Wednesday night’s episode of WGN’s Underground focused on finding the right moment to run. Episode 3, “The Lord’s Day,” opens with Moses (Mykelti Williamson) holding Sunday service and preaching to his fellow field slaves by the side of a stream while the white people and the house slaves attend church.
The only two who don’t seem to want to be bothered with any of God’s day are Noah (Aldis Hodge) and Henry (Renwick Scott), because they’re too busy figuring out the perfect day to escape. Noah decides that on the sixth day, when everyone else is resting for their Sabbath, they’re going to escape.
But with any plan, there are always going to be bumps in the road. What Noah and Sam (Johnny Ray Gill) discover is that there’s a bridge that may stand in their way, so the two devise a system using a harness to get each slave across the underside of the bridge.
And then there’s the issue with the forged papers made by Moses’ wife, Pearly Mae, for each of the slaves who plan to escape. Without a master’s seal, there’s no way the papers can pass as real freedom papers. But how will they get into the big house to get the master’s seal? There’s only one person Sam and Noah trust enough to steal the master’s seal, and that’s Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), who is still on the fence about running away. But she knows the only way for the others to really be free, once they leave, is to have the seal on their papers, so she decides to help.
For most plantation owners, keeping a black family together wasn't important. And that’s also seen in this episode. Last week, Seraphina (Devyn A. Tyler), a slave, couldn’t take the fact that her newborn baby was born into slavery, so she drowned the baby. The plantation owners, Tom Macon (Reed Diamond) and his wife, Suzanna, see Seraphina as a liability and decide to sell her—not even thinking about her husband, Zeke (Theodus Crane).
On the day that Seraphina is being taken off the plantation, Zeke, who is about 6 feet 5 inches and 300 pounds, rushes the carriage carrying Seraphina and other slaves. Before being subdued by a slaver, Zeke manages to break the carriage and punch a white man in the face. For this, Zeke pays a heavy price and is thrown into a box in the middle of the field. Cato (Alano Miller), the black overseer who is shady as hell and always in Noah’s face, even though he’s decided to also escape the plantation, tells Zeke that he’s the only one who can get him out of the box—but only with him on his side during their escape—in his attempt to turn Zeke away from Noah.
So back to Rosalee getting some courage.
She manages to spend enough time in the plantation owner’s office and finds the seal. But, of course, she doesn’t actually complete her mission. She doesn’t have enough time to return the seal, and the master realizes that his seal is gone. He punishes all of the slaves by making them stand in the heat while holding a beam until someone ’fesses up. Rosalee’s mother, Ernestine (Amirah Vann), figures out her daughter took the seal, and Rosalee eventually shows her that she dropped it into a batch of boiling molasses.
Ernestine, who also has a sexual relationship with the plantation owner, is able to bribe his young son, who’s also her own little boy’s friend, to say he took the seal.
Rosalee then realizes that she’s not brave enough to run.
As she’s sulking about not being able to properly steal the seal, she walks by the overseer’s house. He’s on the porch, drunk as a skunk. He tries to get Rosalee to feel sorry for him as he tells the story of his dead wife, and for a moment, she does. She even offers to make a gift for him. But his intentions are elsewhere. And you realize that, once Rosalee declines his “advances.” He pulls her into the house, and although the camera shot is still on the exterior of the house, you can hear the fighting and commotion. A female slave walks by, looks and keeps on walking. She knows what’s going on.
Then along comes Noah. As he walks by the overseer’s house, his attention is grabbed by the sound of Rosalee screaming. Rosalee runs out of the house. And now she wants to run and escape. Because she’s just killed the overseer.
And they run.
The abolitionist couple—John Hawkes (Marc Blucas), who is also the plantation owner’s brother, and Mary Hawkes (Jessica De Gouw)—are still getting their abolitionist feet wet and are now spying on government officials to help the cause. They need to learn where the slave catchers and constables are posted. They also take in their first runaway, but he’s not exactly what they were expecting. The slave, played by Jussie Smollett, has vengeance on his mind and is holding Hawkes at knifepoint.
The episode ends with Noah and Rosalee hiding underneath a carriage. And it seems as though they’ve thrown away all of the plans they worked so hard on. Those other slaves who were escaping? Left behind, I suppose?