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S01.E01: First Things First


Tara Ariano
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The premiere of the series about estranged siblings who come together to save their family's ailing sugarcane farm in Louisiana. First up: Charley leaves her upscale L.A. lifestyle to return to her family home in Louisiana after her dad suffers a stroke and she receives unwelcome news about her husband.

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I liked it. Admittedly, the style took a little getting used to, but ultimately, I liked the direction from Ava DuVernay for this premiere (reminded me of her film "I Will Follow"). By the end of the hour, I was invested in all of the characters. The biggest turnaround for me was with Charley. I was rolling my eyes at both the character and her storyline, but by the end, both had grown on me.

With the exception of Ralph Angel, none of the characters is what I imagined when I read the book, but I'm fine with that. IMO, they're two completely different works.

I really love the cast, particularly some old favorites I haven't seen in a while (hey, Glynn Turman, Tina Lifford and Greg Vaughn). 

Edited by Gillian Rosh
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I loved it.  It is too late so I'll probably write more tomorrow, but I just loved the lush scenery, esp. of Daddy Bordelon on the farm.  The soundtrack was perfect.  And and i really enjoyed how the story unfolded in little pockets with lots of spaces to just let you get a feel for the characters.  You see how different the siblings are in where they are in life, their finances, even their relationship with their father.  The only similarity they seem to have is their messed up love lives.  LOL.

My hands down favorite moment was of Grandfather, son and grandson in the hospital room.  You don't get a lot of moment of unvarnished vulnerability in black men that is shown so unapologetically.  That scene was largely without dialogue and it moved me so.

Also it took me a hot second to recognize Bianca Lawson playing Ralph Angel's ex and Blue's mother.  This chick does NOT age.  She looked like she was 17 years old. 

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The quick cuts took me some to get used to but once I did, I was fully engaged with the characters. Good start so far.

9 hours ago, DearEvette said:

Also it took me a hot second to recognize Bianca Lawson playing Ralph Angel's ex and Blue's mother.  This chick does NOT age.  She looked like she was 17 years old. 

You're absolutely right! Every time I see her in a show, she barely looks older than she was in Save The Last Dance and that was years ago!

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I loved it.  It is too late so I'll probably write more tomorrow, but I just loved the lush scenery, esp. of Daddy Bordelon on the farm.  The soundtrack was perfect.  And and i really enjoyed how the story unfolded in little pockets with lots of spaces to just let you get a feel for the characters.  You see how different the siblings are in where they are in life, their finances, even their relationship with their father.  The only similarity they seem to have is their messed up love lives.  LOL.

My hands down favorite moment was of Grandfather, son and grandson in the hospital room.  You don't get a lot of moment of unvarnished vulnerability in black men that is shown so unapologetically.  That scene was largely without dialogue and it moved me so.

Also it took me a hot second to recognize Bianca Lawson playing Ralph Angel's ex and Blue's mother.  This chick does NOT age.  She looked like she was 17 years old. 

Bianca Lawson, thank you! I was going nuts trying to figure out where I knew her from.

Really moving and gorgeous pilot. Maybe it felt a hair slow-paced but I think that's okay for the ad-free pilot. Future episodes won't be able to take their time quite as much.

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10 hours ago, DearEvette said:

Also it took me a hot second to recognize Bianca Lawson playing Ralph Angel's ex and Blue's mother.  This chick does NOT age.  She looked like she was 17 years old. 

She's 37 and has been playing teenagers since 1993. Good for her! She's very thin though - wonder if that's for the role since she's an addict? The little boy playing her son is adorable. (It's going to be sad when Ralph Angel goes back to jail. I'm unspoiled, but given that the clerk he robbed made a point of saying she saw his face and he seems to be a reluctant, not-careful criminal, I'm sure it's coming.)

I'm in, although this episode moved slowly. I support Ava Duvernay and I like Rutina Wesley. (Do we think she knew her boyfriend is married?) I haven't read the book; I've read that it gives a lot of detail about sugar cane farming. I'm very curious about the fallout from the NBA scandal. 

