As “Stare at the Same Fires” opens we find a wilted Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) sitting at some bar in New Orleans drinking away her sorrows. She begins venting to the bartender in a very un-Charley-like fashion and though he tries to suggest that she slow down or call someone to help her Charley simply puts on her sunglasses and keeps on drinking. Charley has given up. After the fire at the Mill, Romero’s (Walter Perez) rejection, Blessing & Blood and everything in between, she has nothing left to give.
Somewhere else in Lousiana, Nova (Rutina Wesley) finds herself on the doorstep of her mama’s cousin, who lives in a large white house in a rural area. As Nova approaches the house, the two women gleefully greet one another. Ms. Martha is a regal woman who works as a healer. She tells Nova that she is the spitting image of her late mother, Trudy. Nova seems grateful to have a family member to grasp on to. She also tells Ms. Martha that the place feels familiar to her. It turns out that Trudy used to bring Nova to visit her cousin. Those visits stopped once Nova turned three.
The women have a long sit down where they discuss family, healing, and Ms. Martha’s past. Nova also reveals to Martha that her mama has been visiting her in her dreams. Martha, in turn, reveals some things that shake Nova to her core. She learns that she was never a burden to her mother. She also learns that her father buried her mother’s body on their land. For years, Nova was under the impression that her mama was cremated.
Back in St. Josephine’s parish, Violet (Tina Lifford) has whipped up a breakfast feast for Hollywood (Omar J. Dorsey) but she also has a confession for her husband. Vi tells Wood that watching him beat Jimmy Dale (David Alan Grier) those weeks ago terrified her. Vi confesses that she knows Hollywood would never hurt her but seeing his violent side forced her to realize she’s never dealt with her past. You can’t heal by simply ignoring your pain.
At the farm, Darla (Bianca Lawson) drops Blue (Ethan Hutchinson) off with Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe). We soon learn that she has a bone to pick with her son’s father. She’s horrified that he never properly told her about Deesha and her role in both RA and Blue’s life. RA is sympathetic to Darla, telling her he’s not trying to hurt her intentionally and that he’s just doing the best he can.
Later, Mr. Prosper (Henry G. Sanders) and his lady friend Ms. Genevieve head over to Vi’s Prized Pies & Diner to grab food for the folks working on Charley’s city council campaign. The older man remarks that everyone seems unsettled by the events of the past weeks, but he’s got an idea to lift their spirits.
Sometime that afternoon, the boy who destroyed Vi’s diner on orders of the Landrys and Boudreauxes arrives with a Mexican chocolate pepper pie for Vi. She is thoroughly unimpressed and puts the boy to work without a second glance at the pastry.
At home, Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe) is skipping school to study. Amid his cramming for a test the front door rings. It’s Keke (Tanyell Waivers). These two take one look at each other and their hormones runneth over. Keke asks Micah where Charley is and after confirming that they’re home alone the pair find themselves getting hot and heavy on Micah’s bed. Though Keke seems determined that she’s ready for the next step in their relationship Micah tells her that he’s comfortable with waiting too, which seems to ease her mind.
In the middle of getting hot and heavy, Micah receives a phone call from Charley. Extremely out of it Charley gushes over her baby boy. She also tells him to meet her at the mill after school. Micah has an inkling that something isn’t quite right but he brushes it off.
While all of this is going down, Mr. Prosper is enacting his plan which appears to be some sort of event for Charley. As he sits plotting and planning with Vi and Ms. Genevieve Micah comes in the diner looking for Charley. After he realizes that no one has seen her, he tracks Charley’s phone to New Orleans.
Later, RA is packing the last remnants of his reentry program, at least for now, when Hollywood rolls in. RA confides in his uncle/friend that he feels empty and unsettled inside. Though Wood invites the younger man to his boys’ night he isn’t sure what else to say or suggest.
That evening, Wood has his homeboys over for a card game and beers. The men congratulate Wood for defending his woman. Hollywood doesn’t feel good about it though, especially now that he knows he scared Violet. After the game, he goes to pick her up from a diner and the newlyweds talk as they clean up and Wood tells Vi that he believes St. Joesphine’s need a safe space and support group for men to talk about their emotions.
Elsewhere, Darla has tracked down Leo at his band rehearsal. Apparently, this nice tall glass of man hasn’t been returning her texts and phone calls. Though he promised not to he’s read Blessing & Blood and he can’t seem to look Darla in the eyes. He tells Darla that he believes she’s two minutes away from relapsing and for the sake of his own sobriety he needs to take a step back from their relationship. That’s rough.
In New Orleans, Nova has tracked down her little sister at Micah’s request. She finds Charley silently weeping at the bar. She’s been there ALL day. Though she’s horrified to see Nova, after her sister pays the tab, Charley goes with it. Nova tells Charley that she understands her anger and sadness, but right now she just needs to be someplace safe.
Nova takes Charley home, puts her in pajamas and places her in the bed. As she walks out of the room, Charley asks Nova why she wrote all of those horrible things about her. Nova, FOR THE FIRST TIME, apologizes to her litter sister and tells her she loves her. She tells Charley that she thought she was doing everyone some good, but in the end, she was only doing good for herself. As Charley weeps into her pillow, Nova climbs into the bed next to her and holds on for dear life.
At the farm, Micah is picking up lights from RA for Prosper’s shindig when he confides in his uncle about taking things to the next level with KeKe. The pair have a heart to heart with Micah expressing his concerns. RA tells him to go with his gut.
The next day, Charley, who looks excellent but tired after all the drinking she’s done, goes downstairs to find a prepared breakfast and coffee in the kitchen. She also finds a love letter from Nova published in the New Orleans Daily News apologizing for the hurt she has caused.
Later that afternoon, after calling several times on Blue’s behalf, RA finally gets ahold of Darla. He invites her to Prosper’s event at what’s left of the mill before handing the phone off to Blue. Darla listens to her sweet son talk about school, space and cupcakes all the while she seems to be crumbling on the other side of the phone. RA seems to know something isn’t right.
That evening, Micah finds Charley working in her office. After begging his exhausted mother to get up Charley follows Micah to the mill where Prosper and her family (including Nova) are celebrating new beginnings. Prosper gives a beautiful speech about making something out of nothing as Charley cries quietly in gratitude.
At Darla’s, still shaken from everything that has happened, she clutches an unopened bottle of liquor before finally unsealing it and opening the top.
Queen Sugar airs Wednesdays at 9 PM ET on OWN.
Aramide A. Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment editor. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or A Word With Aramide or tweet her @wordwitharamide
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Photo by Skip Bolen © 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. / Courtesy of OWN