Lovecraft Country is owned by HBO
Directed by Charlotte Sieling
We’re back with everyone’s favorite extremely ambitious SyFy original series! With the last episode leaving me with a sour taste in my mouth regarding our main character Atticus, it’s perhaps time that we get back to his storyline instead of going off on these tangents with other characters; if for no other reason than for the main plot of this story to not consistently get overshadowed by everything else that’s going on around it. Does this find a way to bring the whole Book of Names nonsense to the forefront in a fun and interesting way, or are we in store for more distractions? Let’s find out!!
Okay, so not looking to spoil things TOO much right off the bat, but this is a lot like Episode 5 (the one that was mostly about Ruby in a racially reimagined take on the Jekyll & Hyde story) in that this is another episode where one character’s story takes center stage while everything else is pushed to the margins. To that end, we’ll just speed by all the stuff that happens in the first part of the story which is once again where Atticus and the whole Sons of Adam thing get a brief spotlight, and then focus on the ONE BIG thing that happened during the rest of it.
Ruby and Christina (Wunmi Mosaku and Abbey Lee) are in the mysterious basement where we find the corpses of William and Ruby’s White Lady (Jordan Patrick and Jamie Neumann); seemingly dead though being held here to harvest blood for the transformation potion. Ruby is certainly upset about all this, particularly the lies of omission that Christina/William have been tactfully avoiding, but she’s not quite mad enough to leave the situation entirely. After all, she’s got a pretty good deal going on here with all this magical nonsense, but she wants Christina to be straight with her about what’s going on. It’s not clear because the scene cuts as soon as she mentions it, but Christina seems to inform Ruby about what’s going on with Atticus and Leti (Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett) with the whole Book of Names thing, so I guess we’ll be seeing that confrontation at some point in the future. I genuinely do hope that Ruby doesn’t leave all this magic stuff behind because despite a few moments in that episode that made me cringe (the stiletto heel comes to mind), I really do like her as a character and am curious to see how far she goes and if she may even become an antagonist to Atticus and Leti in her pursuit of power.
Speaking of whom, those two have a… well honestly kind of boring scene as they discuss the pages and whatnot. I’ll be honest, I’m still not quite ready to enjoy seeing this dude on screen again after watching her shoot an innocent Korean woman in the head, and Leti is just kind of there for him to bounce ideas off of until they come to a realization. Leti for some reason (and that reason is almost certainly because she’s pregnant with Atticus’s child, though she doesn’t seem to realize it yet) is having the same dreams that Atticus is having which involve his ancestor Hanna running out of the Sons of Adam lodge as it burned to the ground. In the dream she’s carrying a book which the two of them conclude that the book she was carrying as she ran out was the Book of Names, and that Atticus’s family on her mother’s side must have used this magic in the past and now might have some information on where it went. I mean sure, I guess they have to do what they have to do, but none of this Book of Names stuff has been the least big interesting outside of the one time they recreated National Treasure. Then again, it’s only kind of on the margins these last few episodes to make room for the better stories so at least these status updates don’t overstay their welcome too much; I just wish they had a more interesting way of telling it.
Since Montrose (Michael K Williams) had done all that research into his wife’s family history that led him to Ardham in the first place, the two of them decide to visit him at his apartment which turns out to be quite a inconvenient moment as he and his boyfriend Sammy (Jon Hudson Odom) are spending a nice morning with a good breakfast. Well… a not so good breakfast as the bacon is pork and the grits are runny, and Montrose is his typical ball of defense mechanisms. They start to argue and Sammy leaves just as Leti and Atticus are about to knock on the door; at which point Atticus calls his father a slur which is REALLY not helping me to like the dude, and Montrose basically throws him out. Atticus goes to cry outside while Leti apparently went back and got some info from Montrose, and I’m not sure about this. I mean fair enough, Montrose’s defensiveness and toxic masculinity led him to being a crappy and abusive father which was probably not helped by having to hide this from everyone, but it’s hard for me to sympathize with him being EXTRA mad about him being gay. This is the end of Montrose’s role in the episode though, so I guess we’ll have to wait and find out how Atticus acts the next time he sees him, but they’re gonna have to really knock it out of the park on the next Atticus centered episode to pick him back up after what we’ve seen of him in these last few episodes. In any case, Leti finds out that while Atticus’s mother’s side has no living relatives, there’s a woman in St Louis who was a good friend of one of her cousins and may have some information about the family. That doesn’t really go anywhere as the woman who is VERY nice just doesn’t have any information that could help him find what he’s looking for, but Leti is back home and makes a startling revelation which brings us to the REAL meat of the story.