Edited by Empress1
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Oh it was beautifully done! I'm so happy to have Rutina Wesley back on my screen (without Sookie) I'm doing a happy dance. I love that each sibling was revealed to us slowly and full enough so we have a clear sense of who they are individually and how they'll be within the family dynamic. 

I knew Ava wouldn't disappoint.

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I'm still a bit confused on some of the relationships on the show.  The father of Nova, Charlie and RalphAngel passed away.  Who is Tina Lifford's character and how is she related to the three siblings.  Charlie's son called her Aunt Vi, I believe.  Do the three sibs have different mothers?

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I thought she was the father's sister?

It was a slow slow start but I liked that. I'm sure after I see tonight's episode, if they'd aired both on the same night the whole thing would have felt like a movie and flowed in together.

Charley stomping out on that arena floor after turning down a reality show because she didn't want all those cameras in her personal life was pretty good. Someone on Twitter said her life just turned into a Mary J. Blige video and it did, lol.

I want to know how Nova, pot dealer and writer of police brutality articles ended up sleeping with a married cop. I hope we get more information about that.

Blue is too damn adorable even if I could only understand half of what he said.

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1 hour ago, sugarbaker design said:

I'm still a bit confused on some of the relationships on the show.  The father of Nova, Charlie and RalphAngel passed away.  Who is Tina Lifford's character and how is she related to the three siblings.  Charlie's son called her Aunt Vi, I believe.  Do the three sibs have different mothers?

Yes, Tina Lifford is their aunt Daddy Bordelon's sister. Regarding the sibs...
 

Spoiler

 

They do have different mothers. I read an article that talks about how that plays into their relationship also the issue of colorism raises its head because Charley is so much lighter than Nova and Ralph Angel and there are also class/financial discrepancies between that the colorism plays into.


 

Explains a little bit about Nova's tantalizing "we aren't close like that" statement when the young guy told her about the sex scandal.

Couple of other things I was struck by:

1- How gorgeously lit the show is.  There is a discussion in The Flash forum about how minorities are photographed on screen (usually not well).   John Cho spoke about it.  And he is correct.  But Rutina Wesley's dark, dark skin is positively luminous which doesn't happen very often.

2- The soundtrack.  The first scene of Nova and her married boo being serenaded by Meshell Ndegeocello.  The backing music for so many scenes were perfect.

3- The visual cues that act as a punctuation mark re: the different sibs' life station.  Charley and her fab LA lifestyle, permed hair, glass house and inifity pools compaed to Nova;s earth mother style with her nice front porch, her natural hair dreds and living across from a blighted-by-Katrina house vs. poor Ralph Angel who has nothing to call his own. 

4- How wonderful were all the sweeping shots of the cane fields? 

5- I thought the narrative unfolded like a novel rather than a tv show.  I think this will be fine with some and not fine with others.  But I like the pacing and the well timed reveals.  Very much looking forward to learning more about the sib relationship, Nova's relationship with her detective (it sounds like they have been involved for years) and what happened with Ralph Angel, Bianca (don;t know her character name yet) and Blue.  Also enjoying the fact that aunty is getting her flirt on with what is obviously a younger man!

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Ditto comments upthread, it was great to see several faces I hadn't seen in a while.

I've seen her before but it only now struck me how much of an amazing resemblance Dawn-Lyen Gardner has to Michelle Obama. When the definitive Obama biopic is ready to be cast I think the producers really should consider her.

Heh, some of these actors probably need to work harder on their Louisiana/Cajun/Creole accents.

They brought on Glynn Turman just to kill him off in the first episode. Hmmm.

Oh, crap. Calvin's married? Wonder if he knows Nova knows. Whatever, Greg Vaughan is aging nicely.

Not generally a fan of U2 but that was a nice song and I thought it fit the moment. I was sorta expecting to hear Thomas Dolby's "I Love You Goodbye" since it has a deliberate Cajun feel. Maybe later in the season it'll show up.

I know I shouldn't bother to make comparisons but this show makes me wonder how Tyler Perry can hope to compete. His "dramas" look like hot garbage next to this show and Greenleaf. Meanwhile, O is knocking 'em all outta the park.

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23 minutes ago, DearEvette said:

2- The soundtrack.  The first scene of Nova and her married boo being serenaded by Meshell Ndegeocello.  The backing music for so many scenes were perfect.

