Film & TV

‘Queen Sugar’ Recap: What The Hell Has Gotten Into Nova?

Queen Sugar has returned with a fourth season so ripe with drama its uncertain if the Bordelons will remain the tight-knit family we have grown to love.  Most of the turmoil centers on eldest sister Nova’s decision to write a tell-all memoir that not only reveals her truths but shouts what she calls the “secrets” of her brother, sister, nephews, and auntie; pretty much everybody. 

In her chapter on her sister Charlie, she describes how her decision to pay off her ex-husband’s mistress is a great example of women being complicit with toxic practices of patriarchy. Nova also takes it upon herself to write about her little brother Ralph Angel’s struggle with learning and accepting that Blue is not his biological son.  And in another section she uses her Aunt Vi’s experience with domestic abuse as a way of exploring and challenging the “strong Black woman” stereotype.

As Charlie points out when confronting her sister, it appears that Nova has used the personal struggles of her family as a case study, her blood as research subjects under the intangible, illusory goal that publicizing their personal business will somehow heal them and others.

What is most interesting about this season is the shift in objectivity that marks the show and made it such a rich exploration of relationships between friends, family, and foes.  One of the things I appreciate about Queen Sugar is that whenever there is a conflict between two characters, it is easy for viewers to understand both sides. 

For example, in a previous season, Charlie was upset when her son Micah did not ask her permission before spending the night at his Auntie Nova’s house.  On one hand you can understand Charlie’s feelings considering what she was going through at the time with her very public and very messy divorce; it is natural that she would want to keep her son close. 

You can also see why Nova did not think to ask Charlie as in tight-knit families like theirs asking permission to go be with your aunt is not a common practice. While this example is only a minor conflict this pattern of seeing both sides has been a clear marker of the show.  As such, despite her explanation that she is attempting to heal them of their wounds and in the process deliver others, we still don’t see her side. Viewers are just as confused as her family.

No one understands why Nova would do this. The fact that she waited until two weeks before the book is released shows us that in her heart she knows she is wrong.  

Queen Sugar’s deviation from its clear cut objectivity is interesting but not necessarily problematic.  And after Aunt Vi’s simmering notice to her niece never to “darken her doorstep” nor “put flowers on her grave” we can see that

MJ VanDevere

MJ VanDevere is a doctoral candidate at a predominately white elite institution in the South who uses humor to combat racism, sexism, and all the other –isms that seek to diminish her greatness. She is a self-proclaimed “stand-up snob” who does not have a favorite comedian, so please don't ask unless you have several hours to spare. Some of her favorite movies include, Life, Dead Presidents, and Happy Feet. If, she could only do one thing for the rest of her life, it would definitely be laugh, and maybe write. Adulting is her greatest work in progress.

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