I’m curious about the decision for the order here, and the decisions around what episodes or locales to devote more runtime to. (In the prologue, and again when Cora imagined her as she eulogized her to Jasper, we saw a version of this — here, Grace’s fabric mask shows us the difficult reality.) She exits out the back door. Fiona was stoned earlier, and it looks like Ethel has been too before being left to bleed to death, slipping into a fugue religious state to ease her passing. There’s a mysteriousness and sense of awe to what’s been built, although it’s not totally surreal. The camera sits on top of the train and we watch it chug along, black smoke blowing out. I want this ending for her! Whatever proximity to the whiteness and status of the other townsfolk she’d hoped for is lost. And behold: On the other side of the blockage sits an idle train. Inside, she climbs through the wreckage of the dynamite explosion down to the railroad tracks. Two things can be true at once, I suppose. In a captivating aerial shot, we watch the black smoke rise and billow from the row of houses as the fire begins to engulf this entire, vigilantly white-supremacist town. It’s an imaginative lyric of a piece that allows Grace, whose real name is Fanny Briggs, a beautiful exit and a different fate than what was expected to have befallen her in “Chapter 3: North Carolina.”

This episode picks up where we last left North Carolina: Fiona, who tried to be some sort of hero — saying that she knew Ethel and Martin were up to something; throwing the lamp after spitting at Ethel — instead starts a fire, which spreads from Martin and Ethel’s house onto the entire street. It’s all very dreamlike, and Grace is greeted warmly by the train’s attendant, Mae (Denitra Isler): “Well hello, li’l missy. • My understanding is that Fanny Briggs is a reference to a fictional historical person in another Colson Whitehead novel, The Intuitionist! How was the train just sitting there on the other side of the blockage? I want to say first that I enjoyed this story. “Yeah, we closed that station,” Mae says. Martin is and Fanny explains that he ran the railroad in North Carolina before it was closed, there’s a solemn moment. “Yeah … Y’all did,” Fanny says, clearly feeling betrayed. Terms & Privacy Notice
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. Before, it didn’t seem like someone could express disappointment in the railroad, but her feelings make sense. This is my favorite needle drop so far! She was “a slave who taught herself how to read.”

• I do wonder why we get this episode NOW. She finds the manifest amid the rubble, but must leave it behind as she follows a group of fireflies through a small hole in the block tunnel passage. VULTURE NEWSLETTER
Keep up with all the drama of your favorite shows! (Colson Whitehead’s novel isn’t too invested in these details, either.) Was the train waiting for her? First, we learn that Grace isn’t really her name. • Reading Railroad: The Black Condition ft. Compared with Cora’s experience of the railroad, though, Fanny’s experience shows just how little of its actual mechanics we’ve learned — or how little we’d be able to understand. • Also, the inclusion of Ethel and Fiona anchors us in the real in a particular way, even as there’s a possibility to read this episode as a dream or an imagination of Fanny’s death or afterlife. If something like this was possible, it makes me wonder what the possibilities could have been for a series of episodes with much more variant lengths …

• So, is the book of testimonies important or not? We’ve been waiting for you … You looking for a ride?” They can leave as soon as Grace gives her “testimony.” Then, a couple of interesting things happen. I’m not actually interested in these questions being answered — arguably, this episode marks a speculative split from the main narrative, marked by Fanny’s invisible slip out of the back of the house, so it’s not worth getting hung up on those details. It’s all a lot of violence and destruction to take in, so I appreciate the soft reset. The thesis of the episode seems to be No. If the logic raises some eyebrows, there’s a tender essence in this episode, a gift to the audience. “Don’t you worry about that book,” Mae says, “Our stories will always be right here.” She points toward her heart and leaves the cart. Email

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Terms of Service apply. When asked where she wants to go, she tells Mae, “Wherever it is Cora went to.” It’s not clear to me if this is something that’s possible, as Mae doesn’t know who Cora is, but the railroad seems to work a bit differently for Fanny — the train is nicer, and no one’s yet asked Cora where she’d like to go. The song played in the closing credits is Michael Jackson’s “I Wanna Be Where You Are” from the album Got to Be There. In Ethel and Martin’s burning home, Grace climbs down from the crawlspace into the attic and uses some fabric as a mask so she doesn’t inhale too much smoke. Fanny Briggs.” Then, when Mae asks who Mr. Tags: Narcissus by jayy dodd, and Erou by Maya Phillips, two sharp books of poetry, use myth and mythmaking to reimagine or re-contextualize Black storytelling and possibility. Since everyone is distracted with the fire, she flees unseen. On the ground floor, we see her silhouette against the burning orange of the front of the house. A bit of wonder, and of hope. Is it because she needs to be the one to utter it? Is it a one way track? Why did they close the station? In the chaos, after someone shouts a slur at her, she’s dragged away, kicked, and stoned. Fanny gets to writing and the train takes off. • “I like the cut of your jib, Fanny Briggs!”

• I appreciate the late title card (occuring after we see Ethel) because I like Fanny’s story on its own, and I at first wasn’t sure why we were checking back in with other folks in North Carolina. Fiona bleeds from the mouth and crawls toward the altar, stunned, as the image slowly fades to Ethel, who has been strung up on the Freedom Trail. “Mr. But Fanny has one final concern: “I left the book back there, the one with all our stories in it,” she explains. I very much like the feeling of this episode, the almost magical quality to it. I’m sure there were reasons, but it left her alone. Grace (Mychal-Bella Bowman) walks through the woods toward the railroad station. If so, why did they ask her who she was? Some of these episodes are LONG. The Underground Railroad
Chapter 7: Fanny Briggs

Season 1

Episode 7

Editor’s Rating

4 stars

****

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Photo: Atsushi Nishijima/Amazon Studios

“Our stories will always be right here.” *pats heart*

What a small relief this episode is. It’s an interesting thing. The Caboose

• This episode was written by Jihan Crowther. But Mae still has Fanny record her story! Martin, he call me Grace,” she starts, “But I had another name before that, a name my mama gave me.