What an extraordinary hour of television! Well, technically it was an hour and eight minutes.
We were promised a landmark event, unlike anything we have experienced before, and Underground Season 2 Episode 6 did not disappoint.
There are not many words I can say to properly break down the installment and do it justice. It really is one of those events you have to experience for yourself.
Harriet has been the dark horse of the season. She commands your full and undivided attention every second she's onscreen, but she hasn't occupied as much of the screen as expected.
Apparently, that was because the show was building up to an entire episode dedicated to Harriet Tubman. It was everything one could possibly hope for and more.
It is an incredible risk having an entire hour of a season dedicated to a new character. It's even riskier when you think about how the hour played out.
Few people can pull off being a one-person show, keeping viewers enthralled and hanging onto every last word.
Aisha Hinds did this effortlessly. She was captivating from the top of the hour to the end of it. Plus, she was able to do all of it with so very little.
The setting only changed once. Harriet was briefly shown dressing and preparing herself in another room. The rest of the hour she was mostly confined to a makeshift stage in a simple, dark room filled with a small group of (mostly white) abolitionists.
Even Hinds' props were limited. She had a chair that she used on occasion and a podium. There were other random things scattered on the small stage, but that was it.
Who, who can be given so little to work with and still keep you positively enchanted for an entire hour? Who can do that?
People generally have short attention spans. That's just the way it is. You can't sit through a board meeting or even a play without your attention waning after a while.
Yet, Harriet's audience was tracking her every single move, hanging onto her every word, and viewers were probably glued to their screens as well. I know I was.
It takes a skilled actor to effectively use silence and space. The strategic way Harriet moves across the stage and room or utilizes what's within reach was, well, mesmerizing.
Aisha Hinds was mesmerizing. It didn't feel like we were watching an actress portray someone. It felt like we were watching and listening to Harriet Tubman herself.
Hinds completely embodied the heroine, and it became difficult to decipher where Hinds ended and where Tubman began.
She owned the entire hour. Aside from the occasional chuckles from the audience, thanks to the well-placed humor Harriet used and a brief outburst amongst conflicting abolitionists that Elizabeth quickly shut down, the entire hour was Harriet speaking.
She recounted her life and how she ended up getting to the place where she was, leading slaves to freedom and fighting for the abolishment of something as horrific as slavery.
She recounted certain moments and painted such vivid pictures that you didn't need a flashback to invoke images because you could imagine them yourself.
I could already envision a young Harriet – or Minty – stealing that cube of sugar and taking off. Couldn't you? I, unfortunately, could envision Ms. Susan beating her with the rawhide, too, especially since the hour began with a flash of her back covered in welts and scars from all the lashings she took over the years.
One morning, Ms. Susan and her husband got in an ugly screaming match. While they scream and scream, I just wait. My eyes glued on a bowl on the table. you know what was in it? Lumps of pure, white sugar. [Crowd laughs] When Mistress back was turned, I moved reaaal slow. Reached my hand right into that sugar bowl, took just one lump...and that old bat must have heard me because she had the rawhide down coming like a storm. I gave one jump out that door and I flew. I ran and I ran. Sugar melting on my tongue never ain't tasted so good in my life. I ran and I didn't know where I was going. I ain't have nowhere to go, but it didn't matter in that moment! 'Cause I had just stolen what joy I could and that, that, that felt like freedom!Harriet
There was no need for flashbacks (something that many shows overuse) because Harriet was a true story-teller. She could pull the reactions she wanted out of anyone listening with just her words. She laughed when she needed to laugh, her voice got high when she was passionate and quiet when she was in despair.
She thumped on that podium when she emphasized the beatings she received, an act that got the desired effect because everyone flinched each time; myself, included.
She paced when she got worked up and sat down when she was feeling sad or she looked away when she recalled something too painful.
Hinds' performance was so nuanced. It was something ripped from the stage. She has done a remarkable job with humanizing Harriet and making her vulnerable, too. She especially excelled at this during this particular hour.
If you ask anybody about little Minty, that's what they called me back then, they'd say I was the most rebellious thing. Mischievous, too, and I took pride in that, knowing that they didn't own me in spirit.Harriet
By the end, I took away that Harriet is a woman as strong in her faith as she is in her conviction. She's determined and rebellious. She's smart and focused. She's a bit mischievous, too. She's vulnerable and human.
Via her words alone, we were taken on not just her physical journey from bondage to freedom but her emotional, spiritual, and mental growth from when she was a child until the moment she was standing there giving that speech to that roomful of people.
Somehow, the show managed to squeeze years worth of character development for Harriet into just one installment. It is nothing short of impressive.
With each word she uttered, I was waiting for the moment when Harriet would get real and make her audience uncomfortable. She spent a great deal of time simply telling her life story.
I seen a wildfire once when I was young. I stood right at the edge of it with my daddy. I stared at it a long time and still I don't got the words to describe it. the heat, the harm of activity, the relentless power and flames consuming everything in its path. That's how you got to burn for freedom, wild like, ready to scorch and doubt in your path 'cause that's what it's gonna take. My brothers didn't have it, not yet, but I did. And wasn't nobody gonna stop me at this point. This time I was gonna go at it alone.Harriet
I was waiting for the turning point of her speech after she lured the audience in and made them see the horrors of slavery through her own eyes as a woman in bondage. I loved how she laid out just what freedom means to her. What it means to so many who aren't free.