One of the first things I said when I was finished watching was I want the soundtrack to this episode. Agree with all the visual stuff too, it was amazing to see.

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The show exceeded my expectations for all the reasons mentioned in this post; the acting, writing, all superb. It was like watching an indy film rather than a TV show--if that makes sense. Ava knocked out of the park as I expected her to.

I do have one question: where is the mom? Did she exsist in the novel? Was the father widower or divorced?

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51 minutes ago, DearEvette said:

1- How gorgeously lit the show is.  There is a discussion in The Flash forum about how minorities are photographed on screen (usually not well).   John Cho spoke about it.  And he is correct.  But Rutina Wesley's dark, dark skin is positively luminous which doesn't happen very often.

That's deliberate! I love Ava DuVernay, I swear.

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I loved Charley, Micah and Davis living in a literal glass house. Ava's great with subtle little touches like those.

Also loved how sweet Ralph Angel is with Blue and the Bordelon men (three generations) in the hospital. Queen Sugar and Empire are doing fantastic work at deconstructing toxic hyper-masculine black male stereotypes.

Speaking of stereotypes, I loved that despite being distant, Nova and Charley fiercely embraced as soon as they saw each other in the hospital. Sisterhood is powerful thing y'all.

Rutina Wesley is a gem. She positively glowed throughout the episode.

Greg Vaughan has come a long way from General Hospital

Aunt Violet & Hollywood are adorable.

Casting the smaller roles with unsung veteran characters is great. Henry Sanders, Bianca Lawson, Omar Dorsey, Dondre Whitfield, were perfect.

Edited by Dee
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This was so good. Loved everything about it, and while I agree it was a slow start, I think it really worked in it's favor. The visuals, the music, the acting. Such an incredible start. I'm looking forward to so much more of this show.

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Oh, can I just say how I love Blue and his little Barbie doll? It is so refreshing to see a young boy play with a doll without the assumption of being effeminate. Love Ralph Angel not shaming for it.

Edited by sereion
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18 minutes ago, sereion said:

Oh, can I just say how I love Blue and his little Barbie doll? It is so refreshing to see a young boy play with a dolls without being the assumption of being effeminate. Love Ralph Angel not shaming for it.

Oh yes!  Loved that little detail.  I love how the camera just lingered on the doll a couple of times, without commentary and then the very absence of anyone making anything of it.  Such layers.

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I wasn't sure about this show at first.  A lot of it is due to the fact that pure family dramas aren't typically my thing but by the end I felt compelled to keep watching for a while to see where it goes.  I still don't know all the names of the characters so that might take a while for me. 

I do think Nova (that's Rutina's character, right?) knew that her boyfriend was married.  The song playing when she got out of bed at the beginning of the episode was about infidelity.  And when he came to her when he found out about her father, they had a discussion about how much he was a part of her life and she says that it was her choice about how much she wanted to incorporate him into her life.  I'm speculating here but I suspect she's careful about how much she'll let herself rely on her married lover in the sense that she knows she can't be his priority.  Therefore, she needs to maintain certain boundaries.

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We haven't met any ex's for dearly departed Glynn Turman, right?  I saw Charley read the card on the flowers from her mother and the two sibs did a little eyeroll.  So they're keeping at least two or three other interesting characters back in the hopper--I look forward to seeing some of these other women show up and express strong opinions.

Meanwhile, I love it.  I'm sorry I only have one more to watch right away--I'd happily sit and binge-watch a whole stack of episodes.

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4 minutes ago, gesundheit said:

Second episode was even stronger than the first. I'm psyched for this show!

Looking forward to the second episode. 

I really like the show so far. It wasn't perfect, but it definitely made me interested in this family and how all of their lives evolve. 

The Good:

1) It was shot beautifully. The richness of the colors, the natural light in the scenes, and the beautiful, beautiful actors all blew me away. I mean, Kofi Siriboe, where did you go to buy that smooth brown skin  of yours?  

2) I like complex stories about families--the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And this show has that in spades.   I especially loved the emotional vulnerability of the characters. The scene between the sisters at the hospital was especially moving. 

3) I like shows about multi-layered, non-stereotypical people of color.

