And a little child shall lead them. It’s a passage from the Bible and undoubtedly the theme of the most powerful installment of Underground to date.
Titled “Cradle,” Wednesday’s episode showed slavery through the eyes of children. James (Maceo Smedley) was forced to leave the comforts of the big house and work in the cotton fields; Boo (Darielle Stewart) became an orphan on the run; dimpled cutie Henry (Renwick D. Scott II) learned the ways of the Underground Railroad; Ben (Brady Permenter) questioned whether or not his slave catching father is good or bad; and TR (Toby Nichols) quickly found out what it means to be a slave owner’s son.
Of course the most heartbreaking scenes – aside from Henry’s martyrdom and Boo losing her father – were those involving James. There was no shortage of viewers’ tears when he picked cotton until his little cherubic hands bled or when his big brother Sam (Johnny Ray Gill) took the lashes for him when James’ yield came up short. So what did James do? He figured out a way to add dirt to his bag so that he could meet his quota and avoid the whip and Twitter ate it up.
This baby is smart! Putting dirt in his bag! #UndergroundWGN— Idreamnsweaters (@idreamnsweaters) April 21, 2016
James’ swift ascension into adulthood also made a lot viewers juxtapose his existence as a slave with that of modern-day Black children who are too often viewed and treated as being older and guiltier than they are.
This poor baby. Our kids don’t get to be kids for long. #UndergroundWGN— Father Of Draggins (@rodimusprime) April 21, 2016
The disparity between TR and his friend/half brother James was also brought home with Necco Wafers and two very different versions of George Gershwin’s “Summertime.” TR got to be a child and James did not and that’s one of the reasons he didn’t want TR’s candy.
Amazing writing and amazing acting. Bravo, children. Bravo. What did you think of the latest Underground and are you still reaching for the tissue? Weigh in below. Underground airs Wednesdays at 10 pm ET on WGN.