A large part of her speech towards the end felt like an endorsement for John Brown. It reminded me of a political speech.
That was around the time of the outburst by a couple of naysayers who vehemently opposed John Brown's methods. Of course, Lucas was not going to allow any disparaging remarks about his Captain to go unchecked.
I chuckled at the random outburst by three white men bickering over whose methods were right on issues that don't exactly affect them.
There was also the fact that they interrupted a black woman speaking on her actual experiences, to have this particular spat. Then – because why not take this touchy yet timely issue further – they had Elizabeth, the white woman, compelled to shut down the three bickering men on Harriet's behalf.
Harriet: Like me, he had been known by many names. The most fitting I can see is Captain Brown. I have no doubt that you've heard of him and his exploits as a friend to the cause.
Crowd Member 1: He's no friend. He's a murderer!
Lucas: The captain is the future of this fight.
Crowd Member 2: Mr. Brown and his methods are too extreme.
Lucas: His methods get results.
Crowd Member: His methods give us all a bad name.
Elizabeth: Can everyone stop! We're here to hear Harriet speak. So let her speak.
It felt like a subtle nod at the issue of some individuals voices not being heard. The trendy words used to describe it are "mansplaining" and "whitesplaining." I'm not sure if that was the best way to hint at it, but it was amusing.
Harriet also acknowledged her reluctance to accept John Brown. She seemed torn between not knowing just how genuine he was about the cause to wondering why he, as a white man, was so invested in it to not wanting her partnership with him to become a "white savior" situation.
Then she shifted to describing bondage. She broke down how vile slavery is and called out the hypocrisy of pseudo-Christians pretending to uphold the values and beliefs of God but not truly practicing Christianity.
Slavery ain't just a sin. It's a state of war. Profiting off the bodies of others. Raping the bodies of others. Killing the bodies of others. Been that way since the dawn of man and we ain't been calling it that because of a nationwide conspiracy working against us. A conspiracy, as the captain called it, of slaveholders actively at war working hard to make it seem the way of things. They pass it on to their sons and daughters. They strengthen it through government. They justify it through religion, calling it Christianity. That ain't my Christianity! Calling it God's will. That ain't my God!Harriet
The part of Harriet's speech, when she called out fake Christianity and pointed out that the very Christians claiming to be devout in their faith are some of the worst offenders, felt too real. I don't know about you, but I've had rants and ravings of a similar caliber.
By that part of the speech, it felt more like a sermon. Let the church say, Amen.
I almost wish that the camera panned out to the crowd more often. Some of the truth bombs Harriet dropped on the audience definitely required a shot of their facial reactions.
Underground does not hesitate to draw parallels between the past and present. I was waiting for the point when Harriet dug deeper and made her audience (and perhaps even some viewers) uncomfortable.
The show delivered on that. There were subtle moments peppered throughout the hour, but everything before that paled in comparison to the last five minutes. Subtlety flew out the window.
There was no mistaking or overlooking Harriet's final words. She spent time discussing how ineffective it is to bicker about methods while "the enemy" is plotting their next steps and moving forward.
We call ourselves abolitionists but we ain't abolish nothing. So much of our breath be spent arguing over methods that it overshadows the purpose. We speak of the cause with such fervor, yet we seen no effect. A passionate debate about action is important, but it should never be mistaken for action itself. As we fight amongst ourselves on how to defeat the enemy, the enemy takes more ground every day. From ballot boxes to breeding farms, marching in locked steps against us while we bicker over what song our fife and bugle should play. We make enemies of ourselves.Harriet
She emphasized coming together and unifying over a shared agenda. She called out those who are all talk and no action; those who are complacent, and those who have rose-tinted glasses on. She went on to speak about injustice and the government.
Then, in case you're someone who can't quite read between the lines, she got so blunt and direct it had to leave some people squirming in their seats.
That final moment we were gifted with Aisha Hinds staring directly into the camera in a scene that will surely have people talking.
If you don't have it in you to take up arms against the injustice then you gotta pray another prayer and you gotta walk in it with conviction. He will provide, but you got to do your part. You gotta find what it means for you to be a soldier. Beat back those that are trying to kill everything good and right in the world and call it making it great again. We can't afford to be just citizens in a time of war. That'll be surrender. That'll be giving up our future and our souls. Ain't nobody get to sit this one out, you hear me?Harriet
While staring directly at the camera with piercing eyes that could give you chills, Harriet Tubman makes a fervent, passionate call to action statement. Stand up and be counted. Figure out what your stance is, and act on it with conviction.
There was even a "Make America Great Again" reference for good measure.
If your politics don't align, that closing moment will probably seem like a contrived, propagandist agenda.
It probably made people uncomfortable. However, discomfort was the goal. Politics aside, it was a brilliant moment. It gave me chills.
I was among a few Underground fans left flabbergasted when Underground didn't get an Emmy nomination. Did they watch the first season at all?
I will go to the grave saying Amirah Vann, at the very least, should have been nominated. Where is her Emmy? Where is it?
If Aisha Hinds doesn't get an Emmy nomination or any form of recognition for her role as Harriet Tubman, it will be a goddamn travesty.
So, what did you think of "Minty?" Did Aisha Hinds knock your socks off with her performance? Did you love that final scene before it cut to the credits? Do you like bottle episodes?
Hit up the comments below and let us know what you think. Don't forget you can watch Underground online right here at TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.