Well, that was a reduction.
Clocking in at simply over 16 minutes, not counting the closing credit—that’s barely longer than an installment of, like, Teen Titans Go! or Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!—The Underground Railroad Episode 7 rockets proper by, taking us from tragedy to triumph in file time. Titled “Chapter 7: Fanny Briggs” after its foremost character, whom we’ve already met underneath one other identify, it’s a uncommon second of elation on this relentlessly, appropriately grim sequence.
The large information from a plot perspective, and from a not-getting-your-heart-ripped-out-of-your-chest-as-a-viewer perspective, is that Grace, Cora’s companion in that crawlspace in genocidal North Carolina, survived that home fireplace! We catch again up with the goings on in that horrible city as the hearth began by the vengeful Irish maid Fiona begins spreading to neighboring homes, till an all-out conflagration is at hand. As the terrible townsfolk rush to kind an abortive and pointless bucket brigade to extinguish the flames, and as a handful of males pull Fiona apart to kick and beat her, Grace escapes from the crawlspace and sneaks out of the again of the house the place she was hidden.
Her first cease is the doorway to the Underground Railroad, the place she finds the useless physique of Martin, the person who each trapped her and stored her hidden and secure. She extends a hand tenderly to his head, as if accepting the kindness he did her and forgiving the wrongs. It could also be greater than he deserves, however hey, her identify is Grace in any case.
Or is it! After selecting her means via the particles (very similar to the slave-hunting sidekick Homer did) and encountering a swarm of chittering fireflies, she finds the rear automotive of an Underground Railroad prepare, richly appointed. “We’ve been waiting on you,” the feminine conductor tells the child earlier than taking down her testimony, as is the regulation on the Railroad. After first providing her identify as Grace, she then says she has one other identify, “a name my mama gave me…Fanny Briggs.” It’s a rebirth from the ashes.
And it doesn’t come with out some recrimination for the circumstances that trapped her in that crawlspace all that point. When Fanny tells the conductor that Martin ran the Railroad in North Carolina, the lady responds “Yeah, we closed that station.”
“Yeah,” Fanny replies with reducing candor. “Y’all did.”
But what’s previous is previous. Fanny now needs to journey “wherever it is Cora went to”—it’s not a reputation that the conductor acknowledges, whereas she appeared to have been anticipating Grace/Fanny’s arrival, and Fanny affords no additional particulars. The conductor doesn’t thoughts, saying she will let her know each time she’s prepared. She additionally tells Fanny to not fear about leaving the station’s registry ebook behind. “It’s just ink and paper,” she says, earlier than pointing to her coronary heart: “Our stories always gonna be right here.”
As she walks off, leaving Fanny to put in writing within the prepare’s testimony ebook, she affords a parting evaluation: “I like the cut of your jib, Fanny Briggs.” So say all of us.
“Fanny Briggs,” it ought to be mentioned, isn’t with out its horrors. In one lengthy shot that it appears director Barry Jenkins pulled out of a nightmare about darkish forests and the terrors that lurk inside them, we slowly observe in on Ethel, Martin’s spouse, hanged from a tree by her wrists and left for useless. She seems to be murmuring prayers and affirmations to God—”I see the enjoyment” is one phrase I used to be capable of make out of her muttering, due to the closed captions—for all the great that may do her.
But that is simply the present preserving issues sincere. It’s by no means actually potential to shake the gruesomeness of the inhumane system that has made the Railroad a necessity. But it is potential to flee from the evil, and Fanny appears to be dwelling proof of that risk. Bon voyage, child.
Sean T. Collins ((*7*)) writes about TV for Rolling Stone, Vulture, The New York Times, and anyplace that will have him, actually. He and his household dwell on Long Island.