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Series / Queen Sugar

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The Bordelon Siblings: Ralph Angel (left), Nova (center), and Charley (right)

Queen Sugar is an America family drama airing on OWN. It was created, directed, and produced by Ava DuVernay. Oprah Winfrey is also a producer. The series is based on the novel by Natalie Baszile. It tells the story of three siblings who are forced to work together to run the family sugarcane farm after the unexpected death of their beloved father. The series premiered on September 6, 2016. On August 1, 2016, the series was renewed for a second season.

Nova, the eldest, is a determined journalist and activist trying to changed the corrupt New Orleans police department. Charley, the middle child, lives a charmed life in Los Angeles until a scandal threatens to tear her family apart. Ralph Angel, the youngest, struggles with getting his life back together after being released from prison.

It stars Rutina Wesley as Nova Bordelon, Dawn-Lyen Gardner as Charley Bordelon West, and Kofi Siriboe as Ralph Angel Bordelon. Also featured are Tina Lifford as Violet "Vi" Bordelon, Omar Dorsey as Hollingsworth "Hollywood" Desonier, Dondre Whitfield as Remy Newell, Bianca Lawson as Darla, Timon Kyle Durret as Davis West, and Nicholas L. Ashe as Micah West.



  • Adult Fear:
    • In the season 2 premier, Micah is pulled over by a police officer, who aims a gun in his face and takes him into custody. The rest of the family gets worried when he doesn't return home after several hours. Charley and Nova's fear when they find his abandoned car is palpable. After this incident, Micah is left traumatized and his family isn't sure how to help him cope.
    • Violet gets the news that the oil rig Hollywood works on had an explosion and when he doesn't pick up, she fears he was hurt. Fortunately, she later finds him alive and well.
    • Darla's mother details how difficult and terrifying it was to try to help her while she was addicted.
    Darlene: Do you know how it felt for us? Our daughter calling us, high, asking for money? Or high, screaming in pain? Or high, threatening to harm herself? And we are all the way across the country scared out of our minds?
    • Ralph Angel learns that Blue is not his biological son and his ex-girlfriend wants full custody. His anxiety and agitation when he gets a visit from social services is understandable.
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  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The Bordelon siblings argue a lot, but at the end of the day they've always got each other's backs.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Nova screams at Charley for trying to make the post-funeral repast too much like a upscale banquet rather than a gathering of loved ones.
    Nova: We don't honor our father by sitting friends and family outside in fancy tables. We don't honor our father by having strangers serve those grieving. We serve comfort food to those who need comfort and we do it with our own hands!
    • Charley walks onto the basketball court as Davis is playing and demands to know if he really did rape an escort, as a video uploaded to the internet implies.
    • Ralph Angel pulls a gun on a man for trying to reposes his father truck. It's not the repossession itself that angers him, but the feeling that his life is changing too much and there's nothing he can do to stop it.
  • Betty and Veronica: Nova's Betty is a vivacious black woman named Chantal who shares many of her ideals. Her Veronica is Calvin, her white cop boyfriend who opposes some of her activist work.
  • Big Bad: The Landrys, with their constant attempts to sabotage the Bordelons' farm.
  • Big Sister Instinct: While a guest on a radio show, Nova defends Charley when the hosts start gossiping about the scandal surrounding her husband.
  • Big Storm Episode: A hurricane rips through Louisiana in 1.08 and afterwards the bodies of two migrant workers are found on the Bordelon property. It's later revealed that they weren't caught in the storm, but murdered for the money they were carrying.
  • Bi the Way: Nova is openly bisexual. She has dated a man named Calvin and a woman named Chantal.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Nova's boyfriend, Calvin, is not only white, but a white police officer working for the department she antagonized. To make matters worse, he's married with kids.
  • Blackmail: Davis threatens to reveal that Charley forged his signature to get a loan for the mill if she doesn't agree to give him shared custody of Micah. Though later he claims it was just a bluff.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Micah is so scared after getting threatened by a cop and arrested that he pees his pants. The moment is far from comedic.
