Indiana – Autumn
Episode 8 of The Underground Railroad changes perspectives to an all-black community known as Valentine. This is the utopian American dream, with men and women gathered together to celebrate their new community.
Among those in attendance is Cora, who’s shown the ropes by a girl called Georgina. Well, they gather for supper, where all these tables are lined up in a row with a woman named Gloria Valentina thanking her husband for being able to secure this lot of land for them. As everyone gathers round and join hands, the group say grace and thank god for their luck.
Among those in attendance is Royal, who watches from afar as everything takes place. Mingo shows though and he’s uneasy about the thought of bringing Cora in to their community. Given she’s a wanted fugitive, he’s uneasy about how the white folks will feel about this.
Royal scoffs at the notion though; he doesn’t want to cut some white businessmen into what’s going on at Valentine. For now, Cora is allowed to stay.
Cora has had quite the ordeal and understandably when two white folks show and point at the vines she’s working in, she thinks they’re pointing at her. She bolts, charging away and believing shes been found.
Royal stops her though, revealing that they keep the wine flowing so Judge Smith stays happy. If there’s ever a case of a slave catcher arriving on the property, Royal and the others have given themselves plenty of time to make plans for an escape. “You’re safe here Cora,” Royal reassures the girl.
Despite being free now, Cora doesn’t feel like the weight on her shoulders has been lifted. All those souls she’s left behind feels like dead weight to her and it’s hard to let go.
On the back of hearing this, Royal leads Cora into an abandoned house and shows her the underground passageway. The pair head down together, with Royal intending to show Cora how deep and how far this Underground Railroad runs.
In fact, he wants Cora to be a bigger part of this, given she’s seen more of the railroad than most people. Tired of running, Cora turns and heads back up the rope ladder again.
Time passes and Cora gets to work doing manual labour. Royal shows up and apologizes for what transpired between them in the cave. Cora wants nothing to do with him though and tells the man to leave.
Just before he does, Royal confirms that there’s a mission down South and he’ll be heading off soon. He dances around the questions he wants to ask, instead leaving it when Cora eventually tells him to worry about himself instead.
There is indeed a rage hidden in Cora’s being, something that’s obviously a throwback to the opening episode with Terrance and Ridgeway’s retort.
This manifests itself slightly in Cora’s dream, which comes to life in a really impressively written and lavishly produced segment. Within this, Cora embarks on an epic journey through the station, with the recurring idea of telling her story to those in Indiana suggested multiple times.
This seems to be the theme of the entire piece, eventually culminating in Cora dancing with Caesar, asking how long this is going to last. “As long as you need,” He replies.
Eventually Cora awakens to find herself in bed, the charred remains of the map lying next to her in the candle-holder. Cora gets dressed and heads out, where she learns that Royal has left with two men earlier in the morning. The blacksmith there has no idea when he’ll be back.
The Episode Review
The Underground Railroad returns with another thought provoking chapter, one that dives into Cora’s psyche. The idyllic setting of Valentine is world’s apart from what we’ve seen before, and the smart decision to include some similarities from the other places we’ve visited is a nice touch of symbolism.
The jovial music during dinner, for example, is an obvious throwback to what happened with Terrance and Big Anthony.
Meanwhile, the extended dream sequence works well with the production design and helps given an opportunity for past characters like Caesar to come back into the fold. Personally, I feel like this dream sequence could have been cut down a little, but it’s certainly an artistic and well written segment that really dives into Cora’s mindset and how she’s feeling.
Ultimately it’s this confliction that makes this episode so fascinating, but it’s also a pretty slow paced one too. With no word on Fanny, and Ridgeway also noticeably absent from this chapter too, a look ahead sees episode 9 clocks in at 75 minutes long – the largest chapter of this miniseries.
This seems to hint that we’ll be getting a lot of drama to come, leaving the door wide open for what may come next.