting the two wolves concept that was presented earlier in the season, it looks like August has embraced his bad wolf while his son Ben — the good wolf — kept an eye on Rosalee in the other room.
Reading “Moby Dick” — the symbolism continues — it’s not long before Ben (Brady Permenter) experiences his own Devil’s Snare revelation. Freeing Rosalee from her binds, while August wrangles with his own mental instability, Noah ducks into a vat of pig’s blood to hide from the men outside. That’s one dramatic way to make an entrance!
But while Cato distracts some of August’s men by throwing cash out the back of a carriage, Rosalee finds herself in her own personal hell. Back on the plantation, Tom Macon and Bill Meekes terrorize her as her wrist lashes bleed fresh once more. Going on the attack, Rosalee takes a stand and stabs the man that once bound her as his property. However cathartic that may have been, her reality soon punches her — and the audiences — right in the gut as Ben Pullman took that shiv into his.
It’s Ben’s calls for help that distract August from his mini-battle with Noah amidst the hanging meat. It’s a jaw-dropping moment, for sure, and obviously Rosalee did not mean to murder the young boy but an escape to freedom still takes precedent.
The losses don’t stop there as Rosalee and Noah escape the slave hunters — and archers in the woods, WTF? — only to leave Cato behind. A sole gunshot alluded to her own demise but without on-screen confirmation, who knows for sure?
Without a doubt, it’s safe to say the woman August’s son freed may now be the man’s own white whale. The “Underground” Season 1 finale, aptly titled “White Wale,” airs Wednesday, May 11 at 10 p.m. PT/ET on WGN America.