For better or worse, the call to fight spreads like wildfire
“Soldier” opens with the one Harriet Tubman scene of the episode, as she’s approached by George Stearns, one of Captain John Brown’s “Secret Six.” Apparently word got back to Brown about Harriet’s call to arms during her “Minty” speech, and he has just the idea for the “larger-scale event” (a.k.a. “act of war”) they need — a hit on the weapons arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia. The plan here (and in history) is for Brown and his men to take control of the arsenal, arming slaves to make them “soldiers in the war that’s been waged against them,” and as dangerous as that idea is, Harriet sees how it could be just what the country needs. So she supports it. That’s before she learns that Brown wants her to be part of the raid though. As for her reaction to that, we’ll just have to wait until next season (or a quick look at Wikipedia).
The rest of the episode picks up in the aftermath of Daniel showing up at Georgia’s boarding house, where he tells Georgia, Elizabeth, and company about how his master is planning to sell Daniel’s wife and daughter (while also keeping Daniel’s baby son in the big house, in his bedroom). Elizabeth is of course gung ho about saving Daniel’s family, which means Georgia has to be on the opposite side of the argument; thankfully, she does want to help (she suggests they buy his family), but she doesn’t see why they’re going through all their trouble for just one family. But as Noah points out, “If we ain’t doing this for a good man and his family, then who the hell are we doing it for?” Yes, it’ll be hard, since they don’t know this plantation or gun situation the way they did at Macon, but Elizabeth suggests they simply prey on the fear that this master and others have of John Brown, starting the slave revolt they’re so deeply terrified of — and that settles that.
Meanwhile, Cato is speechifying about “notoriety” and how to “become a legend” with a Patty Cannon proxy. More on that later. “You gotta burn everything that’s useless,” Cato says. “Burn yourself clean. Become one thing and amplify that into the only thing.” In case you’re wondering if this would be the episode that redeems Cato, it isn’t. It actually doubles down on his treachery, from all angles.
As for Ernestine and August, they’re still on their unlikely road trip down South, and they make it to August’s house (which is marked with his wife and slave’s graves). August wonders how everything went so wrong, so you know what Ernestine’s solution is: opiates. Though that at least comes with some strategy, as she waits until August is high as a kite to go running as fast as she possibly can. Unfortunately, she does get slowed down by her own use of the opiates (head swimming with painful memories), and August eventually catches up with her, only for them to stop once they reach the Macon big house. At least, what’s left of it. Ernestine thinks she’s seeing things; if only she could’ve seen her daughter set that evil house on fire. Now that would be a good Mother’s Day present.
Later in the episode, Ernestine spots August with a gun pointed to his head, planning to take his own life. She talks him down from that ledge, even though she doesn’t think he quite deserves it, given all he’s done. But since she herself has technically gotten a second chance, she sees it’s time for him to do the same. “We don’t have to keep feeding the darkest part of ourselves,” she tells him, before walking away with his gun. (Ahem. Cato.)