‘The Good Lord Bird’ episode two: ‘A Wicked Plot’ Bob and Onion head to Pikesville, Missouri, and the life-or-death stakes become clearer

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The Good Lord Bird is filled with terrific lines, brought to life by the sober-but-never-boring line reading of Joshua Caleb Johnson, who plays Onion, the series’ narrator. But one of my favorites comes at the end of episode one, because it offers a thematic bridge connecting the first hour of the miniseries to its second.

“Slavery was a poisonous snake,” Onion explains, after John Brown (Ethan Hawke) and his sons find that one of the Brown boys, Frederick (Duke Davis Roberts), has been murdered in the woods. “Everybody knew that. But freedom? The kind that was being offered? With no home and no food and not a friend in the world? That snake was just as poisonous. One snake pointed north, one pointed south, and they both bit n—–s.”

I didn’t write a review for episode one (Meet the Lord), so let’s reverse a bit before digging into A Wicked Plot. Some background on what’s happening in Kansas with Brown and his sons: “Bleeding Kansas,” as the territory was known before it entered the Union, got its name because of the violence that took place in the 1850s. “Redshirts” wanted Kansas to enter the Union as a slave state. Abolitionists, also known as…


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