Elizabeth grieves John's death, as Rosalee goes on her first solo mission
This week’s episode starts off, again, with Daniel, so at least there looks to be one constant this season. It’s here that Daniel reveals to his wife Bette (Indigo) that he’s been teaching himself to read, writing down a note that completely captures the way he feels about her and their child: “LOVE.” Even though this is only our second week with Daniel, I’ve got to admit that’s a pretty emotional beat right there — and it’s only just the beginning of the episode. “It’s amazing,” says Bette. “I want to keep it forever.” Except, she know she can’t and instead rips up the note. Why? Because “this could get [them] killed.” It’s sad because it’s true.
The episode doesn’t just stop there with the pain, as it heads over to Elizabeth Hawkes, in what clearly can’t be too long after John was shot in head on the courthouse steps at the end of last week’s episode, since the blood on the steps is still wet. She just sits there, atop the steps, in shock, as the episode flashes back briefly to her screaming for help before it cuts right to the title card. What follows is the unfortunate side effect of the way people grieving differently. While Elizabeth clearly needs to be surrounded by family and friends right now, Rosalee focuses on work — even though she’s got a lot of involuntary crying going on during this episode — instead of being there for… well, Elizabeth is technically her aunt. Not even technically; Elizabeth is Rosalee’s aunt. Elizabeth even later points out in the episode how Rosalee is the only family John has left, and she won’t even make it to the funeral. They do have a moment, when Rosalee allows Elizabeth to vent about things, but it’s fleeting. “I keep thinking about children,” Elizabeth tells Rosalee. “For so long, not being able to have any was like an open wound. A pain in my entire body.” She assumed the work helping runaway slaves would help close that wound, but now she can’t help but think that if they’d had a child, she’d at least have something left of John. Now what does she have?
Rosalee doesn’t stay behind to help her answer that question, because since there’s still no answer as to who shot John, it’s possible that whoever killed him knows their house is a station. That’s why she wants to move the “cargo” immediately, even though it’s not all that safe right now and Elizabeth needs her. Elizabeth only learns that Rosalee’s even leaving via telegram, and Rosalee asks Georgia to say sorry for her. It’s all one big mess. In Rosalee’s defense (at least regarding the safety aspect), it all would have been safer if Patty Cannon’s gang hadn’t gotten word on Harriet Tubman’s usual stops.
“Moses will find a way,” Rosalee says of Harriet. And she’s right, though it’s not the way Rosalee imagines. While we learn that Harriet’s got the “makings” of a plan, the plan doesn’t actually come to fruition until she has one of her rumored “spells,” during which she has a vision. A waking Harriet tells them both that “the plan has changed,” and now, it’s Rosalee who will transport the “cargo” up North — three men — all on her own. She’s done the trip with Harriet before, but this is a whole other ballgame. Especially with three men who question her every decision — especially Poe (Dijon Talton), to the point where it’s surprising he doesn’t derail the whole thing — and Patty Cannon and her gang of slave catchers eventually on their tails. Luckily, she has Harriet’s words in her head the whole time, telling her to follow her instincts (she does, which saves them from slave catchers) and that she’ll be triumphant. “Focus on what you got to do now,” Harriet tells her. So that’s exactly what Rosalee does.
Unfortunately for Elizabeth, it’s not as easy to just go with the flow of a pep talk. If it were, then Georgia’s work here would be so much easier, especially since she gets Elizabeth to stay at her boarding house to get away from home (and the responsibilities of funeral planning). Georgia tells her that “staying busy and being around a lot of people helps,” but since Rosalee left the night before, she won’t even be around her own family. Georgia tries to make excuses for Rosalee (as promised), saying it was all possibly “too much for her,” and while Elizabeth understands that “everybody grieves in their own way,” she’s also understandably upset about all of this.
Valentine (Neko Parham), the runaway slave Harriet and Rosalee haggled for in the season premiere, is still around, hiding away at the boarding house himself, and he too offers his condolences to Elizabeth. Yes, even someone who just met Elizabeth and John last week is doing a better job to console the former about the latter’s death than Rosalee is. As Elizabeth sits alone at night in the boarding house, just staring at a mirror, Valentine approaches her (in John’s clothes, which Elizabeth gave them to him), trying to help her make sense of it all. Except his tactic is more about how you can’t make sense of any of it: “You know what I realized? Ain’t no sense to this world. There be the bad. There be the good too. Look at me. I’m almost to freedom. Wearing a good man’s suit. Just gotta have a little faith that things will be alright.”
It’s a fine speech, but all Elizabeth takes from it is the decision to take a gun from one of the hidden compartments in the boarding house, right behind that mirror she was staring at. The next day, she finds herself outside the courthouse in an amazing black ensemble, clutching her (of course) black purse that’s holding the gun. John Hawkes’ dried blood is still visible on the steps, and you just know Elizabeth is going to do something stupid. So does Georgia, which is why she shows up to try to stop Elizabeth, but for the first half of Georgia’s attempt, Elizabeth is so out of it she can’t even hear a word her friend is saying. Georgia tries to tell Elizabeth that they can “conquer it all together” — the funeral planning, but really, the grief process — if they just leave together right now, but Elizabeth is having none of it.
“That’s what I loved about [John]: He really believed he could make a difference. He devoted his life to this place and not one goddamn person cares about getting justice for his murder. A good man, the best man, was shot in broad daylight and everybody’s calling it ‘a senseless act.’ It’s just— it’s just an excuse. So nobody has to take responsibility for allowing this world to be senseless.”
She even uses Georgia’s own sewing circle words against her: “You said it. We have to disrupt their happy little lives.” But terrorism isn’t what Georgia meant, and she even admits that this wouldn’t be justice. “It won’t make anything good or fair… You wouldn’t be doing it for John, you’d be doing it for yourself.” Elizabeth tells Georgia to just go and leave her alone, but good friend that she is, she doesn’t, and Elizabeth ends up leaving with her and finally preparing for the funeral.