So then! Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) has been a constant presence since the show began, but has been kept in the dark as far as the magical nonsense going on in this show; up to and including the details surrounding the death of her husband George. The episode actually began with her finding Ardham as well as the dilapidated remains of the Lodge; not finding any answers but confirming that George was here and that Atticus has been lying to her this whole time. On top of that, she’s been studying the Orrery she found in Leti’s new house ALL the way back in episode 3 as she believes it holds some sort of clues as to what has been going on behind her back. She managed to find the secret to unlocking it and finds a key along with GPS coordinates and a cryptic quote, so without a moment’s hesitation or a doubt in her mind, she packs up the car and leaves her daughter Diana (Jada Harris) in the care of Ruby and Leti which is how Leti made her big revelation. She finds the Orrery and relays the coordinates to Atticus who rushes from St. Louis to Mayfield, Kansas to try and find her; hoping to save her from whatever danger is waiting at the end of her journey.
He’s not quite fast enough however as the coordinates on the Orrey lead her to an abandoned observatory where she finds a giant telescope with a keyhole that fits the key she found. Lights start to flicker, numbers start to display, and she does that Sherlock Holmes floating words thing as she works out some math problems that will somehow get this thing to work. Before she can enter the numbers though, two cops show up who we can only assume are ALSO Lodge members and they find her fiddling with the machine. Right before the cops start to attack and most likely KILL Hippolyta, Atticus comes charging in out of nowhere and takes out one of the cops while Hippolyta shoots the other. The machine begins to malfunction as it was banged up in the struggle, and a wormhole of some kind appears in the room which sucks Hippolyta in and sends her to outer space. Yes, that’s right; it sends her to a desolate planet, albeit with breathable air, where she’s taken by aliens and shoved into a holding cell. Well things got super Flash Gordon-y really quick, didn’t they!?
This happens at about the halfway point of the episode, and the rest is what I can only describe as a riff on Quantum Leap of all things. I mean hey, I’ve been saying they should remake that show for a while now, but there’s just something about this whole thing that feels off. Perhaps it’s TOO fantastical and sticks around for far too long for it to feel like it means much. The strength of this show, at least for me, is how it manages to take ludicrous genre tropes and ground them into something that’s real to make a point. It’s not just that the cops are part of a secret society that wants to rule the world or that Leti moved into a haunted house; it’s that these horrors and absurdities fit almost seamlessly with the REAL world horrors that people have to face on a daily basis. It’s not just that Ruby can transform into a white lady; it’s what having such a fantastical power can mean in a society that unjustly puts a value on the color of your skin. Hippolyta essentially having a consequence free adventure through space and time just lacked a bit of a punch for me, but I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. What is it that happens once Hippolyta is put in SPACE PRISON?
Well it’s SUPPOSEDLY not a space prison as one of the aliens keeps reiterating, though they fail to explain a single thing beyond that and she can’t seem to LEAVE, so a rose by any other name and all that. Hippolyta manages to figure out the technology that works her FUTURE DOOR and tries to break out, but is immediately caught by the alien who ONCE AGAIN confirms this is most certainly NOT a prison (while forcing her on the ground), and then she asks Hippolyta where she would rather be. Rather facetiously, Hippolyta says she wants to be Paris dancing with Josephine Baker, and then BING! She’s there, on stage, and doesn’t know the dance moves. Still, she and Baker (played by Carra Patterson) become quick friends, a relationship which plays out during a montage set to Patti Labelle’s Lady Marmalade, and over time Hippolyta begins to see what she was missing out on and how small she feels her life had become with the life she had in the states (and either in the future if this is supposed to be earlier in Josephine Baker’s career or in the future if this isn’t ACTUALLY the past and is some advanced simulation or something). With all this anger welling up inside of her, she needs to find a way to let it all out. I mean… she’s named Hippolyta, so if only she could BECOME Hippolyta (Queen of the Amazons in Greek Mythology and as far as I can tell, not of a real person), perhaps she could work through this rage she feels at the world that kept her down and find a new sense of self-assurance to live her life to the fullest instead of living a modest one in fear. Well good news! She just has to say that SHE’S HIPPOLYTA, and then BING! She’s training to be a warrior while getting speeches from… I don’t know, I guess her commanding officer, and over time she learns to let go of fear and face each challenge with unremittent resolve. Then she and her warrior buddies kill a bunch of white dudes who look like Civil War soldiers only without their guns, which I’m sure is VERY historically accurate.
Now granted, the dialogue itself and the performance from everyone there, especially Aunjanue Ellis, is smartly written and compelling, but just stripping it of all real world context and consequences ends up muting the impact. These are not statements said in the midst of a situation that anyone who doesn’t have a TARDIS or Scott Bakula powers can relate to; nor are the fantastical elements meaningfully juxtaposed against the existing unequal systems that we can identify. This is why I think the Ruby episode is stronger, because you have the fantastical element, the big WHAT IF scenario, but we see it play out in a way that can be meaningfully applied to real world ideas and situations. Where that felt like genuine and even groundbreaking science fiction to an extent, this feels more like a VERY well-produced and sincerely written commercial. Gillette’s The Best Men Can Be, Nike’s Maybe It’s My Fault ad with Michael Jordan, pretty much ANY ad Dove does nowadays, they’re nice to watch and do have SOMETHING interesting to engage with, but it ultimately feels kind of shallow by the time you get done with it.
