From the second Arnold Ridgeway takes out a flask and begins ingesting whiskey from it, he’s in unusual territory. Not actually, under no circumstances—he’s returned to his household residence for one final try at rapprochement along with his dying father, “rapprochement” on this case that means “my dad owes me an apology.” The strangeness is all in his demeanor, which takes a sudden flip for the fearful, the petulant, the anxious and unsure—a far cry from his almost supernatural implacability up till that time. “So Arnold Ridgeway is human after all,” Cora says after discovering out the character of their go to. He’s not a good human, however sure, one thing like that.
This episode of The Underground Railroad (“Chapter Six: Tennessee: Proverbs”) is basically one drawn-out drunk for Ridgeway, who is completely hammered by the point he witnesses his father breathe his final breath. In one notably galling scene, he drags Cora to a close-by saloon—in chains—for a meal and a drink, although in his case “a drink” means “an entire bottle.” He waxes philosophical and patriotic about Manifest Destiny and the American spirit—”The solely ‘Spirit’ value its salt,” he says, in comparison with the Great Spirit that his father borrowed from indigenous spiritual beliefs. The American spirit, he says, is a name to the individuals of the Old World to come back to the New civilize the land, and both “lift up, subjugate, [or] exterminate, eliminate” the opposite peoples they encounter. “The American Imperative,” he calls this final bit. Even a damaged clock tells the suitable time twice a day.
And when Cora asks to alleviate herself, he follows her to the outhouse, and tells her via the door that Caesar was torn to items by an offended mob after his arrest again in South Carolina. Ridgeway mocks the South Carolinians for his or her supposedly enlightened dealing with of race relations, which degenerate proper into North Carolina–fashion violence when push involves shove. Throughout the scene, Cora stifles her personal sobs along with her fingers, making an attempt desperately to not give Ridgeway the satisfaction of listening to her cry for Caesar.
Thuso Mbedu is actually mesmerizing on this function, which requires her to reverse an actor’s regular instincts and actually shrink into herself. Her voice is usually not more than a slurred murmur, her face is perpetually downcast, her eyes dart up and backward and forward as if continually scouting for brand spanking new threats. Seeing her towards Joel Edgerton’s blustery Ridgeway is actually a examine in contrasts.
Hope arrives for Cora within the type of a trio of armed freedmen who come to the Ridgeway residence to rescue her from the mattress the place she lies shackled subsequent to her passed-out captor. (For a second it appeared as if he was going to sexually assault her, however apparently all he actually needed was to sleep subsequent to a different heat physique.) When Cora insists that they return to complete the job and put an finish to Ridgeway as soon as and for all, they’re stopped by Mack (Irone Singleton), now totally grown however nonetheless strolling with the limp he received after leaping right into a effectively at Arnold’s encouragement many years earlier. (An pointless flashback reminds us that this occurred; don’t fear, it was a lot memorable.) Mack, who is aware of in regards to the Underground Railroad, insists that he’ll do the job himself in order that Cora can escape clear.
Of course, the second Mack relents and agrees to share one final glass of whiskey with Ridgeway for outdated time’s sake, what’s going to occur. Neither he nor Cora and her rescuers thought-about the continued presence of Homer, Ridgeway’s right-hand child, who shoots and kills Mack and rescues Ridgeway from confinement. He even shares that final glass of whiskey Mack poured. It’s a pleasant sufficient bit, although its predictability detracts from the general impact. (It’s form of the flipside of that redundant flashback: While the flashback ensured we remembered one thing we already knew, the killing of Mack by Homer counted us on conveniently forgetting.)
Cora winds up on the most luxurious Underground Railroad station we’ve but seen—it’s like one thing out of Grand Central Station—and winds up ingesting wine aboard a elaborate eating automotive as she rockets away. But as she herself stated earlier within the episode, so long as Ridgeway attracts breath, she’ll all the time be working. If there’s one factor we’ve discovered about Ridgeway, it’s that it’s solely a matter of time earlier than the chase will likely be on once more. The most we are able to hope for is that Cora is in higher environment than she has been earlier than when the subsequent confrontation begins.
Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) writes about TV for Rolling Stone, Vulture, The New York Times, and (*6*), actually. He and his household stay on Long Island.