Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell, True Blood) lives on the Macon plantation in Georgia as a "house girl," one of the more privileged slaves on the plantation, due in no small part to her beauty and quiet demeanor... and her mother Ernestine's (Amirah Vann) persuasiveness with Master Tom Macon (Reed Diamond, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Mentalist). Rosalee catches the eye of handsome rebel Noah (Aldis Hodge, Leverage), who has recently put together a plan of escape, after discovering a possible path to freedom, but the road to freedom is fraught with danger.
Of course, Noah will bring his irrepressible younger brother, Henry (Renwick Scott), but he also tags preacher Moses (Mykelti Williamson) because Noah believes he can read the map to freedom. With Moses, comes his devoted wife Pearly Mae (Adina Porter, True Blood, The 100) and their sweet young daughter, Boo (Danielle Stewart). The muscle comes in the form of enormous Zeke (Theodus Crane), a strong man who recently lost his infant daughter to death and his wife to the slave auction. The brains behind the plan is Sam (Johnny Ray Gill), Rosalee's older brother who is a carpentry savant, but who also foolishly believes that he can one day buy his freedom from Master Tom. Rounding out the group is the untrustworthy and cruel Mr. Cato (Alano Miller, Jane the Virgin), a black man in charge of other slaves and one who relishes his superior role and enjoys doling out punishment and cruelty on the others. He is clever and manages to worm his way into the escape plan by sheer threat, because he has no plans of being left behind if an escape is in the works.
Once Noah has put together the select few he believes can aid in escape, the plan is set violently in motion when an unavoidable event propels things forward earlier than expected, and the roster changes a bit due to those events. From then on out, the Macon Seven are in a race for their lives, as slave catchers from all around converge to catch the infamous and highly-priced runaways.
No slave catcher is worse than August Pullman (Christopher Meloni, S.V.U., True Blood), as he is charming and typically catches the slaves by tricking them into thinking he is going to aid them. He has his reasons, namely an insane wife who is being treated at a facility that grows increasingly more expensive. August is good at his job, but when he begins bringing his young son Ben on the job with him, he might have to rethink his vocation, when his son sees this other side of him.
Once the escape occurs, things aren't easy back at the Macon Plantation, but Ernestine does her best to keep things calm and insure the safety of her children, both those still at the plantation and the one on the run. But it won't be easy, as Tom Macon is determined to run for Senator and he is desperate for the nomination which the influential slave owners can provide him, and having escaped slaves tainting his reputation is dampening his plans.
On the other hand, there's Tom's brother, John Hawkes (Marc Blucas, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), who is a lawyer and an abolition activist who gets involved with William Still (Charles Chalk, Gotham) and the underground railroad. Together with his lovely wife Elizabeth (Jessica De Gouw, Arrow), their home will become a refuge for escaped slaves trying to cross the Ohio River, but their lives will be in as much peril as the slaves themselves.
Underground: Season One is the type of show that grabs you with its intensity at the outset and never lets go. Once I started watching, I couldn't stop. The characters (and the actors who play them) are compelling, intense, and completely believable, and the directing style is a mix of quiet intensity and riveting action scenes. I also love the mix of old gospel and spirituals with modern music as well, as it gives the show an incredible punch. The series simultaneously tells a tale of hope and desperation, good and evil, triumph and failure. It lets you peer into a dark part of America's history from the viewpoint of those who lived its cruelty firsthand, but it also shows that there were many good people who were fighting for the rights of those who could not speak for themselves.
Underground: Season One also comes packed with some nice special features, including commentary on two of the episodes, a gag reel, a featurette on John Legend (Executive Producer) and the music used in the show, some camera tests, and featurettes on the characters of the Macon Plantation, as well as a making-of, which was especially interesting to me as the series was filmed in and around South Louisiana, where I lived most of my life.
Overall, Underground: Season One is just an incredible experience and I can't wait to see where they go with Season Two. For now, if you haven't yet seen this amazing show, go watch it right now.