Lovecraft Country is owned by HBO
Directed by Misha Green
We’re back with another episode of everyone’s favorite Monster Mash just in time for the Halloween season? Yes, I’m a bit late at putting this up as I’ve fallen behind on… well basically everything the last few weeks, but it was hopefully worth the wait as I have quite a bit to say about this particular episode! Is it an improvement over the last few episodes that didn’t quite capture the tone that this series works best at, or will this show continue to go all over the place until the very last minute and tries to cram everything into a satisfying conclusion for the final episode? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins on a very somber note as everyone in this Chicago community are marching to the funeral of a young man named Bobo was a character who showed up, albeit briefly, in previous episodes as a friend of Diana (Jada Harris), and as it turns out he is in fact supposed to be the real life Emmett Till; a fourteen year old boy in 1955 who was shot and then strung up around the neck with barb wire which was then tied to a cotton gin fan before being thrown in the river; shooting him, cutting him, choking him, and drowning him on the flimsiest excuse of him supposedly flirting with a white woman who later in life recanted the story which his killers presumably knew to be false at the time. I’m dubious about putting an actual historical figure and victim such as him in a big budgeted HBO fantasy series to make a point, but aside from that it’s a sobering introduction that definitely reflections the tension and shared trauma of the current state of police and white supremacist violence in this country; violence that was always there but has gotten much more of a spotlight in recent years. Diana is certainly having a hard time of recently, especially with the recent death of her father George Freeman (Courtney B Vance) and the disappearance of her mother Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis), and it’s just too much for her to take with grace and restraint, so she runs off and starts yelling at other kids who aren’t in mourning over the loss of a child to such senseless violence. As cathartic as this is for her, the good feeling ends up being quite fleeting as a cop car immediately pulls up behind her and she may end up being the next kid to have a funeral. It’s not just any cop however as it’s Captain Lancaster (Mac Brandt) who is the leader of The Sons of Adam in this area and he has a copy of the comic book that was found at the Time Machine at the end of the last episode with her name written on it. They interrogate her to try and figure out where her mother went, but when they don’t get the answers they want the captain puts a curse of some sort on her which involves spitting on her head and putting her in a chokehold. The show is back to what it does best which is infusing tropes of horror and other genres with the real life terrors that people of color have to experience, and I’m glad that things are finally starting to get back on track after the last few episodes felt like they losing focus.
While all this is going on, Atticus (Jonathan Majors) has decided to meet with Christina (Abbey Lee) to take her up on her dubious offer of help. As much as he’s been able to translate from the lost pages of The Book of Names, he hasn’t been able to put anything practical together so he offers an exchange; the key that Hippolyta found in Hiram’s orrery for one protection spell that will keep him and his family safe. It’s a risk to be sure as Christina’s motives have been enigmatic at best, but he believes the time machine to be broken so it’s about as safe an exchange as he can make. She takes it with glee and teaches him some sort of protection spell, though doesn’t spell out exactly what it will do which seems like a bad omen to me, but Atticus probably doesn’t want her questioning HIS motives too much so he takes the information and leaves. The Sons of Adam spell stuff is still far too mired in nonsensical lore, but at least it feels like getting somewhere with this part of the story. Still, it’s not the MAIN focus as the majority of this episode is about Diana and the terrors she has to endure as she’s been unceremoniously introduced to this world of magic and curses.
