Apart from a brief appearance by a nearly dead Rosalee in the beginning of the episode, where she’s tended to by a doctor, last night’s “Nok Aaut” is the first episode of UNDERGROUND’s sophomore season that isn’t Rosalee/Ernestine-centric. I feel like this was a good time to start to focus on some of the other members of the Macon 7, particularly the intriguing Cato, who last we saw him, appeared to be doing quite well for himself as an apparent landowner. While I still can’t fully make heads or tails as to how Cato got his money, the show jumps back into the past to reveal how his newfound lifestyle germinates.
Cato arrives in Europe and moves through the cultural (and relatively more enlightened) meccas of London, Paris, and more. At a fancy venue, Cato catches the eyes of an attractive Indian-British woman Devi (Rana Roy). The two dance, but when a white man utters a slur in their direction, Cato can’t help but crack a bottle over his head. Cato, bearing scars on one side of his face, has always been two-faced in every sense of the word. We’ve seen him be decent (to Rosalee for instance), but we’ve also seen him be the self-interested slave driver who had zero qualms throwing anyone under the bus if it meant saving his hide.
Still, Cato has also been a victim. And while it wasn’t really Noah’s fault Cato got caught last year (and in Noah’s defense he did toss Cato a weapon), Cato has suffered many losses. The two faces of Cato are relevant now in Europe, as he and Devi foster a relationship and move across Europe. Devi capitalizes on Cato’s penchant for boxing and believes it may be an outlet for him to express his pain. To my surprise, it’s not long before Cato the spectator becomes Cato the agile boxer, delivering blows and celebrating lavishly thereafter.
Eventually, Cato’s old ways catch up to him and he leaves Devi to return to the states. They were set to be married too. The exact reasons for him going are a bit unclear, but we do know that Cato has lost quite a few people he’s cared about, so perhaps it was a preemptive measure.
In the present, Cato lives as lavishly as he did in Europe, though I always felt myself looking around the corner for when it would all come crashing down. Cato’s purchased a home and even has white people working for him. Noah, though, in Cato’s clutches, calls out what an anomaly Cato truly is. The two dine at a fancy restaurant, where Cato starts to berate Noah for his selfishness and what in his mind was the disastrous Macon 7. Noah hides a knife ready to strike, but is outnumbered by Cato’s men.
And later, Cato brings slaves to his home and quarters Noah into making an impossible choice: If he truly is sorry for how their runaway attempt turned out, he should put himself back into bondage and let Cato buy several slaves their freedom. Noah ultimately croaks out a “no” and then the two duke it out. Noah gets the moral high ground and reminds Cato that only he would think of something this cruel.
Still, we later find out that Cato purchased these slaves and sent them on a passage to freedom in Canada. I don’t think there’s been a more captivating “uncle tom” (for lack of a better word) character since 1984’s Soldier’s Story and Cato truly shines in his two faced role. Cato too has plans, albeit apocalyptic plans, for tearing down this peculiar institution.
Away from the action of Cato and Noah, Elizabeth continues to work with the Sewing Circle in the wake of her husband’s assassination to get out their antislavery message. This week, the show flirts with the real life figure of John Brown, and his often violent assault on the institution of slavery. Elizabeth meets a man who espouses some of these beliefs and tries to counter some of Elizabeth’s ambivalence about doing whatever it takes to end slavery.
The man tells what ultimately turns out to be a fictitious story to Elizabeth that’s aimed to jolt her to act but to me Elizabeth already has plenty of reason to act. And not only that, she’s already been on the antislavery side since the beginning. Later, though, with newfound life, she gives an antislavery speech so fiery that a small riot breaks out. Georgia was actually the first to step to the podium, though she eventually slinks off. And the ensuing violence explains Georgia’s trepidation. Still, the show seems to be moving in such a way that it won’t be too long before Elizabeth becomes the full-fledged leader of the Sewing Circle.
Season 2, Episode 4 (S02E04)
Underground airs Wednesdays at 10PM on WGN America
Ade Adeniji | Contributor