Catch up on the WGN hit show before it airs.
The first season of Underground opened in 1857 on the Macon Plantation in Georgia. The plantation’s Master, Tom Macon is in the midst of running for Senate while trying to manage his pregnant wife, Suzanna, their large cotton plantation and many slaves. In the twenty years that Tom has been the Master of the plantation, he hasn't had a single runway.
We are quickly introduced to Noah, one of Macon’s slaves whose been plotting for a way out. Right away we learn just how brilliant and clever Noah is. He is able to manipulate Tom into thinking he’d gotten lost when he was really paving the route for his escape. Over the course of the first couple of episodes of Underground, Noah recruits several people to run with him. In the midst of his plotting and planning, he encounters Rosalee.
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A young enslaved woman who works inside the Macon home with her Mama, Ernestine, Rosalee seems meek and quiet. She’s also a favorite of Master Tom. Rosalee’s brother James is around six and stays inside the Big House as well, a companion of the Macon’s young son, T.R. Her older brother Sam is a skilled blacksmith on the plantation. Immediately we pick up on the obvious tension between Ernestine and Mistress Suzanna, and we soon discover that Rosalee and James are also Tom’s children.
Another man of note is Cato, the Macon Plantation’s Black driver. He’s menacing AF; basically your typical Uncle Tom. Spying on Noah, he soon realizes what he’s plotting, and he blackmails Noah into letting him in on the escape. Along with Cato, Noah recruits the preacher Moses, his wife, Pearly Mae (who can read), their young daughter Boo, Rosalee’s brother Sam, a young slave named Henry and a large, strapping slave named Zeke.
In the midst of the daily occurrences on the Macon Plantation, we also meet Tom Macon’s Northern brother, John Hawkes. Though he’s pro-abolition, he’s wary about offering his home, which lies along the Ohio River, as a station on the Underground Railroad. We also meet his wife, Elizabeth whose desperation to have children seem to be driving her mad. When the pair arrives down South to the Macon plantation in celebration of Tom’s daughter’s birthday, the horrors that they witness compel them to take real action.
After meeting Noah, Rosalee who had previously been fairly ignorant to the horrors of her own life has an awakening of sorts. An overseer whips her after she defends her little brother, and she narrowly escapes the clutches of Tom’s disgusting friends who are visiting for his Senatorial race announcement. Though she’s terrified of the consequences, she decides to run with Noah.
As we all know, even the grandest plans don’t always play out as you'd expect; especially during this era. Despite Noah’s careful planning, which includes a stolen gun, a stolen seal, crafting tools to get across the bridge and forging free papers, Rosalee is accosted one evening by Bill, a drunken overseer. He tries to rape her, and she slashes his throat with a bottle in defense. Horrified, she stumbles out of the man’s cabin to Noah. They decide then and there that their only recourse is to run immediately. In doing so, they leave Boo, Pearly Mae, Sam, Cato, Henry, Zeke, and Moses behind.
The next day the plantation is all-abuzz, Bill is hanging on for dear life (unfortunately) and Noah and Rosalee are missing. We think this might be the end of the grand escape plan, but in the final hour, Cato sets the cotton fields ablaze giving the men, now known as the Macon 7 time to run. Unfortunately, Sam and Pearly Mae don’t make it out with the others who eventually catch up with Rosalee and Noah. Noah, Rosalee, Cato, Boo, Moses, Zeke and Henry form the legendary Macon 7.
August Pullman is also a major player at this point in the series. Initially, we aren’t quite sure who he is, but slowly, he reveals himself to be a poor slave catcher with an insane wife and a young son Ben. Once the Macon 7 escapes, he wins the commission from Tom to bring them back. He’s desperate for the $1,000 reward. Desperate men do desperate things.
Across the ten episodes of in the first season, we slide back and forth between the Macon Plantation, the Macon 7 as they journey North, and John and Elizabeth Hawkes home in Ohio. As the Macon 7 journey the six hundred miles to freedom we lose many of them. Slave catchers kill Henry, Zeke, and Moses, even though Moses is able to get Boo to safety once they are separated from the rest of the crew. We also learn that Cato is much more ruthless than we could have ever imagined. Throughout it all, by poisoning dogs, shooting slave catchers, and getting the help of Native peoples, Rosalee proves to everyone and herself that she’s not just a house girl.
