I came across Underground by accident browsing through Stan one afternoon. Like half of the world now I often watch television by glancing up from my phone screen. It’s not that my mobile is really that interesting it is more that it has become a crutch for me. So when Underground came on I found myself for the first time in ages putting away the phone and watching one of the most engaging television shows I have ever seen in my life.
Often television shows can have issues with the idea of high stakes. Game of thrones did this really well in the first season when we *SPOILER ALERT* saw Ned Stark the main character gets executed, it was at this point that we realised that any of the characters could die at any time. I will be honest that my interest Game of thrones has sort of tampered off in recent years, mainly due to the lack of streaming options in Australia combined with the high prices of the DVDs has meant by the time you can get it in Australia spoilers have already appeared online. I have also found Game of thrones just isn’t as strong as earlier seasons were.
Underground really gets you invested in the characters not just the main characters that escape the plantation (this really isn’t a spoiler it’s called Underground) but also the background characters as well. Elizabeth a white woman that agrees with her husband to start helping slaves trying to escape is a really good example of this. Elizabeth is interesting as she begins the series as being this very stereotypical women of the time, who was desperate to have a child. I expected her I think to be very similar to Suzanna Macon the wife of the Slave owner. While Suzanna would also surprise me in episodes, Elizabeth began to shock me with just the strength that she portrayed in season one. At the end of the season she just became this amazing female character.
Underground is unique is that we see not only the slaves and their horrible lives but also the reasoning of the villains. There really is a sense that everyone in the plot feels like that they are right, and the way that they justify this is done in really exciting ways. One really good example of this without giving any details away is a conversation with two characters that have the same father, one is a slave the other is a white slave owner. A large part of this is due to the strength of the cast that portray these characters. A really important mention needs to be Amirah Vann who plays the slave Ernestine who is really conflicted in her status as a slave but also with her sense of accepting it as being their way of life. Every scene that Ernestine is in you can see her thoughts elegantly portrayed across her face, as a slave she has to keep her emotions in check but you still see them. I truly can’t think of a bad actor in the series because even the child actors do a strong job. It’s hard to find a cast like this, it reminds me of Boardwalk Empire and the very jarring character of Lucy Danziger, the actress and I am not going into this by criticizing people to extremes but did not I feel play a strong part. I was relieved if I am honest when she left the show.
Underground had me eagerly watching the series consistently, while there were times the action got a bit ridiculous for the most part it was amazingly done. For many television shows the most action occurs when the villains and the heroes are together. While shows like Game of thrones gets around this by having characters that are rich and often talk to each other with a series of snipes with Underground this was harder. In Underground when these clashes happen it means that the runaways who are already at a lower status are at a disadvantage straight away, for them to then escape when caught got a little over the top but was still entertaining. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One *SPOILER* Harry, Ron and Hermione get caught and are brought to the Malfoy manor. Here it looks like this will be the end of the story as Voldermort had been summoned which meant that they would all get killed. Of course because they are the heroes of the movie they do escape. Underground does this a few times but does allow characters to get injured and die so it doesn’t lose this momentum.
Underground really made me think of the lives of slaves and how horrific this history is while also reinforcing the human desire to just be free. Underground does a strong point of presenting slaving through the many different ways that the issue with considered in the time period which I felt created a much stronger story. It would be too easy to highlight the slave owners as being just evil and the slaves as being good but it was the characters in the middle that were the most interesting to me.
Underground season one is available at the moment on Stan in Australia. I don’t think that the series has been released on DVD in Australia.