  • Broken Pedestal: Charley and Micah both feel way this toward Davis after his sexual assault of an escort is uncovered.
  • But Not Too Black: Averted. The black characters come in all shades. Charley is fair-skinned, but both her siblings are very dark.
  • Canon Foreigner: Nova didn't exist in the novel.
  • Cheerful Child: Blue, Ralph Angel and Darla's six year old son.
  • Cool Aunt:
    • Vi is the voice of reason for the Bordelon clan and a maternal figure to the siblings.
    • Nova is this to both her nephews, but she's especially close to Micah. She even invites him to live with her during the week since his new school in Louisiana is much closer to her home than Vi's, where he and his mother live following her separation from his father. Charley forbids it because she doesn't like Nova's neighborhood.
  • Christmas Cake: Discussed. While attending a baby shower for one of her friends, Nova and the other ladies talk about being single in middle age and their plans for starting families.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Landry family. Between owning most of the land in the parish and running its only operational mill, they've got a complete stranglehold on the local sugar industry. This quality must have passed through the generations, since the Landrys used to own slaves, including ancestors of the Bordelons. Charley stands up to them, buys a rundown mill that she plans to restore, and gets the small farmers of the parish to side with her.
    • In season 2, they spy on the Bordelons using a drone, make threats against Blue, and hired desperate locals to steal from the farm.
    • In season 3, Charley finds out that they've been forcing farmers off their land as part of a plan to lease that land to the government for a private prison.
  • Dark Secret: Prior to The American Civil War, the Bordelons used to be owned as slaves by the Landry family.
  • The Dead Have Names: The Bordelon siblings are shaken after realizing they don't know the names of the two migrant workers who were killed on their property. Charley is hit hardest, since she believes they would have lived if she'd let them go home earlier.
  • Deal with the Devil: Charley decides the best way to destroy the Landys and protect the farmers she works with is by selling her mill for a share of Landy Enterprises. Later she ends up allying with Sam Landry's nephew and sister, who also want to take him down. Her family and community are all furious when they find out and regard her plan as this.
  • Deep South: The Bordelons are from the fictional St. Josephine's Parish, Louisiana and Nova lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. Charley lived in Los Angeles in the beginning of the series, but moves to help run the farm.
  • Dreadlock Rasta: Nova wears her hair in long dreadlocks and is a down-to-earth spiritualist and herbal healer. This contrasts her with Charley, who straightens her hair and lived a glamorous, fast-paced lifestyle in L.A.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Ralph Angel drives off and gets wasted after Darla confesses that Blue might not be his biological child.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Ralph Angel, an ex-con who still engages in illegal activity and needs to find a job, is the foolish sibling. Charley, the wealthy sports manager, and Nova, the truth-seeking journalist, are the responsible siblings. Deconstructed because Ralph Angel is fully aware of this dynamic and finds it chafing. He considers his sisters' attempts to help him patronizing and doesn't think they have much faith in him.
  • Foreshadowing: Nova sarcastically calls the Landry estate the "museum of our enslaved ancestors". It turns out the Landry family did once own the Bordelon family as slaves.
  • Gender Flip: Charley's son Micah was a daughter in the novel.
  • Happily Married: Charley and her husband Davis are a wealthy, famous, and successful couple with a wonderful teenage son who adores them. However things between them become strained when Davis's sex scandal break out and Charley eventually files for divorce after learning about the plight of his mistress.
    • Violet and Hollywood get married in season 3.
  • Heir Club for Men: Ernest left the farm to Ralph Angel, but not the girls.
  • Honorary Uncle: The Bordelon siblings consider their aunt's boyfriend Hollywood to be part of the family, even during their temporary break-up.
  • Internal Reveal: In "Line of Our Elders", Ralph Angel confesses to the rest of the family that he was the only child named in Ernest's will.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Ernest Bordelon and Remy Newell, who are appropriately aged to be father and son. Charley is initially surprised when she meets Remy because she expected him to be much older.
