Episode 63

Published on:

13th May 2021

The Underground Railroad (Season 1)

Zehra Phelan reviews slave drama The Underground Railroad, adapted from Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer prize-winning novel, and it's available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

2 Minute Telly are your essential reviews of all the newest and biggest shows on the small screen covering Netflix, Prime, Apple TV, Disney Plus, Freeview and more, hosted by Rotten Tomatoes approved critic Zehra Phelan. Follow the show on Twitter and Instagram at @2minutepods and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, or enable the Alexa skill to get the latest reviews added to your daily flash briefing.


Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk director Barry Jenkins delves into the words of Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad, and it's to enlighten Amazon viewers with his trademark toil and character emotion and struggle, in the slow-paced but equally powerful slavery drama for the thinking human.

This ten episode story is led by newcomer Thuso Mbedu, who plays the main protagonist Cora - a slave girl in Georgia who reluctantly escapes the clutches of her slave owner with lover Caesar, played by Aaron Pierre. Episode after episode explores their journey via the train depicted underground railway, from South and North Carolina to Tennessee and Indiana, and the challenges they face when they emerge from underground.

From a seemingly white saviour town when nothing is at it seems, as African Americans are sheltered by a white cult-like institution, Cora finds herself working in a museum that puts emphasis on the violence of slavery, while Caesar nabs himself a job as a doctor's assistant. Something just doesn't sit right for the pair; hot on their pursuit is Joel Edgerton's slave catcher Ridgeway, a complex character somewhat humanised with his own backstory, driven by white privilege and capitalism.

Constantly respectful and tremendously sensitive from beginning to end, Mbedu puts in a whirlwind performance of inner turmoil and immense strength. She has an understated power in conveying the fear of her limited freedoms, from spending a whole episode cooped up in an attic in an outright racist town, to facing her tormentor head on. I really don't recommend binge-watching this one or it will lose any type of enticement; through all it's richly doused tones and impeccably clever dialogue and hidden meanings, it can become a bit of a bore and a chore. This one really needs time to temper, to be absorbed or the meaning of its intentions could be well and truly lost on the entertainment seeker.

Jenkins has used his marking gentle subtlety. The whole story is filled with layers of repression, and the correlation between the past and the present, and how black culture benefits those of the white person for capitalist gain. No matter how much you put a spin on it, that same form of racism still exists to this day, it just wears a different mask.

This gets a 4/5

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About the Podcast

2 Minute Telly
Small Screen Reviews in Two Minutes or Less

2 Minute Telly reviews all the latest series on Freeview, online and on demand in two minutes or less, telling you everything you need with none of the fluff. Covering all the biggest and newest series across Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Hulu, BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and more, 2 Minute Telly is your essential podcast for short, straight to the point TV reviews.

2 Minute Telly is hosted by Rotten Tomatoes approved critic Zehra Phelan. After working in the music industry for 15 years, Zehra made the giant leap into the wonderful world of Film and TV Reporting in 2013 after becoming disillusioned with the life of an extra. From TV and Film reviews and features to interviewing some of the top actors in the game, her work credits include HeyUGuys, Flavourmag, Yahoo, The Voice (Newspaper) and TV’s London Film Club on London Live.

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