After her encounter with the cops she runs back home to find Montrose (Michael K Williams) there who’s been watching Diana since her mom “left for a trip”, and after the day she had she’s in no mood to live with that lie any longer. She yells at Montrose and runs to the bathroom where he TRIES to open up a bit and relate to this young lady, but he’s also a very hot tempered jerk so it doesn’t go well and she runs out the house again. She heads to the train station trying to go somewhere when two girls (Bianca Brewton and Kaelynn Harris) start to stalk her. You can definitely see the Jordan Peele influence here because they might as well be twin Tethered girls from Us. Their hair is kept in messy braids with red bows on them, they have dirty and torn dresses but with nice looking sneakers, and oh yeah they have DEMON YELLOW EYES AND CROOKED JOKER GRINS WITH SHARP TEETH! If that wasn’t bad enough, they come with their own soundtrack as AF Winnemore’s Stop Dat Knocking (an song from the nineteenth century associated with minstrel shows) plays whenever they’re close by which strikes the right balance between genuine tension and utter absurdity. Diana tries to push her way through the crowded platform and the girls get close enough to start swiping at her with long razor sharp claws, but she manages to get away. Fortunately for her, the twins like to dance their way to her so she has a fairly good amount of time get away whenever they show up, but it’s the It Follows problem (or if we’re being silly, the Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon problem) where a threat is utterly relentless in its pursuit and seemingly nothing but your own stamina can stop them.
Not sure of what to do about this, Diana runs as fast as she can to Leti’s house which is probably not the best place to be right now as there’s a whole bunch of DRAMA going on as Atticus finds out as soon as he walks through the door. He finds Ji-Ah (the Korean woman he was in a relationship ship who we saw back in episode 6 played by Jamie Chung) is there along with Leti who clearly had a talk of sorts and Atticus is starting to sweat about how much they’ve told each other about him. To try to turn the focus away from him, he starts to berate Ji-Ah who MAY have seen his future but doesn’t know where when or how and is therefore not really contributing all that much, but Leti is none to impressed and rushes upstairs in a huff while Atticus tells Ji-Ah to leave and follows after Leti. Well I sure how that’s not the last we’ve seen of Ji-Ah because that was pretty uncomfortable to watch, and once again non-black POC in this show seem to get the short end of the stick with my money being on her “sacrificing” herself in some way to save Atticus, Leti, and their baby. After all, if they had THIS little for her to do when she finally meets back with Atticus and meets Leti for the first time, I wouldn’t be surprised if they have no other ideas for the character and that sacrificing her is an efficient (if rather cruel) way to have her exit the series. Atticus and Leti argue about the fact that Atticus didn’t tell Leti about her being a Fox Spirit and eater of men which… I don’t know. I mean in her defense there IS a bunch of spooky stuff going on and Atticus DID bring her up in a previous conversation so I see this as a lie of omission, but it’s not like it has ANYTHING to do with the Sons of Adam nonsense they’re dealing with now. Maybe I’m grasping at the wrong straws when it comes to this show, but the characters are just SO much more unlikable when they’re dealing with this kind of interpersonal drama than they are facing monsters and racists and I’m really hoping that Leti and Atticus get to DO something soon instead of just spend each episode sniping at each other.
In any case, Atticus leaves in a huff and Leti leaves not long after that where she runs into a very anxious Diana, and for whatever reason Leti is just blowing her off. I get that she’s distracted, but considering the spooky things going on around all of them, ESPECIALLY Diana who’s now down TWO parents from occult nonsense, it just comes off a bit too harsh at a point where I personally am not really enjoying her character. In previous episodes she was full of herself and got in her own way more an enough times, but I guess it comes down to the fact that she was DOING stuff in those episodes and here it just feels like everyone is sitting around and stewing in their own anger which I’m just not finding all that compelling and why the Diana scenes feel like such a breath of fresh air. We’ll get back to that soon enough, but let’s go ahead and wrap up what Leti and Atticus are doing during their time apart. Leti is in church and prays for the safety of her, Atticus, and their baby; presumably out of desperation. God doesn’t answer, though I guess he might if you subscribe to the MYSTERIOUS WAYS theory, as Christina walks in and talks with Leti. It’s a bit unclear, but it SEEMS that this meeting with Christina was also arranged as Leti has pictures of Titus’s lost pages which she will give Christina in exchange for making Titus invincible. Instead, she makes Leti and her baby invincible which seems to be a fair enough trade, and they go about their separate ways.
