Review of the Lovecraft Country Episode “Strange Case”

ruby

Wummi Mosaku as Ruby Baptiste in the television show “Lovecraft Country”

If you like my work, buy me a virtual cup of coffee at Ko-Fi.

So, I watched the Lovecraft Country episode Stange Case last night. The title refers to the title of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, only Misha Green‘s version is far more disgusting.

The show starts where A History of Violence leaves off. Yahima (Monique Candelaria) has seemingly disappeared. Leti (Jurnee Smollett) thinks that Montrose (Michael K. Williams) has just let her go, but Atticus (Jonathan Majors) knows his Dad killed her. In a rage, Tic tries to beat Montrose to death, but Leti manages to stop him.

Montrose also destroyed the Book of Names, but Tic figures out that Leti photographed the pages. After rough sex (doesn’t this guy ever just kiss his girlfriend and treat her gently?), she develops the photos and he starts to work deciphering the code.

Meanwhile, we discover that Montrose is gay (all of a sudden). He goes to the gay guy we saw in the first episode, Montrose’s eye being all beaten and shut (if a guy Majors’ size had beaten me with his fists that many times, I’d be in the hospital), he roughly (no one has gentle sex in this show), rips the guy’s pants down, uses his spit as a lube, and has anal sex with him.

Look, no matter which way you swing, it was not a pretty sight.

Meanwhile, Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) after having a night of sex (lots of sex going on) with William (Jordan Patrick Smith) wakes up as a white woman (Jamie Neumann). Of course, she freaks out, but manages to throw on some clothes and run into the streets. On the Southside, she’s the only white woman, and people are trying to help her. She runs into some young black guy eating a bag of popcorn (in the morning?) and the Cops suddenly attack the guy assuming a black guy attacked a white woman.

Okay, this part was pretty realistic, especially since this is 1955, but Ruby (later Hillary Davenport) calls off the cops. However the police think she’s married to William, who has told the police she’s off her meds and needs to come home. On the ride, she begins to change and freaks out again.

Once in William’s lair, she changes back to Ruby, like Hillary is a cocoon and Ruby is the butterfly inside. It’s bloody and messy.

Even though this all freaked Ruby out, she discovers that the potion that turns her white has definite advantages. She can go out and do as she likes, eat ice cream with white people, and even get a job as assistant manager at her cherished department store.

At one point, Ruby realizes, and actually says that white woman act all disillusioned in their men or in blacks but they’re really disillusioned in themselves. After seeing Ruby’s futile chase for the “white American dream,” she should have realized that she was also disillusioned, as is this TV show.

She proceeds to give the black girl that the store hired as a “token” a hard time for not working hard enough, and hears the other white women in the store mocking her.

The store manager Paul (David Stanbra) puts the moves on Hillary/Ruby, and later, when Hillary, at the behest of her new white girlfriends, has the black store employee take all the white people to the Southside to party, seeing Paul try to rape the black girl, realizes he’s scum on Earth and decides to do something about it.

Montrose, goes to a gay club where his lover and other black gays dress up in drag and perform a show. Eventually, Montrose seems to accept that he’s gay, kisses his lover and is accepted by everyone else there. Covered in glitter, it’s party time.

Hillary tenders her resignation to Paul because she says she’s attracted to him and can’t be because he’s married. She manages to tie him up (he’s all too willing) and then anally rapes him with a stiletto heel as she transforms back into Ruby. “I just wanted you to know that a black bitch did this to you.”

Yeah, fun, Misha.

Oh, I forgot, William asked Ruby for a favor. She’s supposed to pose as a black servant in Police Captain Seamus Lancaster’s home during a party and plant some sort of magical thingy in his office. While doing so, she finds a white man in a closet who has been tortured and mutilated.

Back at William’s place, she sees the entrance to the basement where William and Christina come and go frequently. William comes out and goes into convulsions, turning into Christina. Turns out Lancaster killed William and dumped his body into the lake in order to take over William’s territory.

All of the time William has been having sex with Ruby, it was really Christina. Go figure. Was it good for you, Christina?

The final piece is that after Tic deciphers the code, he frantically calls Ji-Ah in Korea. “How did you know?” The code says, “die.”

A few things. After having unprotected sex with Leti, Tic tells her he had a lover in Korea, but doesn’t know if he’d call it love.

This episode seems to create strange virtues of turning from one race to another, having gay and straight sex roughly, and being (in William’s/Christina’s case) transsexual. Seems Misha Green was covering all the progressive bases, but it was so intense and horrible and icky, that I had to watch two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and then read a couple of my own short stories to calm down enough to go to bed.

I am seriously tempted to take the DVDs back to the library and not watch the rest of this show. Maybe gross, bloody progresssive horror is your thing and maybe it satisfies your need to see white people as racists and somehow tell the story of black people in America, but it’s just too gross in its presentation.

Addendum: No, I’m sure of it. After pondering this episode, even though I’m only through half of the season, I’m taking it back to the library. This is like returning a book you’ve only half read. It’s not bad in terms of it’s execution, but the subject matter and what’s being fed to the audience is just too odious. Sorry Misha but no sale.

2 thoughts on “Review of the Lovecraft Country Episode “Strange Case”

  1. I am gladdened to read that you came to your senses and have now extricated yourself from this muck. One can only wonder if your library might be amenable to posting somewhere your review of the material as a warning to unsuspecting borrowers, that they should know something about the content, particularly its “values” and worldview, before exposing themselves to it. Of course, you would write a more concise and pithy summary for that purpose rather than an episode-by-episode review. It might seem preachy to some, particularly because it would be the opposite of the kinds of reviews one ordinarily finds which praise the material for commercial purposes, but there is no reason for it to refrain from advocating alternative values and decrying the destructiveness of those depicted in the material. One seldom encounters a good analytical review of “entertainment” material relative to, say, the Kantian Imperative that examines a behavior to consider its effect if adopted by “everyone” (or at least by large numbers within a society).

    One lesson that civilized culture has learned, through bitter experience, is to refrain from “book burning” (in any medium). However, this video series evokes seeming justification for such reprehensible behavior. Hence I advocate clear and unequivocal educational warning rather than material destruction — undeniably a public service.

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    • Since public libraries receive government funding, I doubt they’d showcase my review of this material as a cautionary tale. Also, as you pointed out, the vast majority of reviews of this show are overwhelmingly positive. Of course, many people like you and me might not even consider watching this stuff, either because they are not fans of “yucky” (blood, guts, and excessive gore) horror or because of their political and social beliefs.

      Besides the obvious social preachiness of some of the material and it’s very uneven execution episode by episode, I really don’t like “yucky” horror, but having chunks of flesh and blood falling off Ruby’s nude body really was the final straw for me.

      The producer/writer for this show is Misha Green, who is a black woman, so I can imagine she was the perfect choice for delivering the HBO version, but the original novel was written by Matt Ruff who is white. For a cold second, I was tempted to see if the novel was available at my library (I’m not going to actually pay for this material) just to see how a white guy would depict this story, but I’ve got better things to do with my time.

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