Black Earth Rising - Episode 8 Recap
So, I literally binged on the last 4 episodes so I could finish this recap. And I’m not going to lie, this last episode is epic. They pulled out all the tricks in the book to keep you on your toes till the very end. I’m so sad this series is ending and I hope they have a season two because the acting from all the actors and especially from Michaela Coel has been phenomenal to say the least. They have done such a brilliant job bringing to life such an emotive and sensitive story, Hugo Blick as a director is a creative genius.
In episode 7 (which you can read about more on here), Kate learned the shocking truth about her past and where she came from. She learnt that what she had always thought to be the most fundamentally true thing about her identity was a lie, one which was concocted to ensure that she had a speedy and safe passage into the UK. We as the viewers also learned why Eunice, Eve, Michael and Alice had all agreed to the keep the truth from Kate and that Tutsis as well as Hutus were capable of atrocities.
The episode opens with a meeting between the two sisters, a calm yet frank exchange that sees both of them sitting across frome ach other however Alice is handcuffed. President Bibi Mundanzi demands that Alice withdraw her insurrectionary claims for the sake of peace in Rwanda. Alice insists that “we have a duty to memory”. But Bibi reminds Alice of a story from their childhood, when cattle died from having been led to poisoned waters. Alice had convinced Bibi to carry the blame for that, “Let them believe it was the strange little white-eyed girl” was Alice’s words as a child to Bibi. Bibi tells Alice that was the last time she ever took her advice.
We find Kate in Africa in the next scene. She is shown her adopted father’s gravestone, Ed holt, who died in 1997. It would have been found or uncovered had it not been for the burning of the ladn for the crops by the farmers. She stands before the gravestone for a moment before walking away, the landscape around her ablaze with fire. The symbolism that Hugo Blick uses in the series is poignant and fitting of each scene.
In London, Michael is visited by a probate officer who informs him that Blake Gaines had made him a beneficiary of his will. Michael asks if its his car collection, unfortunately for him it isn’t however the probate officer hands him an envelope of which the contents are an unpaid invoice from the Universal Church of Christ the Peacemaker and a photograph of an industrialist, Richard Ratzenburger.
Michael receives a call on behalf of Frank Munzero, he is told by the caller that is regarding a lead his daughter was following upin her professional work before she suffered the crash that has left her in the present condition. So we find out here that there is a purpose as to why we have been seeing Michael’s daughter throughout the entire series. Michael awaits the representative in his office. The meeting brings about a whole different plot twist as it turns out that Kromnin, the mining company working in Rwanda, have apparently been paying off Ganimana and his people a sum of $23m a year so as to not interfere with their work. Thepayments have been made to the Universal Church of Christ the Peacemaker. Michael also finds out in this meeting that the church only has two branches. One is in London and the other in the DRC in Sankele, the village in which Kromnin operates. They come to the obvious conclusion that it is a front. We also find out fromt his meeting that it was Florence who had stolen the tape and that he had been working for Runihara all along. Florence is also en route to Sankele where he is to meet Samson a.k.a as Nkanga who is now a member of the police force in Sankele. Whilst driving on the road from Sankele he passes Kate who is walking along the road with other villagers in search of the graves from the Hutu refugee sit. Kate asks Florence to help her, he tells her she must go home as she is not safe. Kate is adamant that she will find the graves and refuses to heed his advice.
Kate addresses the village in what seems to be a plea that has been done before. She asks if anyone knows of a mass grave that is nearby, if anyone was there 20 years ago when the genocide happened. No one seems to hear her and she seems almost deflated and broken. In the evening as she’s back in the village lying on a sleeping mat, she dreams about the night she was rescued and it is the first time we see her remember that night with vivid detail. She awakens to find the old woman she has befriended sitting nearby watching over her.
The next day we see Nkanga talking to Florence. He asks him if Kate will leave, Florence tells him that she will not. Nkanga decided then that Florence must take her to the graves that she is seeking and leave her there. They walk to the edge of a cliff and from the top they can see a half dug hole. Nkanag explains that the mining company had begin to dig it up but stopped when they found that they were unearthing human remains. He hands Florence a blade and says, “Runihara told u you would do anything to bury your past.” Florence reluctantly takes the blade and seems to be at war with himself as to what he should do, especially now that he is being tasked with killing Kate.