  • In Touch with His Feminine Side: Blue, Ralph Angel's son, plays with a doll named Kenya that he takes everywhere.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Nova is tired of writing shallow reports at her boss's behest and instead launches her own investigation into the racism, inefficiency, and corruption in the NOPD.
  • It's All My Fault: Charley blames herself for the deaths of two migrant workers in her employ. The workers had all wanted to go home, but she told them to work later than planned. The following morning, she found two of them lying dead in the fields and couldn't even identify them.
  • Justified Criminal: Discussed. When a man named Henry Lee is hired by the Landrys to steal from the Bordelons, he's quickly caught by Ralph Angel. Lee claims he only agreed to the theft because he needs to take care of his family and Ralph Angel, having been in a similar position, sympathizes with him. Charley, on the other hand, wants him sent to jail so the Landrys will be exposed and scolds Ralph Angel for being too soft on him.
  • Likes Older Women: Hollywood is much younger than Vi, but he's completely devoted to her.
  • Love Triangle: All three siblings find themselves in one.
    • Nova has a boyfriend named Calvin, but falls for a woman named Chantal.
    • Charley's having a rough patch with her husband Davis and develops feelings for Remy.
    • Ralph Angel has a complicated relationship with Darla, the mother of his son, but has tender moments with Reyna, his son's teacher.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Nova's crusade against the NOPD revolves mainly around the case of a teenager called Too Sweet whom Nova is desperately trying to get released from prison so he can start his life over.
    • Vi doesn't want Darla anywhere near Ralph Angel or Blue after the state she left them in due to her drug addiction.
    • Charley does everything in her power to keep the scandal from touching her son Micah. She also doesn't appreciate Nova interfering in his life without her permission.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Darla cheated on Ralph Angel while on a trip, shortly before she found out she was pregnant with Blue. It's later confirmed that Blue isn't his biological child, but everyone still considers him Ralph Angel's son. The reveal does end Ralph Angel's engagement to Darla, however.
  • The Mentor: Remy, one of Ernest's old friends, helps the Bordelon siblings learns to run a farm. Interestingly, he's around the same age as them due to his and Ernest's Intergenerational Friendship.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Blue's mother Darla lost custody of him because of her drug abuse, though she's making effort to stay clean and be part of his life.
    • Nova and Ralph Angel's mother died before the start of the series. Charley's mother is often absent because of her busy schedule.
  • Mixed Ancestry: Charley is the product of Ernest's relationship with a white woman.
  • The Mole: Charley becomes this for Landry Enterprises, using her newfound access to the company's records and her fellow board members' secrets in an attempt to destroy it from the inside.
  • Momma's Boy: Charley's son Micah is closer to her than to his father, though he does still care about his dad.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Charley and Micah didn't make it to the hospital until just after Ernest passed away.
  • One Degree of Separation: Robert DuBois, Nova's love interest in season 2, once played against Davis in college.
  • Parental Neglect: Darla had custody of Blue for a time while Ralph Angel was imprisoned and she was too busy getting high to properly take care of him. The reason Vi didn't want to give legal guardianship of Blue back to Ralph Angel was to make sure Darla would never get her hands on Blue again. Vi does eventually relent.
  • Parental Substitute: Vi helps guide her nieces and nephew after her brother's death. She was also Blue's legal guardian for a while during Ralph Angel's incarceration.
  • The Patriarch: Ernest Bordelon was the glue that held to whole family together. His death leaves a huge hole in his children's and sister's lives.
  • Race Against the Clock: The main problem facing the farm in the first season is that the siblings need to get a harvest ready before its too late for anything to grow and the farm loses too much money.
  • Rich Bitch:
    • Charley to an extent. She rarely goes out of her way to be malicious, but she looks down on sex workers and the poor, can be highly self-centered, and is willing to threaten her best friend to get a deal that'll save the farm.
    • The Landrys are a straight example. See Corrupt Corporate Executive.
  • Scenery Porn: Louisiana's lush sugar country is practically an additional character, and absolutely beautiful.
