Best Amazon Prime TV shows to watch in May 2021
Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street could speak) adapts the novel of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning Colson Whitehead for this limited series, which chronicles Cora Randall, a runaway slave, and her journey to freedom in the pre-war South. In it, the Underground Railroad is reimagined as a literal locomotive that runs underground, stopping at various stations to transport black slaves to freedom. The series incorporates fantasy, which helps ease the trauma of some of the harshest scenes and gives the viewer time to recuperate before continuing through the story.
The first episode is hard to digest, especially for black viewers, filled with similar themes one would expect to see in slavery stories – a whip, a slave burned alive. However, Jenkins deviates from the traumatic pornography norm of bloody torment to also describe black resilience, black love, and black joy. Realizing the sanity of everyone on set, Jenkins enlisted a team of therapists to help the actors portray this trauma. Jenkins’ directing style is calm and understated, allowing viewers to watch the story unfold.
The series also touches on other real-life horrors that blacks have experienced beyond slavery, including sterilization, medical experimentation, and the Oregon act of exclusion. The Underground Railroad isn’t meant to be destroyed in a day and erased when the next hot prestige series hits streaming. With that in mind, I suggest you really take each episode into account – the sounds, the vivid colors, the jaw-dropping scenery – before continuing to follow Cora’s journey to freedom.
Watch it on Amazon Prime Video, available now.