Welcome back for the second installment of The Long Song miniseries recaps. In this week’s episode, the Amity planation enters a new and uncharted era in history. Unfortunately, for July and emancipated slaves across the British Empire, it soon becomes clear that it will take much more than a decree and high ideals to make their expectations of living as free and equal people a reality.
You may recall that last week, we followed July from childhood through to early adulthood. She suffered separation from her mother at a young age, learned how to manage her shallow and immature mistress, and was traumatized by a series of events that transpired at the Amity sugar plantation immediately following the Christmas Rebellion of 1831.
We pick up right where we left off last time. The new overseer’s news that the slaves would be freed in a few days’ time has come to fruition. Nevertheless, it’s the slave owners who get compensation from the Crown. July can read and keep the books, but there are no reparations for her or any of the other slaves. “What good be free, if nothing change?” wonders our narrator, Old July.
At first, it would appear that with Mr. Goodwin (Jack Lowden) on board, conditions at the plantation are bound to improve. He informs Caroline that her workers’ accommodations are very poor and that the well-being and fair treatment of the workforce is vital to the success of a plantation. She, on the other hand, is more interested in ascertaining the marital status of her new overseer. He’s quite a handsome, earnest gentleman who’s very intent on pleasing his father. July quietly appreciates what he has to say and can’t help but notice how he looks at her.
However, when Robert addresses the workers who have remained at Amity, he doesn’t effectively express his fervent wish to wash away the scourge of slavery. Instead, he suggests they should show their appreciation for the kindness Queen Victoria and their mistress have shown them through their hard work. The former slaves are not impressed
Giddy about her prospects with the tall, blue-eyed bachelor, Caroline demands July go out in the pouring rain to invite Mr. Goodwin for dinner that evening. When she arrives at his house, July finds him perched on a chair, surrounded by an invasion of cockroaches. They chuckle over his illogical fear, but to be fair, they are really BIG bugs! Robert notices his house servant call Marguerite Miss July instead and asks if he may call her by her given name as well. He accepts Caroline’s invitation to dinner and, concerned by her mistress’s judgement at sending her out in the storm, loans July an umbrella for her trip back.
Some time afterward, July runs into haughty Miss Clara in town. Always eager to rub in her good fortune, she boasts about her white husband, an attorney who has bought her a lodging house. Just then, Robert Goodwin rides by and offers Miss July a ride back to Amity. She gleefully accepts and a plan starts to form in her mind.
First off, she plants the seeds of her suitability as a wife by mentioning that her papa was a white man from “Scotch Land”. Robert says he has a book on Scotland if she’d like to see it. Caroline witnesses July’s faked stumble out of the carriage and into Robert’s arms. Her jealousy betrays her outward entitlement and inward inferiority complex,
Step two: July “borrows” one of Caroline’s frocks, telling Molly, the housemaid, she plans to “catch a big old fish, so she’ll never have to dirty her hands again”. She shows up at Robert’s place unannounced under the pretense of wanting to see the Scotland book. As intended the passion takes over, but Robert puts on the brakes, begging July to leave despite her best seduction efforts. His morals puzzle July, but young Mr. Goodwin explains his father didn’t approve of white men who abuse their position.
Agitated that her chosen suitor hasn’t made a move, Caroline requests Robert take her to inspect the fields. She awkwardly swoons in the heat (why do men always fall for this?), but Robert has a plan of his own. He doesn’t provide the details but assures July that he loves her and that they will be together soon.
What he failed to mention is that his plan involves marrying Caroline. This will please his father, make him lord and master of Amity Plantation and give him access to July, the woman he truly desires. We begin to see cracks in the idealistic philosophies and honorable nature of Mr. Robert Goodwin. After all, as unlikeable as Caroline is, does she really deserve the indignity of her husband and her housekeeper throwing about flirtatious pickle innuendo in front of her?
Before we know it, July has given birth to a baby girl whom they name Emily, after Robert’s mother. Surely another humiliation for Caroline, but a more contented little family you could never find.
Of course, that happiness was never destined to last. With the pressure to get the sugarcane crop in before it spoils, Robert demands all the workers put in seven days a week until the harvest is complete. The field hands counter with five days because they have plans to see their families at Christmas. Frustrated, Robert threatens to withhold pay if they won’t do what he commands. July stands by him, even though she flinches when Robert calls one of the men “boy”.
Back at home, July attempts to calm her exasperated pseudo-husband. She tells Robert he must show his workers that he’s different from the other white men who have lied to them. With July along as an intermediary of sorts, Robert approaches the workers one on one. He offers more money and time off after the work is done, but Christmas is too important for them to miss. At an impasse, the crowd begins singing, and Goodwin storms off in anger almost leaving July behind.
That evening we see Robert angrily muttering to himself. Caroline tells July that Robert’s father is wrong - Negroes can’t be reasoned with and they’ll never be civilized. July tries to convince her husband to get some rest, but he vows to make those (expletives) beg to work for him. Caroline senses things are finally shifting in her favor if she plays her cards right.
Next week brings the conclusion of this volatile historical saga. As Old July says, “a storm is coming.” Until then, what are your thoughts on Robert Goodwin – his unrealistic ideals, his unorthodox marital situation, and his hypocrisy when good intentions failed him? How about Caroline, did you pity her at all? And finally, July – do you think she actually fell for Robert or just what he could do for her standing? Let’s get chatting in the comments.