Indiana – Winter
Episode 9 of The Underground Railroad begins with Ridgeway symbolically saying goodbye to his Father, burning his body in the workshop. It’s just the goodbye he needs, before heading off to see Judge Smith. Ridgeway doesn’t have a warrant but the Judge confirms he’ll grant his wish to visit Valentine if he can draw up the proper documents.
We then cut back to Valentine itself, as a whole group of characters arrive in town. They’re being led by Royal, who arrives safe and sound back in our utopia. Cora takes him aside though and the pair discuss what transpired between them. Royal apologizes for leaving without saying goodbye, but now that he’s back it’s just the opportunity Cora needs to open up and tell everyone her story.
Everyone gathers in the church as Cora speaks, revealing the truth about smashing a white man across the face. Mingo suddenly stands up and calls her out for being a fugitive. Royal takes Cora’s side of course, but her fate is to be decided very soon by the townsfolk.
Before that, Royal and Cora grow closer and eventually make love that evening. In the process, Royal whispers that he loves her. It’s a moment of bliss for Cora before she’s plunged back down into the depths of despair. With the vote upcoming, Cora worries that things are going to go wrong. And worse, she still feels like she’s property in Indiana.
Trouble is certainly brewing in town though. An impatient Ridgeway awaits a telegram to confirm his warrant. Hot-headed, he runs into Judge Smith in the streets but he’s stern, reminding Ridgeway that this is a very different world he’s stepped into ands he needs to do things by the book.
His ruckus certainly causes a stir though. At his room, a knock brings several men who claim they can help.
Back in Valentine, a fascinating democratic debate ensues. Brother Mingo stands and reminds them all that white people will not change. He’s against holding runaways and believes that some folk are just “too far gone” to fit in.
By comparison, compassionate John believes a delusion is better than no hope. It’s a fascinating debate of two minds and one that well and truly shows this is a democracy in all its glory.
Just like that though, the doors bust open as Mingo brings Judge Smith and the other officials into the community. Unfortunately, it also brings Ridgeway and Homer. They show up and immediately head for the blacksmith. That rhythmic clanging returns as they set out to find Cora.
The raucous dialogue inside the church eventually turns violent. White men arrive with guns and begin shooting anything that moves. It’s a shocking sight, one that sees Judge Smith questioning just why they’ve done this. “You heard it hisself, a farm full of them? Well, that’s just too many.”
It’s a chilling and cruel statement, one that reconfirms that these men and women were never truly free and now their world has come crashing down around them. Those in Valentine are not ready to give up just yet though. With guns in hand, they head outside and begin fighting back.
It’s absolute anarchy as a haunting score picks up. Royal is shot in the back, while Ridgeway seizes his opportunity to grab Cora and take her away. He demands she take him to the railroad, and forces her to descend the ladder.
Cora remembers the words Ridgeway told her way back in episode 1. The passing comment about anger comes raging back, as she grabs Ridgeway and flings him down to his doom. Cora lets go too and she lands on top of Ridgeway, stifling her fall and crushing his bones.
Limping, Cora grabs a rock and looks set to cast judgment on Ridgeway. She can’t do it though, and eventually leaves while Homer tends to the hunter, sobbing. It’s a momentary respite though, as Cora returns with a gun and shoots Ridgeway; the echoed memory of Caesar imprinted in her mind’s eye. It’s a symbolic moment, one that shows the balance of power shifting just like Royal told her last episode.
The Episode Review
The penultimate episode to The Underground Railroad delivers a shocking, moving and emotionally stirring chapter that finally sees Valentine come crashing down. Ir’s a shame really, this utopia had a lot of really interesting ideas and a part of me would have liked to have seen this democratic vote unfold to see which way the townsfolk would have been swayed.
The idea of gathering them all in the church for what’s essentially a politician’s debate is an ingenious move but eventually this becomes their undoing when the businessmen realize they’re not the ones in control.
Control. That is ultimately the key word here and while the other episodes have tackled freedom, slavery, fear and hope, this episode changes that focus to a different idea entirely. It’s something that was echoed within the previous chapter, with Royal teaching Cora how to use a gun.
Here though it’s given a completely different dimension and reflects the balance of power shifting between the two communities. All of this eventually culminates in Cora obtaining power through her gun before shooting Ridgeway dead. It’s such a symbolic moment for her and one that finally confirms she’s on the run again.
Quite how the finale will play out though remains to be seen but this episode certainly leaves the door open for that.