Things do get a little bit better when Hippolyta is done with the warrior life and decides to become HIPPOLYTA; i.e. George’s wife. BING! She’s in bed with her late husband George Freeman (Courtney B Vance) and she explains to him EVERYTHING that’s gone on in the last few… well I guess it HAS to be months by now considering how many montages we got in the last few scenes, but with Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey stuff you can never tell. This isn’t all sunshine and happiness however as George himself is not innocent in the destruction of Hippolyta. She got smaller and smaller, shrinking her dreams and shrinking herself, so that they could have a family and that HE could do the important work of traveling the country and writing Green Books. He sheepishly admits to his role in keeping her down which… I guess fair enough, but again this whole thing feels stripped of context. He wanted to keep her safe; not necessarily because he’s possessive and threatened by her free spirit, but because the world they live in wants to kill them on a regular basis. You could say it was wrong of him to insist on her staying behind for her kid instead of say ALTERNATING who got out there and took the risks, but even this one section that takes place in a familiar place and with relatable characters feels somewhat in a bubble.
BING! Hippolyta moves on to her next journey, but this time brings George along as they become explores of space; complete with ludicrous space suits and friendly aliens, all while a scene from the Sun Ra movie Space Is The Place is playing out on the soundtrack. It usually doesn’t take me much longer than a Google search to find whatever monologue the show decides to use, but this one took quite a bit longer than usual and what I found is DEFINITELY interesting (I’m gonna try and see the whole movie soon), so Kudos on the creators of this show for providing us with a REALLY deep cut here! Eventually the space traveling fades away and Hippolyta is floating alone in space (no idea where George is now, though I guess it doesn’t matter at this point) when that alien from earlier (who I guess is supposed to be a future Earthling rather than a creature from another planet, but I’m still not sure), congratulates her on finding herself. Hippolyta, having become wiser and more understanding of herself, is offered a place in their society and she deeply considers it as the alternative is to go back to the terrible and racist Earth that she left, but ultimately she decides to go back for her daughter Diana. Then again, it’s not like this machine is GOING anywhere, so perhaps she’ll just pick her up and throw her in the space hole so that she can become fully self-actualized, and live in peace and harmony in this infinitely better reality, but maybe I’m thinking too much on it.
We cut back to the observatory where we see Atticus tumbling ass over tea kettle thru one of the space portals which would indicate that he went SOMEWHERE, but was certainly not the place that Hippolyta went to. For whatever reason he’s holding a book in his hand that he must have gotten while tumbling through time and space, and the book is… wait for it… LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. No, they don’t go FULL fourth wall breaking as the author on the cover is listed as George Freeman and not Matt Ruff, but there’s definitely something going on here that could easily edge into TOO CUTE territory if they’re not careful. We’ll have to find out what that all means another day however, because Atticus hears police sirens in the distance and so grabs everything he can, the book, the key, and Hippolyta’s wallet, and gets the heck out of there with Hippolyta herself nowhere to be seen. What IS there to be seen though is one of Diana’s handmade comic books (staring a woman who looks VERY much like Hippolyta did in her SPACE EXPLORATION phase) that ended up finding its way underneath the body of the dead cop, so let’s hope those sword fighting skills Hippolyta learned were practical and just metaphorical!
I’m not quite sure what to think about this episode, and frankly that’s been a problem for at least half of the series so far. It has good actors in it, and I can’t argue with some of the points it’s trying to get across, but the storytelling feels more and more haphazard as the grounded narrative (as it were) is overburdened with numerous plot threads that don’t have clear destinations and the episode centric story just feels TOO out of left field; even for a show that has done everything from ghost stories to Jekyll and Hyde riffs and even old school treasure hunts. I guess more than anything else, I don’t see where this is GOING and how it builds upon the story going forward. Hippolyta is still in the dark about EVERYTHING involving the Sons of Adam and all the magical nonsense, so will she find out soon and become a Captain Marvel like ringer for the good guys? Her journey was ultimately one of emotional and spiritual fulfilment rather than some sort of training, a la Superman’s time in the Fortress of Solitude, but as much as Hippolyta is a fun character and Aunjanue Ellis’s performance is great, it feels like something THIS big should change everything in the series, and I just don’t get the sense that it did; and if it didn’t, then why did we spend half an episode on it? I guess it’s a bit unfair to assume that the story didn’t advance in a meaningful way as we haven’t seen the next episode yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the dead nameless cop is referenced more than the fact that Hippolyta just got back from a time traveling adventure. The last few episodes have spent most of their time establishing characters and plot threads outside of the main story involving Leti and Atticus which we’re going to have to get back to in earnest at SOME point, so let’s hope that this is all leading up to some League of Extraordinary Gentleman like thing where they all team up to fight a bunch of crooked cops. Ji-Ah can tear them to shreds with her tails, Ruby can… I don’t know, infiltrate their organization and start stabbing people when they least suspect it, and I guess… Hippolyta can call her space buddies for backup? Heck, it’ll still be better than the ACTUAL League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie! Nah, I’m just kidding. I’m like the ONE person who didn’t hate that movie which probably says more about my taste than anything else you’ve read in this recap.