Wednesday (March 8) marked the return of WGN America's "Underground" for another 10-episode run -- and while Season 1 successfully set the stage, the highly-anticipated premiere blew the doors off our expectations.
The Macon 7's life-threatening quest for freedom that started it all has found Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) reaching freedom, and Noah (Aldis Hodge) back in chains -- and the beginnings of an epic uprising taking shape, as we see what "citizen vs. soldier" may really mean for Season 2.
A lot transpired in "Contraband," leaving us breathless. As one fan favorite character was forever lost, an empowered new figure entered the fold. The episode left us with many questions: Will the surviving Macon 7 members reunite? How will Elizabeth (Jessica De Gouw) move forward with these newfound sewing circle friends? Can Miss Ernestine find redemption?
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's unpack the earth-rattling premiere of "Underground" Season 2:
The shocking death of abolitionist John Hawkes
In Wednesday's premiere, abolitionist lawyer John Hawkes (Marc Blucas) was doing everything in his power to relocate Noah from a Ohio prison back to Georgia, using the Fugitive Slave Act as his argument: Murderer or not, Noah Macon is considered stolen property, and the return to his rightful owner is necessary. It's a move as ambitious as it is lawful, but the motion was ultimately shot down.
Moving on to Plan B: John, Elizabeth and Rosalee crafted an alternative plan to free Noah, an explosive diversion to save the man from the noose around his neck. It was during this escape that John murdered a militia member, attempting to thwart their attack. Sadly, the Rosalee/Noah reunion we were hoping for never truly happened, as Noah ends up back in chains.
In a final attempt, Hawkes heads to the court with the goal of gaining a judicial position -- an action that could have brought real change, had a masked militia member not gunned John down on the courthouse steps.
Harriet Tubman & Rosalee: A formidable team
There's been a ton of buzz around Aisha Hinds' addition to the "Underground" story, as abolitionist icon Harriet Tubman. In the weeks leading up to the Season 2 premiere, we were given further insight into Tubman's role on the show when Jurnee Smollett-Bell told us that Harriet Tubman would be training Rosalee to be a soldier.
Wednesday's episode gave us a better idea of how this dynamic duo operates: Harriet Tubman with a shotgun in one hand and a hatchet in the other is indeed a sight to behold. And yet, as their teamwork helps to bring more runaway slaves to the Hawkes' home -- with the hopes of leading them along the Underground Railroad to freedom -- we can't help but wonder how John's untimely death will affect their strategy moving forward.
No ordinary sewing circle
Another new character introduced this season is Georgia (Jasika Nicole): The owner of a boarding house which doubles as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Looking to broaden her horizons and make new connections, Elizabeth finds herself in Georgia's establishment, making new friends in what looks like a seemingly innocent sewing circle.
But this group of forward-thinking women have some surprises up their sleeves: Target practice with a variety of artillery, and a progressive message of resistance, should be exactly what Elizabeth needs in her time of grief. And as she's left to move their abolitionist mission forward, we have a feeling her connection with Georgia's team will have a lasting impact on the story.
The mental enslavement of Miss Ernestine
The last time we checked in with Miss Ernestine (Amirah Vann), she was taking vengeance on Tom Macon (Reed Diamond) for the senseless murder of her son Sam (Johnny Ray Gill). But the pleasure of the poisoning was short-lived, and Ernestine was soon enough on the auction block.
In Season 2, she finds herself separated from her family and the person she once was. Haunted by the demons of her past, Ernestine's awful new situation is a multi-layered hell: A life of repetition and physical abuse, buried beneath a growing chemical dependence making her both physically and emotionally enslaved. As she's haunted by visions of Pearly Mae (Adina Porter) -- who met her maker, too soon, in Season 1 -- it's evident past transgressions and these incredible losses have caught up with her. What can she do to get free?
Noah insightful words come to mind: "Freedom isn't a place no more."
For Ernestine, a renewed sense of self-love and forgiveness is the necessary first step toward redemption. It's going to take a lot of work overcoming her imprisonment in this self-inflicted purgatory, but much like everyone else in Season 2 -- she will eventually need to rise up and fight.
"Underground" Season 2 airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on WGN America.