We haven’t talked about Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) yet so let’s use her story as a way to contrast why the Leti and Atticus stuff hasn’t been working for me. After the funeral, she went back to Christina/William’s house (they are the same person in case you forgot) and gets hassled by a white dude who’s trying to “protect the neighborhood”, but William (Jordan Patrick) shows up to diffuse the situation; once again showing the power of white privilege the Ruby has been given access to with the magic transformation potion. This leads to a very… interesting scene, where she takes said potion once they’re inside and has sex with William. However, I guess she only took a TINY dose of it because as they are having sex, her white skin starts to slough off and it seems VERY clear that this was the intent, though I don’t know why they didn’t lay down some plastic wrap before doing it as there’s NO way they’re gonna get those stains of the sheets. She tries to explain her emotional state at that time in a scene later where she’s confronting Christina about the Emmett Till murder and her seemingly disconnected emotions from it. A young child was murdered for absolutely no reason, and here she is living her privileged and safe life in the white neighborhood with all this magical nonsense while the world that Ruby belongs to is being torn apart by this tragedy. Christina should feel bad about how little all this affects her, and Ruby herself felt that on today of all days she couldn’t be a black man having sex with a white guy. Christina however has a counterpoint to what Ruby is saying as she doesn’t believe it’s guilt for HAVING this better life; it’s that she WANTS this better life. She believes that Ruby doesn’t care that much more than she does about the plight of the people out there who will never see justice, because she is getting what she wants by her own choice. See, where the Leti and Atticus story gets bogged down in bickering and the particulars of the magical MacGuffins, Leti and her magic white lady juice is a perfectly realized concept that speaks for itself within the context of the unfair structures that are built around them. Ruby’s mourning over the death of Emmett Till and her self-loathing over her choice to embrace the magic that gets her out of that system feel well realized and genuinely affecting, while Leti and Atticus arguing about magic spells and past relationships just comes off as rather petty. Understandable I guess considering the pressure they’re under, but not as interesting to see as whenever Ruby engages with the nuances of the world that Christina has brought her into.
Now that’s not to say this works PERFECTLY as there’s a scene in this episode that’s WAY too on the nose and comes off as REALLY awkward. Intentionally so? Perhaps as it’s an action that Christina takes and she’s SUPPOSED to be aloof and weird in that blue blood way, but it also doesn’t have much of a CONCLUSION to it which leaves it just hanging there as its own strange aside. Christine hires two men to essentially KILL her in the same way that Emmett was murdered. PRESUMABLY this is some silly white notion of walking in someone else’s shoes, but her White Privilege Powers (i.e. her invulnerability spell) means that she can just experience this horror without suffering any of the consequences of it. I don’t know, I can only HOPE that the next episode address it because otherwise it comes off as rather gratuitous.
Getting back to Atticus, he finds Montrose sitting on the sidewalk and they have a talk his mother and what their relationship was. The scene does a good job of humanizing Montrose’s plight which didn’t really come across all that well when they were first showing us that he was gay, but again it’s kind of hard to forget that he slit a woman’s throat a mere four episodes ago for knowing too much. Then again Atticus who’s sitting right next to him shot a Korean woman in the head for no reason, so I guess they can bond over that at least! Okay fine, I’ll cut that out and try to focus on the scene itself. Michael K Williams is a good actor and the almost erratic mix of vulnerability and harsh machismo that makes up his character is very engaging, but things go into a weird direction once Atticus pulls out the book he got at the end of the last episode. In case you forgot, he got sucked into a portal the same way Hippolyta did, only his spit him right back out with a copy of Lovecraft Country in his hand; a book written by George Freeman. No not his UNCLE George, his SON George as this book is from the future and basically spoils the rest of the plot even if some of the minor details are different which is what you should expect with time travel nonsense. Christina is going to sacrifice Atticus to become PROPERLY immortal instead of just invulnerable, and that’s going to happen in a mere five days. Now if there’s ONE thing we should have learned from Minority Report, it’s the only way to change the future is for someone to KNOW what the future is, so Atticus plans to live for his son by casting the protection spell that Christina gave him, and Montrose agrees to help. They paint blood on the floor, they recite the magic words, and… nothing. Well gee! It seems that Atticus got the short end of the stick on this one and will have to find another way to survive his impending death. Seems that book isn’t much more help than Ji-Ah was, but I noticed that Atticus isn’t tearing it to shreds the same way he figuratively did to her!
