The Underground Railroad is a love story.
Yet while that includes the survival-driven romance between the enslaved heroine Cora and Caesar (the tall, handsome man who asks her to run away with him), their love is secondary. Instead, the biggest love story is about Cora loving herself. And that’s the journey that Oscar-winning Barry Jenkins’ limited series takes viewers, starting with the first of 10 episodes airing this Friday on Amazon Prime.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book of the same name by Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad imaginatively and elaborately turns a world where real and diverse underground trains allow enslaved Blacks to escape north and free themselves. They just have to get there first.
This is of course not an easy task for Cora, who is so overwhelmed by the grief of her mother who runs away without her that she first tells Caesar. non when he proposes an escape plan. But life on the Georgia plantation where they are forced to live and work escalates when a motherly instinctive Cora attempts to protect a young boy named Chester from one of Master Terrance Randall’s wrath. (Chester had accidentally hit Terrance’s arm, causing the wine in the white master’s glass to stain his sleeve.)
Enraged, Terrance started hitting Chester with his cane until Cora intervened – then he beat her too. And both were flogged for their perceived insolence the next day. But still, Cora didn’t want to run. That changed when the slavecatchers foiled Big Anthony’s escape attempt and captured him. Upon his return, Terrance punished Big Anthony by burning him alive as a form of entertainment for him and his guests… and as a warning to the watchful slave. Before Big Anthony’s inhuman torture, Terrance physically “inspected” Cora, letting her know that he would likely end up raping her because she was his property.
It was then that Cora’s love for herself eclipsed everything else. She didn’t get very excited. Cora grabbed a hatchet, a bag of food, and dug up the okra seeds her mother and grandmother had left her, and she and Caesar fled. In the middle of the escape, Cora’s best friend Lovey caught up with them and said she was running away. with them, whether they like it or not. And then there were three.
But Lovey continued to hum and make noise, and a gang of white pig hunters attacked. Cora hit the young boy who grabbed her and Caesar defeated the man who grabbed her, but Lovey wasn’t so lucky. Two of the men grabbed Lovey and took her away, and Caesar and a heartbroken Cora had to keep running without Lovey.
They waded cautiously through a murky green swamp, past deadly snakes, and ran across an open field holding hands when they got to Mr. Fletcher’s house. (He’s the friendly Northern Registry who had a tube station right below his tobacco kiln.) Before they left, Mr. Fletcher warned them that authorities were particularly anxious to capture them because the white boy Cora struck in self-defense was dying. of his injuries.
As they descended the ladder to the tracks below, Mr. Fletcher demanded Caesar’s story as payment for their escape, and Cora was so thrilled with the actual existence of the train that she almost got get crushed. But Caesar put her to safety and they got into the wooden wagon together.
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