Back at the Macon Plantation, Ernestine continues to panic about the safety of her children. In retaliation for Rosalee’s escape, Tom sends James to work in the fields. Learning that Mistress Suzanna is attempting to bribe Pearly Mae for information about the Macon 7, Ernestine poisons Pearly Mae; slitting her wrist to make it appear like a suicide. She slowly loses her grip on reality and on Tom Macon, who she once had wrapped around her finger.
In Ohio, despite a disastrous encounter with escaped slaves that leaves them vulnerable, particularly to Sheriff Kyle, Elizabeth’s ex-finance, the Hawkes have doubled down on the plan to aid the cause. Boo’s arrival to their home makes things even more chaotic for them, but Elizabeth who is unable to have children, clings to the sweet child.
Ernestine’s hold on Tom Macon further loosens when Reverend Willowset comes to visit the Macon Plantation. Tom wants the Reverend’s endorsement for Senate, but the diabolical man is busy witnessing the intimate relationship he shares with Ernestine. Once Sam, who constantly feels forgotten makes the ill-fated decision to run away, Tom makes an example out of him. He hangs Ernestine’s eldest child from the big house balcony, making a statement to his slaves and securing his senatorial nomination. Ernestine is thrown into the tortuous box as punishment for her children’s insolence.
Still journeying North after being separated from the rest of the pack; Cato, Rosalee and Noah press forward. Eventually, Cato and Rosalee find themselves working together because an infected bullet wound has made Noah delusional. Cato has taunted and harassed Rosalee since the beginning of their journey, but because of her quick thinking and crafty ways, he’s slowly become smitten with her.
Unfortunately, Cato and Rosalee stumble into the wrong home pretending to be a free black couple, and though Cato narrowly escapes, a slave catcher named Jeremiah and his men capture Rosalee. It’s now up to Cato and Noah to work together to rescue her. Jeremiah and his men have teamed up with August and his son Ben, who are all hoping to split the bounty of the Macon 7. They hold Rosalee at a slaughterhouse. She may seem helpless at first, but Miss Rosalee has learned a lot in her journey North, and she isn’t out for the count just yet.
Over the river in Ohio, Boo and Elizabeth have bonded, but when Sheriff Kyle discovers the small child, he propositions Elizabeth for his silence. Disturbed, Elizabeth gives in, but when Kyle comes calling again, sexually assaulting her, Lady Hawkes ain’t having it. She smacks him over the head with a candlestick knocking him clean out. BLOOP!
In the slaughterhouse, Rosalee sees her way to escape through Ben, who seems innocent enough despite what is happening around him. They have a heart to heart, where Rosalee tries to get Ben to understand she’s a human being just like him. All the while, Rosalee is working her magic. In the dress she threw into the fire upon arriving, she’s left the hallucinatory plant devil’s snare, and everyone in the slaughterhouse begins to feel the effects. Noah and Cato finally arrive to try and aid her, but not before we learn more about Cato. He had a wife and a child who were sold away from him, hardening his heart. Apparently, he wasn’t always the cruel man he is now. Noah sneaks into the slaughterhouse helping Rosalee in her escape, but not before she accidentally stabs Ben in the chest. (Poor Ben, it’s not his fault his daddy is trash.)
After much chaos, Cato, Noah, and Rosalee are on the move towards the Ohio River, but just before they reach the riverbank, Cato finds himself caught in a rope trap. Though Noah tries to cut him loose, he’s unable, and he and Rosalee press forward leaving Cato to be captured. They arrive sometime later at the Hawkes’ residence where John, Elizabeth, and Boo greet them.