Kate awakens that morning to find the village she is in deserted. She walks to the market to also find it deserted. Florence is there waiting for her and tells her that he will take her to the mass grave that she is looking for. He shows her the half-dug hole and in it Kate finds bones and clothing in the soil and on the ground. It is such an emoptional, high strung scene. The pain is palpable and Michaela Coel does an amazing job translating those feelings onto the screen for those of us watching. I don’t think I will ever be able to explain it well enough and the only way you can really understand it is to watch this episode itself. Florence stands above Kate and for a split second you fear that the guardian angel is no more and that he will carry out the task expected of him. But he doesn’t. He explains to her that he was paid to kill her, not with money but with a Rwandan passport. He was given the opportunity to return home, forgiven. He tells her that he has learnt that it is not only genocide deniers who are blind and that he must find his own way home. HE also tells her that his name is Florence Karamera, he asks her what her name is. Kate is crying by this point and says, my name is Kate Ashby. He asks, “but you come from Sankele” She tells him yes and that’s when he tells her, “they have come for you,” Kate stands up from the grave to see the villagers descending upon the landscape with farming tools to help her dig up the rest of the bodies buried there.
We are taken back to a stadium in Rwanda in the next scene where Runihara breaks the news to Bibi that the British want a deal which involves Alice having to share her power and step back to allow for others to lead. They argue about statistics and economics but the underlying tone to it all is that Bibi feels betrayed by her one-time lover who it turns out is also the father of her daughter. Runihara tells Bibi that she has no choice but to accept that the deal must happen.
We also find out that Alice is released to a crowd carrying “truth and reconciliation” banners, the truth and the tape will also be out. Back at his home, Runihura is startled by a cobra that has been left by his front door. The snake rears up and Runihara could run but resignedly, he steps forward instead.
Back in London, the news is broken to Ganimana that there is nothing more that can be done about his illness. He leaves the clinic a broken man, keenly aware of the end that awaits him he bypasses the open door to his car and steps infront of a passing speeding ambulance. It seems almost unfair that after all the decades of his wrongdoing and evading justice that he gets to have an abrupt end and not face what he is being accused of and ultimately guilty of in court. It feels like those who survived the genocide are being robbed of their chance to see the man responsible for it being taken to task. The next scene is a man crying out in unspeakable agony. He is lying on gurney with blood-soaked bandages on his eyes. It is Nkanga, both of his eyes have been put out to symbolise his genocide denier principles. It is clear that this is the work of Florence.
Bibi is back in Switzerland to meet with Mary. It is a much more receptive and friendlier encounter than their previous one. Bibi realises the advantage she gains from sharing her presidential power. Mother and daughter seem content and at peace with the fact that they have each other back. Meanwhile Alice is in the front line again, this time in a political and diplomatic position. With President Bibi on leave she assumes the responsibility that the position yields. She is advised that Kromnin’s mining operations are coming under attack from Ugandan jihadists, she instructs her assistant to call Sophie Barré, who has inherited her late father’s business interests. They can do business with her. The assistant points out in a rather resigned way, “the Great Game continues.”
The episode ends with a call between Michael and Kate who despite the distance has a profoundly strong emotional bond with each other. It is something that is far beyond a mere daughter substitute or misguided sexual attraction on Kate’s part. Michael apologises to Kate for not telling her sooner and she tells him that maybe it was because he felt she wasn’t ready. He tells her that whatever she chooses to do to not be too hard on her mother’s memory. Michael seems to want to say more but they both know that all that needs to be said has been said and Kate puts the phone down. The scene closes with a map of Rwanda on the table before the lights go out.
This last episode has left feeling so many things, I’m angry, hurt and sad but also happy. I’ve been following Human of New York’s journey through Rwanda in the last few weeks where he has been talking to the rescuers and helpers during the 1994 genocide, reading that and then watching an episode has made it so much more impactful in how we have become so de-sensitised by everything happening around us. Hugo Blick does an amazing job with his equally amazing cast, this series is easily one I could re-watch all over again.