Part Two of Reviewing “Lovecraft Country”

whitey

Letitia (Jurnee Smollett), Atticus (Jonathan Majors), and George (Courtney B Vance) in a scene from the show “Lovecraft Country”

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After my review of the first episode of Lovecraft Country Sundown, I thought I’d just keep watching and maybe review the entire first season as a whole. But after viewing three more episodes, because each show is so densely packed, I was afraid of losing a lot of the details.

So now that I’ve watched Whitey’s on the Moon, Holy Ghost, and A History of Violence, I thought I should recap them now.

In “Whitey’s on the Moon,” the creepy white guy at the door of the huge mansion in the middle of nowhere is William (Jordan Patrick Smith) and he seems to treat Tic, Leti, and George very well. They all wake up in their rooms with objects of their most cherished desires. George is hip deep in books while Leti has a closet full of wonderful clothes all exactly her size, and they couldn’t be happier.

Tic, on the other hand, remains deeply disturbed by their encounter with monsters the previous night, and finally comparing notes with the other two, realizes that they didn’t remember a thing. Even their car Woody has been restored to them. All of this is due to magic spells, but I’ll get to that.

They also encounter the mysterious blonde woman Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee) and finally the guy supposedly running the show Samuel Braithwhite (Tony Goldwyn), although the first time Tic sees him, another guy in arcane robes is performing surgery on him without an anesthetic. Yes, very strange.

The big mansion is Ardham Lodge, a rebuilding of the original which was created by Titus Braithwhite, the founder of a secret society of wizards called “The Sons of Adam.” Turns out one of Tic’s ancestors had been a slave of Titus’s and while she was pregnant with Braithwhite’s child, she burned the original house down and escaped. That’s why Tic is so important. He has Titus’s blood in his veins.

Things go from bad to worse and in attempting to escape, once Tic convinces Christina to give Leti and George their memories back, they are both shot by Samuel. Oh, that’s after they find Tic’s grouchy Dad Montrose (Michael K. Williams) who had just escaped from a dungeon. Samuel revives Leti and says he’ll heal George in exchange for Tic participating in a blood ceremony that’s supposed to open the gate to the original Garden of Eden. Samuel believes he will turn into an immortal if he can cross over.

But when the gateway opens, Tic’s pregnant ancestor appears and the spell goes all wrong. Samuel, the other men present, and the entire lodge turns to stone and crumbles. Leti, Montrose, and George manage to escape as does Tic, but at the episode’s end, George dies of his wound. He has retrieved a book of bylaws of the Sons of Adam which we see later Montrose has managed to keep.

William and Christina also are not harmed and show up in later episodes.

I really thought the whole show would center around Tic’s quest to find his father, but as it turns out that was just the beginning. I’m sorry George died. As it turns out, he was my favorite character.

Oh, as it turns out, white people are either racists or magical racists.

“Holy Ghost” sees the trio back in Chicago, and it seems as if whatever is happening to them is unrelated to their previous adventure. Somehow, the perpetually poor Leti has bought an old, three story house in a white neighborhood and plans to turn it into a boarding house for “colored” people. She tries to make amends with Ruby Baptiste (Wunmi Mosaku), her half-sister, who is a singer and whose dream is to get a job at a fancy department store downtown, a pretty high goal for a black woman in 1955.

ruby and leti

Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) and Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) in a scene from the show “Lovecraft Country”

As we see, the house, even once renovated, is haunted. Some white astrophysicist had been experimenting on and killing black people (why would an astrophysicist be doing human experiments?).

George’s widow Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) doesn’t quite buy the idea that George was shot by a racist sheriff and that they had to bury his body back east. She does take George’s copy of Bran Stoker’s novel “Dracula” and tear all the pages out. Then later, she buys another copy of the same book. I have no idea why.

Leti’s white neighbors don’t like the idea of black people living in the house, all eighteen of them, and do crazy stuff like tie bricks to their car horns so they would perpetually sound, supposedly as harassment (that would eventually drain the batteries). During the housewarming party, they also burn a cross on their lawn, which causes Leti to grab a baseball bat and break the windows of the cars.

Leti must have the maturity of a 14 year old, because in order to make Tic jealous, she engages in a highly sexual dance with another man at the party. Tic’s response is to corner her in a bathroom and have sudden sex with her. We find out later that she was a virgin. This is interesting because actress Jurnee Smollett was 34 years old when the episode was filmed. I know it’s not impossible for Leti to be a virgin at that age, and maybe Smollett is playing a much younger character. I also don’t know why that was an important plot point.

Anyway, these creepy ghosts start showing up, first in Leti’s photos, and then in more physical manifestations.

Elsewhere at the party, Hippolyta finds her way into a room that has a mechanical representation of a solar system. It isn’t ours, since it has two suns, but this does play a role in future episodes.

Leti hires a mystic to “cleanse” the house of the spirits and while the mystic woman doesn’t fair so well, the protection she puts on the house, Leti, and Tic, apparently with Tic’s blood, lets Leti banish all of the lost souls in the house, including the dead scientist.

Three white guys invade the house during the ceremony, intent on using baseball bats (people use a lot of baseball bats in this show) to drive Leti and Tic out (everyone else left when the ghosts showed up), but the spirits murder them.