A lot when down during the season finale of Underground last year. In the final episode entitled, “The White Whale,” some loose ends were tied up while other questions arose. Back at the Macon Plantation a despondent Ernestine cares for the Macon’s newborn son who has been named, Sam if you can believe it. (Seriously how FREAKING HORRIBLE). The devil that is Master Tom approaches her to “apologize” for hanging her child, he tries to reach under her skirt promising that they can “run away together.” He is clearly a psychopath. Thankfully, Auntie Ernestine has something for him.
In Ohio, Rosalee and Noah are relaxing from their treacherous journey. They finally consummate their relationship YASSSS, but their exuberance is quickly forgotten when they realize that being free doesn’t really mean anything when others are still in chains. Meanwhile, Sherriff Kyle is bound and gagged under the Hawkes’ floorboards. Um… why didn’t they just kill him dead?
August is still on Rosalee and Noah’s trail. He’s killed Jeremiah to seek out the bounty himself. He is FURIOUS about Ben’s injury, and he’s desperate to get his son the money he needs for surgery. He arrives in Ohio and because he knows John and Tom are brothers, he stops at the Hawkes to try and ask for an advance for capturing Rose and Noah. Immediately, he realizes something isn’t quite right.
Rosalee and Boo are under the floorboards with Sheriff Kyle when August arrives on the scene. Meanwhile, Noah and Elizabeth have come up with a plan to hijack the sheriff’s station, freeing the jailed runaways and throwing the slave catchers off the Macon 7’s scent. (It’s low-key a real messed up plan.) Back at the Hawkes residence, August weasels his way underneath the house to discover Kyle, Boo, and Rosealee only to be thwarted by John, which allows Boo and Rosalee to escape.
Having carried out his plan at the sheriff’s office, Noah is headed back to the Hawkes’ home when he encounters a runaway who has been captured. When he tries to intervene, Noah finds himself in the grip of the now dead Jeremiah’s boss, Patty Cannon. A slave catcher who wants her Macon 7 money, Patty bargains with Noah to tell her about the abolitionists he’s working with. Noah is smart AF obviously, so he names Sheriff Kyle. As it turns out, Elizabeth has planted abolition documents in Kyle's desk at the sheriff’s station. It works out because, underneath the floorboards of the Hawkes’ residences, John has killed Kyle. By the way, despite the “bargain,” Patty isn’t letting Noah go anywhere. (But I didn't have to tell you that.)
Elizabeth, Boo, and Rosalee try to escape the town in a wagon, but August being the undying bastard that he is, catches up with them. Rosalee jumps out giving Elizabeth some space to get Boo to safety. When August and Rosalee go head to head, we learn that Ben will never walk again and August tries to blame Rosalee. Miss Rosalee says, NO SIR! She tells August he is the sole person responsible for his son’s current condition, and quite frankly I can’t find the lie. Both August and Rosalee draw their weapons, but August soon realizes he’s outnumbered, Elizabeth never left. For a second it looks like August may get the better of the women, but Rosalee shoots him in the end.
Back on the Macon Plantation, Ms. Ernestine puts her plan into action. She and the Macon’s butler conspire together and string Tom up just like he did Sam. (She ain't sorry!) Ernestine realizes she was wrong to think her children were safe in a system of slavery. Unfortunately, Tom’s death means that Suzanna now has the reigns of the Macon Plantation and she has something for Ernestine. Delighted to keep James in the big house by her side (she always was a jealous heifer) Suzanna quickly puts Ernestine up for auction. Everything is horrific.
Sometime in the future, we see Rosalee and Boo in a free territory. Rosalee is speaking to abolitionist William Still who is asking her about the plight of the Macon 7. We soon learn that Cato is still alive, wounded but moving forward to freedom. Noah is jailed somewhere, and apparently August has lived to see another day. (SMH.) Rosalee tells Still that she’s going back to join the abolitionist movement.
As the final episode of season one comes to a close, a covered wagon is pulled back revealing Rosalee. She is helped out by a woman who says, ““Heard you lookin’ to steal slaves. I aim to teach you how.” The woman introduces herself as Harriet. YESSSS THAT HARRIET!
So, are you ready for season two yet? With everything that went down during the first season, we are sure this will be an unforgettable journey.
The second season of Underground premieres Wednesday, March 8 at 10PM on WGN America.