Cato's freedom dream becomes Noah's waking nightmare
Something’s truly brewing on Underground. They’re on the precipice of true war, and this week’s episode finally puts things into that particular perspective. It all begins with Daniel, who’s asked by a fellow slave named Bo to read a seemingly important letter that was sent to their master. And it is important, as it kicks off just where we’re at in history and how much worse things are going to get before they get better: The letter is all about how “Kansas is bleeding,” with a fellow slaver suggesting that this master sell his slaves off down South to avoid a potential (or eventual) attack from John Brown and his men. It’s also here where one of the lessons of the episode is brought up, as Bo wants Daniel to teach him to read, not caring about the risk of getting caught. But to Daniel, that’s not what he should worry about: “Ain’t about the risk. Reading is a curse. All the words — they gave voice to feelings I never told nobody, not even my Bette. And I’m crushing under the weight of the knowledge. It opens up the world to you and shows you how small the one they got us chained to is.”
(Much later in the episode, Noah finds himself crushed by his own inability to have certain words at his disposal, but considering the way he beats himself up, Daniel is probably right that the weight of the alternative would kill him.)
As for the rest of the episode moving forward, after the absolute hell Rosalee endured in last week’s episode, she gets to take a break here. She made it to the tunnels, where Elizabeth and Georgia were able to find her, bring her home, and sedate her. The woman earned the rest. The sewing circle is planning an anti-slavery rally, hoping to sway citizens from voting for a pro-slavery legislator — especially since some of John Brown’s men will be in town for the rally and election, and if the vote doesn’t go their way, they’re not going to accept it peacefully. We also learn that Georgia surprisingly doesn’t fancy herself a public speaker and won’t be giving a speech at the rally, which Elizabeth is right to call out as being ridiculous; as we’ve constantly seen this season, Georgia’s quite the motivational speaker, and if not for her, Elizabeth probably would’ve assassinated someone in the aftermath of her husband’s death. Instead, we’ll just leave the assassinations to the Free-Staters, who Georgia warns Elizabeth are more men of action than men of words.
Take, for example, Lucas (Lane Miller), the leader of the Free-Staters who arrive at the boarding house. He and Georgia have quite the friendly debate, but it’s pretty clear they see things differently. To Lucas, the Free-Staters are merely speaking the language of the slaveholders with their violent acts: “Those who uphold the institution of slavery deal in brutality. Action is all that they understand.” And while Georgia argues that “we live in a peaceful society,” Lucas points out that “they” (slaveholders and their allies) unfortunately do not. Elizabeth eventually speaks up about how the wife and kids of the men fighting are the biggest victims, as their husbands and fathers and sons are “condemned” to slaughter. Hot take, but Lucas hits her with an even hotter take, specifically about how “the black ones are already condemned.”
Later, one on one, Elizabeth tries to figure out what makes Lucas so passionate about all of this, to try to figure out how his mind ticks, only to be fed an amazingly made-up story. Why would he do such a thing? “Slavery is wrong. I know that. You know that. Your late husband knew it. He was shot in cold blood because of it. Now ain’t that enough reason to take up arms? To end it?” Can’t get more of a convincing argument, and Elizabeth clearly realizes that. It’s the same reason she eventually turns the rally — after Georgia has too much stage fright to read the speech she ended up writing — into a call to action. It’s the same reason she is about to throw a bottle in retaliation after a man throws a rock at her head during her speech (and only doesn’t because Georgia grabs her and takes her back to safety).
It’s easy to say that Elizabeth’s attraction to the Free-Staters’ way of things is a symptom of her grief over John’s brutal murder, but at the same time, this extremism has arguably always been bubbling under the surface for her. While she was obviously proud of John when he told her he was going to become a judge to legally effect change, it was somewhat apparent that she had hoped he was going to go with a more “active” approach to things. What Lucas and the rest of John Brown’s men are doing as Free-Staters — while she may initially talk about how they can only lead to more suffering — is more in line with the action she’s hoped for and buries deep inside. Just like how her initial meeting with the sewing circle had her shocked by the fact that they were engaging in target practice… only to be a crack shot herself. She doesn’t want to admit that she’s this extreme, this angry, but with the way things are going, it was all only a matter of time.