4) The performances are quite impressive. I loved the sexy opening scene between Nova and her beau--that is, until I found out he's a married father of two! That cheapened their relationship quite a bit for me. 

Room for Improvement:

1) In addition to being a little slow, the dialogue in the story sometimes sounded like it was written for the theater rather than the small screen. People speak in paragraphs or in poetic-sounding language, and there are sometimes long pauses between lines of dialogue.

2) I'm not sure how old Aunt Vi is supposed to be or how old Tina Lifford really is, but Omar Dorsey is 40. I know he plays older, but he still seems a lot younger than Aunt Vi. Of course, there's nothing wrong with a woman being older than her husband or lover, but I wish someone would state that--or explain it. And maybe they will. This was only the pilot. But seeing  the two of them together--without some acknowledgement of their age difference-- looks weird. 

3) Like the posters above, I had a little trouble nailing down some of the family relationships. I know it will become clearer as the show goes on, but working to figure out who's related to whom kept taking me out of the story a little bit. 

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21 minutes ago, topanga said:

2) I'm not sure how old Aunt Vi is supposed to be or how old Tina Lifford really is, but Omar Dorsey is 40. I know he plays older, but he still seems a lot younger than Aunt Vi. Of course, there's nothing wrong with a woman being older than her husband or lover, but I wish someone would state that--or explain it. And maybe they will. This was only the pilot. But seeing  the two of them together--without some acknowledgement of their age difference-- looks weird. 

Spoiler

They acknowledge the age difference in the next episode, although they don't say what the difference is. Aunt Vi says that if he wants kids, he should find someone who can do that for him. He says he's right where he wants to be. 

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I liked everything except the music, it was almost overwhelming. I really am not a fan of being told how to feel, let the moments breathe with a song there illustrating how I'm meant to react to it. Not that the music choices weren't beautiful, they were, it was all just a bit too much.

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7 minutes ago, Empress1 said:
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They acknowledge the age difference in the next episode, although they don't say what the difference is. Aunt Vi says that if he wants kids, he should find someone who can do that for him. He says he's right where he wants to be. 

Thanks! Makes me want to watch the next episode. Which I will, tonight. 

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My hands down favorite moment was of Grandfather, son and grandson in the hospital room.  You don't get a lot of moment of unvarnished vulnerability in black men that is shown so unapologetically.  That scene was largely without dialogue and it moved me so.

I agree, great scene and that little grandson is absolutely precious.

Spoiler

I'm glad his mother made it to the funeral. I hope she can stay clean, I take it she's a recovering addict, that's the impression I got. I hope she's recovering, it looked like she was trying to get back on her feet and get her act together. 

What I don't get is why Ralph Angel, robbed the store for snacks? It's not like he couldn't get food from his aunt. I see he robbed the store so that he could feel like he was paying his way, but no....

You just gave what appears to be your hard working, honorable, full of pride father, stolen money. 

That guy playing Nova's lover use to play Lucky on the soap General Hospital and now that I know his character is married, with kids, it's a let down.

Glad to see Rutina Wesley, haven't seen her since HBO's True Blood.

This show looks like another winner for own.

Edited by saoirse
Spoiler tagged info from next episode
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Save for Selma, I've watched everything (I know of) that Ava's directed.  So I wasn't surprised by the lush scenery and the fantastic lighting.  I agree with Jesse Pinkman that the music was a bit overpowering at times. 

I've not read the book, but I felt like this episode was a bit heavier on Ralph Angel than the sisters.  Not sure how I feel about him yet, but it would seem that the show clearly wants me to sympathize with him and that bugs me. Whereas with the sisters, the show felt more neutral, if not antagonistic in relation to Charlie, with the unfolding of their stories.    

I thought I would see more of Nova, because I'm in this for Rutina Wesley.  Still, the supporting cast was a pleasant surprise. 

Anyway, on to episode 2!

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Please remember this is the topic for the FIRST episode; discussion of what happens in future episodes shouldn't happen here, and if you want to bring up a point that does happen in a future episode, it should be spoiler tagged. Thanks!