Since everyone seems to be distracted with their own things, Diana instead finds the cops’ super-secret lodge and confronts the captain about this curse they put on her. He offers to remove it if she does him a favor, buts he knows better than to trust than and tells him to F**k off before storming out the room as a clip from Naomi Wadler’s speech from the March for Our Lives protest in DC plays on the soundtrack. She then bikes as fast as she can back home, narrowly avoiding the evil twins as she goes, and prepares for her final confrontation. Sadly her game plan doesn’t amount to much as she just tries to take swings at them with a table leg, but even worse is Montrose who walks in and sees her swinging at thin air. He grabs her and tries to find out what’s going on, but in doing so allows the twins to start cutting up her arm which is the last thing we see of her story this episode.
Ruby visits Leti and just comes clean that she’s been using magic with Christine and is vaguely aware of all the magical nonsense she and Atticus are up to which is kind of weird thing to just dump on us five minutes before the episode ends, but I guess we’re getting close to the end of the season so we’ve got to move things along. Before this can go much further though, the cops show up with a warrant to search the house, and not just a couple of cops either. EVERY freaking cop is outside their house hiding behind their cop cars and waiting to start something while Captain Lancaster greets Leti and Ruby at the door. He tries to walk in but Leti still has a magic protection spell on the house (remember that? Back in episode three applied by that one woman who NEVER GOT A NAME OR A BACKSTORY OR ANYTHING BEFORE UNCEREMONIOUSLY DYING!?) and so they can’t come in which means they all turn around and let them go about their day. ONLY KIDDING! They all start shooting up the house and we can see that the invulnerability spell is in fact working on Leti as the bullets bounce off of her like she’s Supergirl. Sadly she’s the only one with impenetrable skin and Atticus finds himself walking right into this mess, but just as he’s about to get shot by the police (despite having his hands up naturally), A SHOGGOTH BURSTS BENEATH THE EARTH AND DEFLECTS THE BULLETS BEFORE GOING TO TOWN ON THESE COP BASTARDS! Limbs are flying, blood is spilling, and not even Captain Lancaster survives the onslaught; effectively destroying the Chicago lodge of The Sons of Adam. Well then! I guess the protection spell DID work, which Atticus comes to realize just as the episode comes to an end.
It’s definitely the best episode since the fifth one where Ruby gets the transformation potion, but the bugbears of the series haven’t been fixed yet and the tangled knot that is the Sons of Adam storyline still feels tedious when compared to the more self-contained stories of cleverly realized terror. Diana getting her own story here to fend against an invisible foe was brilliantly executed and could have sustained an entire episode the way that Ruby got in episode 5, Ji-Ah got in episode 6, and her mother got in episode 7, but even the parts that I wasn’t as in love with involving Atticus and Leti still managed to move the plot forward enough that I didn’t outright dislike it and hopefully the way that this episode came to an end is a sign that we’ll be moving forward with different challenges and threats instead of just the dissolution of their relationship. Frankly the relationship between Ruby and Christina is far more interesting to me and I hope we get to see more of them together now that sides are starting to get drawn; especially with the specter of Atticus’s death hanging over us. As I said at the start of this I am somewhat dubious of adding real life victims to a fictional series as it can feel a bit morbid if we’re not trying to tell their story, but they thankfully didn’t change anything about the story itself to indicate if perhaps he was killed for SONS OF ADAM reasons or whatever, and a story like his definitely fits within the story they are trying to tell through these fantastical genre tropes. Having Christina recreate the murder on the other hand… perhaps THAT was going over the line, but the show’s heart has always been in the right place even if they’ve had a misstep from time to time. Just two more episodes left this season which doesn’t leave a lot of time to resolve all the hanging threads, but I’m still very curious to see where this is all going!