  • Secret Relationship: Nova and Calvin, due to the fact that he's married to another woman. Becomes less secret after he leaves her for Nova.
    • At the start of season 2, Charley and Remy, since she hasn't finalized her divorce from Davis yet. Once she does, they're much more open about it.
  • Shipping Torpedo: Vi was really unhappy about Ernest's relationship with Charley's mother, Lorna, because she thought Lorna was in the way of Ernest and True getting back together. Vi passed this attitude onto Nova, but after Lorna tells Nova the truth about the whole thing, Nova decides to try to stop judging her.
  • Sibling Triangle: There's tension between Nova and Charley in season 3 after Nova starts seeing Charley's ex-boyfriend, Remy.
  • Slut-Shaming: Melina, the woman who accused Davis West and his teammates of raping her, is subjected to this, particularly from Charley. Charley apologizes when she learns that the players did rape her and Davis covered it up.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Nova is vocal activist who trying to change the systematic racism in the local police department. This puts her at odds with her police officer boyfriend, Calvin. Her nephew Micah takes after her in that regard.
    • This is heavily deconstructed in season 4. Nova writes a book about her family's experiences through the lens of social justice, using their personal shortcomings to make a larger point about various social and political issues. Naturally, they're all horrified by what she wrote and take it as a huge betrayal. Ralph Angel accuses her of exploiting them and Charley berates her for making them look like monsters to the whole world.
  • Spicy Latina: Averted twice.
    • Reyna Velez is a Shrinking Violet schoolteacher who is too shy to let Ralph Angel know she has a crush on him. Especially after he gets back together with Darla.
    • Melina Galoudian is a Latina sex worker, but the show focuses more on the danger and disrespect her job comes with.
  • Spiteful Spit: Nova bumps into a man who recognizes her for her exposé on the criminal justice system in New Orleans. He tries to assault her, prompting Calvin to step in, and then spits in Nova's face.
  • Title Drop: In the season 1 finale, Charley buys a sugar mill so the farm won't be dependent on the Landry mill and she names it "Queen Sugar".
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Nova and Charley, respectively. Nova is surprised when Charley decides to get her hands dirty while taking care of the harvest.
  • Transgender: One of Ralph Angel's childhood friends, Toine, is a transgender man who now works as a police officer. When Ralph Angel was first arrested, they saw each other at the station. Toine feared that Ralph Angel would out him and felt grateful that he didn't.
  • Unbalanced by Rival's Kid: Charley is devastated when she learns that Davis fathered a daughter with another woman while they were married.
  • Villainous Crush: Jacob Boudreaux, a Landry despite not having the last name, is romantically interested in Charley.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Charley and Nova are furious after Ralph Angel confesses to hiding the fact that they weren't included in their father's will, letting them believe for months that they had an equal claim to the land and rearrange their lives around it.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Averted. Lorna, Charley's mother, tries her best to civil to Nova and wants Nova to know how much she admired her (Nova's) mother.
  • Your Cheating Heart:
    • Nova is seeing married man at the start of the series, though they break up halfway through the first season. Toward the end of the season, though, he leaves his family for her and they get back together, only to break up again in season 2.
    • Charley's husband had a mistress named Melina Galoudian. Just prior to the beginning of the season he let his teammates gangrape her and she threatens to go public about their whole affair. To make matters, Davis later confesses he's been cheating on Charley with various women for most of their marriage and has a secret illegitimate daughter.
    • Ernest, the Bordelon patriarch, cheated on Nova and Ralph Angel's mother to conceived Charley. She grew up primarily with her mother. Subverted when it's revealed that he and True had actually broken up before he got together with Lorna.
    • Hollywood had a wife the whole time he was with Vi. They had been separated for years, ever since her mental breakdown, but were still technically married.
    • Micah learns that his girlfriend Stella had been cheating on him after nude pictures of another boy were found on her phone.
    • Subverted with Charley and Remy. Despite their mutual attraction, they don't get together until after she files for divorce from her husband.

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