WGN America’s Underground, Binge-worthy and Still Needed

Before you say it, Yes!, I know Underground has been cancelled for two years now BUT in my defense I didn’t have this blog two years ago.

More importantly, this show was fire and the need for it in it’s absence has not subsided.

So yeah I’m two years late to the “Fight to Get Underground Back” party but I’m still not letting it go without joining the fight because we’ll always need shows and movies like Underground.

So lets start with a brief summary:

Underground was created by Misha Green and Joe Pokaski and aired from 2016 to 2017 on WGN America. The breakthrough series centered on the lives and experiences of runaway slaves and abolitionists in the 1850s and starred actors such as Aldis Hodge and Jurnee Smollett.

Now here’s why we still need Underground. An argument I present to you without any spoilers:

Underground was educational

People like to be entertained rather than educated but shows like Underground do a great job of both. Among the action, drama, and edge of your seat moments of anticipation, Underground included various historical facts. Some examples include the Gullah community and indigo production, methods used for reaching freedom, and the stories and guest appearances of well known heroes such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.

A photo of Harriet Tubman played by Aisha Hinds and Rosalee played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell.

Underground broke stereotypes

Hesitation or full on rejection seems to have become the common response to films and shows that depict slavery. But why? If it is our representation as weak, beaten, or passive then Underground was the direct response and opposition to that narrative.

In this series we saw any and every thing but passivity. We saw men and women who rebelled in their own ways, running toward and claiming freedom by any means necessary.

We also saw women’s stories in particular depicted on screen as dignified and graceful gun toting women were a major characteristic of the show’s story line.

Jasika Nicole as Georgia photographed with other female characters in a scene where abolitionist women of the 1850s practiced gun skills.

The fact that this story was told in the series format as opposed to the usual feature-length film format also gave the storytellers the ability to depict slavery in its entirety. It gave storytellers the ability to depict various perspectives and experiences ranging from the average day mother like Ernestine to notable warriors like Harriet Tubman, both of which were heroes in their own right.

And speaking to this idea of heroes, I’m sure we can all recall the outpouring of support and love for Black Panther upon the film’s original release. We felt this energy, this overwhelming sense of unity because whether at the forefront of our minds or felt deep in our souls we knew that we’d never seen ourselves like this before. We knew that a “black movie” or a movie with a black cast had never been made in this way or on this scale.

Black Panther sent a message to our children and to the world that we could lead our own films, be the center of the story, and that we too can be heroes.

Underground sends that same message and creates that same unity and energy just wrapped in a different package. So don’t let the package fool or deter you. Give Rosalee, Ernestine, and Noah the same chance you gave T’Challa, Okoye, and Nakia. Realize that the stories of Rosalee, Ernistine, and Noah and the ancestors that they represent are the stories of our own Justice League.

The Music

Underground was executive produced by John Legend, who also oversaw the series’ score, soundtrack, and musical elements.

With that said, there’s no reason to doubt that the music was on point but let me mention a couple of the show’s musical choices and their importance.

Underground emphasized a juxtaposition between music and history. Kanye West’s BLKKK SKKKN HEAD used in the opening scene of episode one season one and Beyonce’s Freedom used in the opening scene of episode one season two represent two great examples of the series’ use of music. The team at Underground used music to both show that 1857 was not so different from 2017 and to create a soundscape that fit the shows urgency and power.

So who is going to take up the responsibility of picking up this show?

Underground increased the viewership at WGN by 1000%. It was cancelled as the result of changing of the network’s programming as it’s parent company, Tribune Media, was being bought in a 3.9 million dollar deal by Sinclair Broadcast Media.

I personally think the show would run quite nicely beside Queen Sugar on OWN. So Oprah if you’re reading, I heard that Underground came with a hefty price tag but I don’t doubt at all that you see this show’s worth and I hope you think its worth the cost.

Anyway, while I make hopeful wishes that Oprah will see my pleas, be sure to check out Underground on Hulu. There are a whole host of reasons why this show is worth a try and I’ve only scratched the surface here in hopes of peaking your interest.

So, have you seen Season 1 and 2? Do you miss Underground as much as me? Did you take away any major themes that I didn’t mention in this blog? Let me know in the comments below.

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