“Contraband,” the first episode of the second season of Underground, opens with Beyoncé’s “Freedom” blaring as a roll of thunder awakens an enslaved man on the Fellow Plantation in 1858. The man arises before sundown, and we watch him toil all day, sculpting a statue before handing his money over to his Master at sundown. Soon, a montage of his workdays reveals what he’s really up to, stealing news clippings from around the plantation to teach himself how to read. “Soldier” is the first word he learns.
Deep in some backwoods somewhere, we find a determined Rosalee running with some escaped slaves. This isn’t the meek Rosalee that we first met in season one. She expertly moves through the forest cutting off the slave catchers who are on her heels. Unfortunately, Rosalee just isn’t fast enough. But, just when we think she’s cornered, an armed Black woman, who we soon learn is Harriet “Moses” Tubman, comes to her aid. Neither Harriet nor Rosalee are here to play games; both ladies are strapped and ready. Season two of Underground is already lit.
Back in Ohio, abolitionist John Hawkes is in court arguing for Noah’s release and return to Georgia as his wife Elizabeth looks on desperately from the back of the courtroom. The judge isn’t trying to hear John’s stall tactics, however, and in the meantime we learn that Noah has been incarcerated for five months. He ran six hundred miles from Georgia to Ohio only to end up back in chains.
In prison, Noah looks rough, fine as hell and fully bearded, but rough. As usual, he’s vigilant about his surroundings, watching and observing the enslaved men who are incarcerated with him. He picks up on a plot that two enslaved men have crafted to overtake the prison guards and escape, a plan he quickly realizes is trash.
Rosalee has gotten her group of enslaved men to relative safety at John and Elizabeth’s home, which has now become a full station on the Underground Railroad, We learn that she and Harriet got rid of the slave catchers by paying them off — who knew that was a thing?! John also has good news for Rosalee; the judge has granted his request to “inspect” his sister-in-law’s property; aka Noah. They won’t be able to jailbreak Noah though; he will be heavily guarded during the “inspection.”
However, Harriet wants the group to move on to the next station, but the men are tired and injured, so Rosalee doesn’t think it’s the best idea. Tubman isn’t buying it; she knows that Rosalee has other reasons for wanting to stick around, and she tells her that her plan to free Noah is dangerous. The most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad tries to reason with Rosalee to no avail. The two throw barbs with Rosalee telling Harriet that what she and Noah have isn’t like her relationship with her husband John. But, Harriet reminds Rosalee that the journey to and from Georgia and Ohio is a lengthy one and if she’s worried about Noah, their plan is destined to fail.
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