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20 hours ago, ribboninthesky1 said:

Save for Selma, I've watched everything (I know of) that Ava's directed.  So I wasn't surprised by the lush scenery and the fantastic lighting.  I agree with Jesse Pinkman that the music was a bit overpowering at times. 

I really like the story, but the music was killing me (although the selections were good), it was too loud at times and I felt I was watching a music video. I hope that they bring that down a little, because it takes away from the acting. 

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My hands down favorite moment was of Grandfather, son and grandson in the hospital room.  You don't get a lot of moment of unvarnished vulnerability in black men that is shown so unapologetically.  That scene was largely without dialogue and it moved me so.

I cried and cried. I was screaming at Angel to "BRING BLUE" long before Grandpa even woke up to ask for him. What a wonderful relationship to watch. Shame I'll not be able to see more and what an incredible cast of actors including little Blue, goodness gracious that little boy has chops.

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I really liked this! Like, a whole lot. On the one hand, I enjoy watching a show once a week, so I can discuss and think about what I have watched, especially on a beautiful show like this, but on the other, it seems like a show that would be a great binge watch. 

I love seeing a lot of actors I have seen in random places, especially Rutina Wesley, who is finally free of True Blood, and she can now show what she can really do. I really want to know what the deal is with her and her married cop boyfriend. How does pot dealing, earthy mother, social justice reporter hook up with a married cop? And its clearly not just sex, they seem to have a real relationship. 

The whole ending just got me right in the gut. I have only had one episode with this family, and I am already more emotionally involved with them than I am on other, crappier shows that have gone on for seasons. Great music, great cinematography, lush landscapes, just wonderful to watch. 

The show that it immediately reminds me of is the beautifully constructed Rectify, another quiet, slow moving family drama set in the south, which also has an "indie movie comes to TV" vibe. This is clearly a different kind of show, and the plot is extremely different, but the vibe is similar. I really enjoyed this. 

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 If I'm totally engaged, I don't think a show is slow (even if it takes its time). I was engaged right away, and was surprised to find out how much I liked it. I didn't know there was a book, and was watching primarily based on seeing Ava on a talk show, and seeing the scene with Rutina (who I loved and thought she wasn't well treated in True Blood). I don't think I've ever choked up as much as I did for characters I'd just met. The scene with the father, son, and grandfather just killed me.

Edited by Clanstarling
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On 9/7/2016 at 8:29 PM, sereion said:

Oh, can I just say how I love Blue and his little Barbie doll? It is so refreshing to see a young boy play with a doll without the assumption of being effeminate. Love Ralph Angel not shaming for it.

 

This! 

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I got to see this tonight, as the series is now airing in Canada on Bravo (it would be nice if a Canadian network that picked up this series could manage to coordinate airings with the US, but nope).  Anyway, I quite enjoyed it overall.  The stuff at the basketball game was just teetering on the edge of being ridiculous, but it worked thanks to the execution.

In the midst of Blue's nice party I was half-expecting the cops to show up right then to arrest his dad for armed robbery, but instead his grandfather took suddenly ill (the former would, I suppose, have made his continued participation in the series much more difficult, so in retrospect it's obvious why that didn't happen).

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Someone I really felt for in this episode was Mika. The focus was on Charley but finding that out about what his father did and seeing his mother lose it like that would be brutal.

I also like Ms Valez and I'm wondering if she'll show up again. I was worried when Ralph Angel left Blue with her for an extended period teachers are required to report that kind of thing to social services. Although if Ralph Angel went to prison they've probably already come knocking. 

I'm kinda split on Ralph Angel as a dad right. He has the right instincts and intentions I'm just not sure if he really has the tools to really put that into action. Maybe if Charley can get the farm up and running he might do okay there.

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11 hours ago, Emily Thrace said:

I was worried when Ralph Angel left Blue with her for an extended period teachers are required to report that kind of thing to social services.

I would imagine that's when the kid is left there with the teacher in an official capacity, right?  She volunteered to act as a babysitter in advance.

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(edited)
On 9/8/2016 at 0:15 PM, candall said:

I'd happily sit and binge-watch a whole stack of episodes.

That's what I'm doing right no.  I love Blue's doll Kenya and the total lack of judgement.

Edited by jhlipton
Corrected doll's name
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