With the house cleansed, everything seems to be back in order, except when the house’s elevator makes an unexplained journey into a sub-basement, we see the corpses of the three missing white racists plus scores of others.

Christina shows up in Chicago and Tic tries to kill her with his revolver. She magically prevents his finger from pulling the trigger. We also find out the house Leti bought, with Christina’s money, was owned by Horatio Winthrop, a Sons of Adam member who was banished for stealing pages from the sacred book of names. Since women can’t be “Sons” of Adam, Christina asks Tic to help her find the missing pages so she can decipher “the language of Adam” and become immortal.

Oh, I should mention that some of the kids at the party were playing with a Quija board asking ridiculous questions but when they ask who they are talking to, the answer comes back “George.”

“A History of Violence” picks up where the previous episode leaves off. Montrose is just about going crazy after reading the book George gave him and eventually burns it. Tic is at a “colored only” library trying to do research on the Sons of Adam (hard to imagine that information on such as obscure group would be available at a local library) only to find every book on the subject had been previously checked out by his father. Montrose knows a lot more than he’s admitting to.

Christina goes to the Winthrop house to visit Leti only to find that the blood of Tic used last episode has formed a force field preventing her from entering. She tells Leti that Tic tried to kill her, which sends Leti into a rage. She confronts Tic at the library (which in those days you had to be quiet in) and eventually makes a little boy reading Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” pretty mad at them.

They can’t find the missing pages Winthrop hid, so the three, plus Hippolyta, her daughter Diana (Jada Harris), and the ever annoying Tree (Deron J. Powell) go on another road trip. This one doesn’t seem plagued by runaway racism as the last one was. They safely arrive at a museum in Boston that apparently was founded by Titus, looking for a vault which contains the original book with the language of Adam. Tic has Titus’s blood which is supposed to be their advantage. Montrose makes a deal with the black security guard to get them back in after hours.

Oh, we also discover that Hippolyta has taken away the solar system model from the Winthrop house and is trying to figure out how it works.

Christina, who is insanely playing a game of hide and go seek with a bunch of white kids, is picked up by two police officers and escorted to the Chief of Police who is also a member of the Sons of Adam (there are 34 lodges across the country according to Montrose). He accuses her of poaching in his territory, but when he has officers follow Christina to where she’s staying, William appears and beats the heck out of them.

William also goes into a bar where Ruby is singing and she’s not having a good reception. Ruby is pretty upset because she visited the department store where she’s been trying to get a job like forever only to find another “colored girl” working there. The young woman says she applied on a whim and got the job.

William buys Ruby a bunch of drinks and to Ruby, it seems pretty obvious what he’s after. He does offer to make her dreams come true, but first they have sex.

Meanwhile, after a long set of magical “Indiana Jones” type adventures in the catacombs under the museum, they find the original book. Too bad the tide is rising (even though they’re underground) and they can’t get out the way they came. Good luck they found an elevator that’s an alternate exit.

But when Montrose tries taking the scroll from the hand of a mummified corpse, it comes alive and reanimates as an indigenous person named Yahima (Monique Candelaria), a “Arawak Two Spirit” who has breasts and a penis. Yes, we get to see that but just for a few moments. Apparently Yahima was necessary to read the “book of names” but she (I use that pronoun because the person playing her is a woman) refuses to help Tic because of the blood of his ancestors.

Oh, she’s speaking in her native language which, for some reason, only Tic can understand.

Montrose takes the scroll, causing all the windows to break and water to rush in. More adventures and the four, now totally underwater, make it to the elevator and it amazingly works, lifting them out of the flood.

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Atticus (Jonathan Majors) and Montrose (Michael K. Williams) in a scene from the show “Lovecraft Country”

For whatever reason Hippolyta and Diana take Woody and start heading home without Tic, Leti, and Montrose. Diana finds her Dad’s map in the glove compartment which reveals the location where George died. Hippolyta turns the car around and heads in that direction, determined to find answers.

When Yahima is removed from the tomb, she turns into a siren, apparently a curse placed on her by Titus so she couldn’t speak to anyone about her secrets.

I have no idea where they are staying, but Tic says it might be easier to teach her English than to decipher the book of names.

Tic and Leti go to bed while Montrose slips behind Yahima, quietly says he’s sorry, and then slits her throat.

Yikes.

Production quality and acting all remain high, but the story lines bounce all over the place and often it’s hard to make sense of anything. Also, in spite of being called “Lovecraft” Country, while there is significant horror involved, as one reviewer mentioned, it isn’t very “Lovecraftian.” Makes you wonder if the producers, plus the author of the original novel written by Matt Ruff (who must have totally made bank selling the rights to his book to HBO) only used Lovecraft’s name because he was a notorious racist.

While the specter of racism continues to haunt these episodes, in the last one, for instance, both black and white people are in the Boston museum and no one bats an eye. When Hippolyta and Diana are in the darkened planetarium with a bunch of white kids, again, no one seems to have any sort of reaction to one another.

Oddly, when William is the only white person in a bar and wooing Ruby, no one reacts to him except that the bartender refers to him as “blue eyes” (which is factually correct).

Admittedly, I did some reading ahead to the rest of the episodes, so I have some idea what’s going to happen but not in great detail. The show, being based on horror, continues to be disturbing, but at some point, it seems like it must end.

There is some suggestion that there will be a season two, but having viewed only four of the ten season one episodes, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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