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Angela Bassett’s surprise ‘Underground’ cameo takes us inside Ernestine’s brutal pas…

“Underground” took a visceral turn on Wednesday (March 22) as we watched Rosalee’s (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) race for survival get brutal and bloody.

“Ache” didn’t hesitate to take us there: Down into the gritty water and suffocating soil, Rosalee’s struggle became ours as she scrambled to stay one step ahead of Patty’s (Sadie Stratton) gang. Yet as harrowing as her fight became, it was the episode’s narrative connection to Miss Ernestine’s (Amirah Vann) journey — along with a surprise cameo by Angela Bassett — that elevated “Underground” to poetic new heights.

As Rosalee fired off that round next to her chest, sealing her wound closed, the story dissected itself into multiple layers as her own future laid in the balance: What kind of world is this to bring a baby into? After all, she’s “The Black Rose,” a highly-coveted runaway — and bait to bring Harriet Tubman (Aisha Hinds) out of hiding. How can Rosalee justify motherhood against all these troubled odds?

RELATED: August’s retaliation is Rosalee’s worst enemy on ‘Underground’

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To answer that question, “Underground” dives deep into Ernestine’s current mental state: Medicating the pain away, Rosalee’s mother can’t keep the demons from her past at bay. The trend that started with a haunting by Pearly Mae (Adina Porter) continued. This time, Ernestine’s dead son Sam (Johnny Ray Gill) arrived to remind her of past transgressions.

Pearly Mae is dead. Sam is dead. Sam’s father died long before Tom Macon became Ernestine’s full-time (and secret) lover. These demons have put Rosalee’s mother in this self-imposed prison.

“Your body ain’t never been yours, and never will be.”

Bassett’s cameo brings everything front and center. It’s in this flashback that we see a young Ernestine, firmly devoted to never having kids. Bassett’s words hit hard — the thought of a young girl cutting out her insides to keep the Masters at bay striking a harsh new chord. We all know how things eventually go for Ernestine: Her romance with Tom Macon (Reed Diamond) leads to Rosalee’s birth, the Macon 7’s escape and, ultimately, Macon’s death at Ernestine’s own hands.

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There’s a lot to unpack here. Ernestine’s decision to have children not only reveals her inner protest against the powers that be, it shows her perseverance in the face of impossible adversity. This is Ernestine’s body, for better or worse.

RELATED: A surprise pregnancy steers ‘Underground’ into dangerous waters

Disconnected from Rosalee and fearing the worst, Ernestine’s depression ends up leading her to a breaking point. As her daughter fought to keep breathing — stabbing one of Patty’s men right through the eye, before being literally buried underground — Ernestine steps into the ocean with the intention of never coming back. As it turns out, “Underground” isn’t done with either woman yet.

It’ll be an uphill battle for Ernestine — it has been for quite some time. But as Rosalee finds an unexpected reprieve from Francis (Alex Collins) — that reporter accompanying Patty on her hunt — Ernestine is pulled from the water. Can she find her way back to the woman she was in Season 1? Taking the blame away for all that she’s done will be a challenge, that’s for sure…

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One could say there’s a legacy to maintain between Rosalee and Ernestine. Their family may be scattered, but that baby in Rosalee’s belly is a clear reminder of a bloodline that needs to be protected, and the promise of freedom “Underground” has yet to fulfill.

“Underground” Season 2 airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on WGN America.

Category: TelevisionTV Shows: UndergroundCelebrities: Angela Bassett Christopher Meloni Jurnee Smollett-BellTV Network: WGN America

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