Tennessee is a damage. From one finish of the state to the following, or no less than so it appears on this episode of (*5*) (“Chapter 5: Tennessee: Exodus”), Aaron Ridgeway’s house turf has been set on fireplace and left a burning discipline of ash. This was no act of God, no lightning strike, no less than not based on the true story he ultimately provides. No, that is an act of silly homesteaders, clearing the forest by destroying it fully. The drive to despoil the pure world is one other case of the human rapaciousness that’s this present’s actual antagonist.
It’s an odd assortment of characters choosing its method by the wasteland. There’s Ridgeway, who, it’s now clear, is Joel Edgerton doing a Peter Mullan impression. There’s his assistant Homer, whom Ridgeway tells Cora he purchased on a whim after which freed as a result of he’s by no means truly had any want to personal slaves, just for the child to stay round of his personal free will. There’s Cora, who takes any probability she will be able to to aim escape, even when it means merely working for a pair hundred yards till her captors meet up with her, even when it means drowning in a river somewhat than succumbing to no matter grisly destiny her outdated grasp has in retailer for her. (We study that her good friend Lovey was hanged to dying from an iron spike in her ribcage over the course of two full days.) There’s Jasper (a haunting Calvin Leon Smith), one other captive runaway, who refuses to eat or do a lot of something besides half-heartedly sing hymns. “I’m free,” he explains to Cora when she lastly convinces him to truly speak to her. And there’s Boseman (Kraig Dane), Ridgeway’s companion, who tries to rape Cora however lastly meets his premature finish when he mocks Ridgeway’s failure to commune with the Great Spirit; Ridgeway shoots the man to dying with out considering twice. He kills a thief galloping by with a bag stuffed with meals with the same lack of compunction.
What we ultimately glean is that somewhat than taking Cora and Jasper again to the plantations from which they escaped, Ridgeway is on a quest of types to return to his household house and confront his father, even when it means their celebration will starve to dying on the best way. That is certainly what occurs to Jasper, who lastly succumbs to his refusal to eat. Furious with Cora for her try to drown herself in a close-by river throughout an escape try, Ridgeway punishes her by chaining her to Jasper’s corpse. Her wailing, barely intelligible pleas for mercy and launch—mocked and laughed at by Ridgeway—make for a few of the present’s most insufferable moments so far.
Throughout all of it, Barry Jenkins’s digicam makes gradual pilgrimages from one finish of a given scene to the following, prefer it too has been enlisted in Ridgeway’s grim procession. The ruined vistas it captures are gorgeous in their very own bleak method. The digicam additionally captures some characters wanting immediately at us, like Cora when she speaks aloud to her absent mom and Lovey and Caesar, or Ridgeway Senior when he glares at (presumably) his detestable son within the imaginative and prescient Cora conjures of their eventual pointless reunion. It is difficult to fulfill their gaze.
Each state we’ve crossed in The Underground Railroad‘s journey has been its own unique form of hell. There’s the standard slave state of Georgia, the fake paradise hiding a darkish secret in South Carolina, the fundamentalist genocide of North Carolina, and now Tennessee’s forests of fireside. This no man’s land is the right setting for this episode’s existentialist parable about what it means to reside or to die, to be a captive or to be free. None of the solutions do Cora any good in any respect.