The Great Spirit
Episode 4 of The Underground Railroad shifts perspective to see Ridgeway growing up. He pays his respects to his Mother, with an extreme close-up shot amplifying the tension.
Ridgeway doubts his ability to find courage and heads back to the house. He speaks to his Father, Ridgeway Senior, about faith and how he’s lost his. “All things in due time,” His father encourages.
The lost boy is a blacksmith’s son, as it turns out, and Ridgeway senior oversees his son making chains. He struggles with the process and eventually walks away. Hs Father struggles to connect, eventually deciding against speaking to his son while he’s in his room.
The next day, Ridgeway heads out into the woods where he finds a young black boy called Mack. He’s having trouble starting a fire in the well. Ridgeway encourages Mack to keep the flame alive and to nurture it. In order to do that, he needs to follow the flame down to the bottom of the well.
Mack trusts Ridgeway and heads down the well, breaking his leg in the process. Ridgeway however, is caught in two minds over what to do. Eventually he helps the boy out.
Back at the blacksmith’s, Ridgeway Senior confirms that the Great Spirit flows through him and he’ll be good as new soon. He tells his son to head back to the house, while he himself arrives at his wife’s gravestone. Senior worries that his son has an unbridled rage flowing through him and he doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to control it.
Well, Ridgeway buys a new suit on his Father’s credit and heads up to a tavern. There, he hears a number of hunters talking about their next target. Ridgeway joins them and gives the group some guidance over where to find the black people they’re hunting. At the head of this group is Chandler, who chuckles and agrees to let Ridgeway lead them through the forest.
The Great Spirit indeed; Chandler finds the slaves out in the woods. He beats the man down with a stick and turns his attention to the babe. He hands it over to Chandler, who intends to sell both the child and father on. For his part in all this, Ridgeway is rewarded in coin.
With his newly acquired money, Ridgeway heads back to the store and pays off his debts. His attitude changes after all this, questioning the Great Spirit and how those who run away should be chained up like dogs. His Father is horrified by this new, changed demeanor and eventually the pair fall out over their changed ideas.
Day turns to night and Ridgeway heads up to see his Father. He tries to give his Dad a new coat but he refuses to accept it. He knows where this money is coming from and narrows his gaze toward his son, “Two coats. That’s a mighty fine thing,” He says coldly. Ridgeway eventually parts way with his Father, walking away.
The Episode Review
With a changed perspective, The Underground Railroad shifts perspective to Arnold Ridgeway as we see his journey to becoming a bounty hunter while growing up. The whole idea surrounding this Great Spirit and how it can be interpreted several different ways is a great allegory for religion in itself.
Although the slowest chapter so far, seeing more background around Ridgeway and how he became a hunter is certainly interesting and helps to give some context to what’s driven him to this line of work.
Beyond that, there’s not a whole lot else going on but the episode is no less engaging and enthralling. The ending certainly shows a parting of the ways between these two characters, and it also explains why Ridgeway is such a good tracker.
After three episodes of nail-biting tension, this chapter serves as a welcome detour and a good source of background for our illusive bounty hunter.