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Underground - S01E01

History . Drama
 

In 1857, a group of slaves on a Georgia plantation make the dangerous decision to journey 600 miles north for the promise of freedom.

 
Episode Title: The Macon 7
Airs: 2016-03-09 at 22:00
  • Willa Paskin

    Underground’s provocative premise is shortchanged by a corny and anxious tendency to goose the narrative. It is hard to imagine a more inherently gripping premise than escaping slaves, but Underground tosses in pop music, lurid sex scenes, and a breakneck pace, undermining its own ambition.

    Slate Full Review
  • Tom Long

    Underground lingers on the slave experience, and that experience is appropriately awful and inhumane and certainly dramatic. But it’s also a show that wanders a bit too freely, undercutting its important subject matter and forward momentum by interfering with itself. As a show, it needs to learn how to keep it together.

    The Detroit News Full Review
  • Mary McNamara

    But for all its dramatic pulse, historic details and narrative twists, Underground simply takes too long to get going; it isn't until the fourth episode that the show's real story, and potential, reveal themselves.

    Los Angeles Times Full Review
  • Chris Cabin

    What truly sets the series apart from similar narratives, however, is its narrative breadth, its not entirely successful but nevertheless enthralling scope in detailing the world of the pre-Lincoln south, from the white men and women who rose to power by enslaving persecuting, and, yes, killing African-Americans to those African-Americans who sacrificed, in every imaginable way, to survive the times.

    Collider Full Review
  • Joe Incollingo

    Against all convention, Underground could even be flashier. A tighter vision, though, is what will make its flash burn brighter.

    We Got This Covered Full Review
  • Matt Roush

    These runaways aren't shown to be saints, but their treacherous quest for liberation has an almost biblical quality of deliverance. [7-10 Mar 2016, p.18]

    TV Guide Magazine Full Review
  • Nancy DeWolf Smith

    They [the black characters] are so well drawn and acted and so dramatically compelling that the others--like the casually cruel plantation massah and the kindly abolitionist lawyer and his wife--can seem like stock characters in a movie of the week.

    Wall Street Journal Full Review
  • Ken Tucker

    At its best, the show does a good job of portraying each slave as an individual with his or her own strengths and flaws, while, on the other side, the whites are also placed in the social context of the times.... There are some jarring touches in Underground. One of them is good: the use of contemporary music by artists such as Kanye West to underscore bristling discontent. But another contemporary trope occasionally takes a viewer out of the drama, as when one character or another sometimes uses phrases that no 19th-century person would have uttered.

    Yahoo TV Full Review
  • Matt Zoller Seitz

    While the scripts set up and execute various clever twists, they aren’t clever enough to allay concerns that the show is trying so hard to reassure viewers that they aren’t being force-fed a meal of high-fiber historical fiction that it’s overcompensating with eye candy.... It’s a gripping series but far from a great one, and there are bound to be more like it; in a roundabout way, this is progress.

    New York Magazine (Vulture) Full Review
  • Ray Rahman

    An intriguing historical drama. [11 Mar 2016, p.77]

    Entertainment Weekly Full Review
  • David Wiegand

    The plot is filled with what might be considered melodramatic cliches.... But a funny thing happens after the first episode or two: "Underground" ... loses its melodramatic patina. That’s almost entirely because of the performances.

    San Francisco Chronicle Full Review
  • Ed Bark

    Underground occasionally clunks through these proceedings but usually not for too long. Vivid, strong performances by Hodge and Meloni help to keep the story on its toes while the producers effectively recreate a pivotal period just four years shy of the four-year war pitting North against South.

    Uncle Barky Full Review
  • Rob Owen

    Underground is a rough watch, but it offers twists and compelling characters worth watching for viewers up to the challenge.

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Full Review
  • Daniel D'Addario

    Underground rises to the challenge with urgent storytelling and a heavy dose of contemporary edge.

    Time Full Review
  • Dan Fienberg

    Even if Underground isn't fun, the Misha Green and Joe Pokaski-created series is both exhilarating and entertaining, taking a history lesson and making it something more contemporary, taking a painful chapter in American life and infusing it with populist genres.

    The Hollywood Reporter Full Review
  • Jon Caramanica

    Underground, another well-made show from the underappreciated network WGN America, is at its best when it’s hardest to watch.

    The New York Times Full Review
  • Scott D. Pierce

    WGN America's new drama Underground is an excellent program that's both engaging and disturbing.

    The Salt Lake Tribune Full Review
  • Hank Stuever

    Thrilling and occasionally provocative.

    Washington Post Full Review
  • Gail Pennington

    Sometimes the action veers into melodrama, and some of its white characters feel cartoonish. The level of violence is sometimes hard to watch, especially in the first episode, and the language is very rough, if appropriately so. But the characters of the slaves are sharply drawn, the action riveting and the mood not always grim. Hodge and Smollett-Bell are magical together. All that makes Underground an important series that doesn't feel like medicine going down.

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch Full Review
  • Mekeisha Madden Toby

    Underground celebrates the small, exceptional group of black and white heroes who risked it all for the sake of freedom. And it’s that story, the amazing cast and the historically accurate writing behind the drama that make this series worth the investment.

    The Wrap Full Review
  • Caroline Framke

    As of its first four episodes, Underground is in a solid position moving forward, thanks to its breathless momentum and wonderful anchoring performances from Hodge, Smollett-Bell, Vann, and Miller in particular.

    Vox.com Full Review
  • Alan Sepinwall

    Based on the four episodes I've watched, Underground seems to have hit the sweet spot between quality and commercial potential, and between being respectful of the time it's depicting while finding a way to function as ongoing entertainment.

    Hitfix Full Review
  • Verne Gay

    Good newcomer that can drag, but Hemingway's direction keeps this one on track.

    Newsday Full Review
  • Mark A. Perigard

    With scenes of brutality inflicted on slaves and the casual use of the “n” word, Underground can be difficult to watch. But there’s nothing gratuitous about this story. The series is enhanced by contemporary music from the likes of Legend, Kanye West and The Weeknd.

    Boston Herald Full Review
  • Mark Dawidziak

    The writers do take the occasional misstep along the trail. The series has it didactic moments, to be sure, as well as the occasional cartoonish character (usually among those chasing the runaways). But these drawbacks are more than offset by the riveting narrative, the outstanding lead cast and a seamless weaving of the greater historical context into the ongoing story.

    Cleveland Plain Dealer Full Review
  • Matt Webb Mitovich

    The solid cast, compelling overall storyline and deft twists (Rosalee’s mother is full of surprises) add up to an engrossing, enlightening drama.

    TVLine Full Review
  • Joshua Alston

    Underground benefits from its deliberate pacing. This is, after all, a heist story, except that the thieves are literally stealing their own bodies. All the components of a tense thriller are here.

    The A.V. Club Full Review
  • Brian Lowry

    The result is so-so as both history and drama, a series with moments of power, but also occasional lapses into Civil War-era cliches. Progressing along a serialized path, the WGN drama contains enough suspense to pull viewers through four previewed episodes, without yet demonstrating whether it can stay on track through a 10-episode run.

    Variety Full Review