Fates are sealed & futures are secured in a talk-heavy but satisfying conclusion of “Lovecraft Country.”
Warning: don’t read until you’ve watched the entire episode of Lovecraft Country!
Lovecraft Country isn’t a perfect show, though I’ll focus far more on what I liked about it than what didn’t quite work for me. One thing you can’t say for it, however, is that it didn’t keep the audience on its toes. Other than figuring out that Christina and William are one and the same (more or less), absolutely nothing I predicted would happen happened. George? Still dead. Montrose? Still alive. Atticus? Ah, poor brave, noble Atticus. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Following their trip back to 1921 Tulsa, and Leti (Jurnee Smollett) retrieving the original copy of the Book of Names, the gang sets about trying to heal Diana (Jada Harris), who’s slowly transforming into one of the hideous things Captain Lancaster set upon her back in episode eight. An unwitting Atticus (Jonathan Majors) accidentally unbinds the book, sending him and Leti into a trance. While under the trance Leti is able to talk once more to Atticus’s great-grandmother Hattie (Regina Taylor), while Atticus meets with Hanna (Joaquina Kalukango), the pregnant slave girl who started it all, and who finally gets to speak. Along with an unexpected reunion with his beloved mother, Dora (Erica Tazel), Atticus learns that his real purpose is to fully claim the Order of the Dawn’s magic not just for himself, but for everyone who looks like him, putting them not just on equal footing with whites, but even more powerful. There’s just one little problem, which doesn’t reveal itself until near the end of the episode.
Diana recovers from her paranormal attack, but her arm, the one she draws with, is horribly withered. She seems less upset about that than she is about Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) disappearing on her, and not being there for either Emmett’s funeral, or when she was being terrorized. Hippolyta isn’t defiant, exactly, but insists that the marvelous things she’s learned while traveling through time will make their temporary separation worthwhile. It’s a bold move not having Hippolyta feel as though she has to beg Diana for forgiveness, but in keeping with her devotion to identifying as more than just a widow or a mother.
Christina (Abbey Lee), not knowing what Atticus’s true purpose is, tries to strike another deal with him: give her the Book of Names, and she won’t have to use him for her immortality spell. “Our families aren’t at war, this isn’t anything personal,” she says. It’s Christina’s usual maddening logic: she doesn’t want to hurt Atticus — hell, she may even like and respect him, at least a little — but it’s simply the only way the spell can work. That thin veneer of mutual chilly respect quickly drops when Atticus refuses, however, and Christina immediately lifts the spell of protection she previously cast on Leti. They probably didn’t want Christina Braithwhite as a friend, but now they definitely don’t want her as an enemy.
One thing you can’t say for it, however, is that it didn’t keep the audience on its toes.
Speaking of Christina’s friends, Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) coldly refuses Leti’s plea to help them in casting a spell to protect the family, which would require her to take something that belongs to Christina. “The only time you’ve wanted to be my sister is when you needed something,” Ruby tells her, with something that looks a little like hatred in her eyes. “I know this time feels different to you, but it feels exactly the same to me.” She has a last minute change of heart, however, showing up just before Leti and the others, along with Ji-Ah (who the show remembered existed again), Hippolyta and Diana, leave for Ardham, bearing a bottle of Christina’s potion. She even joins them, for what will likely be the last time all of them are together, and relatively happy.
Once they arrive in Ardham, Atticus allows himself to be spirited away for preparation of Christina’s spell, if nothing else than as a distraction while Leti and the rest of the group set up the spell to siphon away the magic. A conversation between Leti and Ruby quickly becomes unsettling, and just as you might be thinking hey waitaminute is Ruby actually–yep, Christina reveals that she caught Ruby trying to steal the potion, killed her, and in essence became her, at least long enough to find out what the real plan was once the group arrived in Ardham. Before this bone-chilling reveal has a chance to settle in, however, Leti and Christina-as-Ruby get into a knockdown, dragout fight, while at the same time the townspeople gather to attack Montrose, Hippolyta and Ji-Ah.
As far as fight scenes go, it’s not great, especially when you consider how many times the character take direct punches to face and head without injury (which to be fair, might just be a personal pet peeve). But mostly it takes away from the dramatic reveal that Ruby is dead, and that she died trying to help Leti. Rather than give Leti a chance to process it, the scene ends with Christina tossing her off the roof, seemingly to her own death. It’s unfortunate that a character as powerful and interesting as Ruby ends up becoming unlamented collateral damage.
But, moving along. Now, back on top (at least for now), Christina begins performing her spell, which does indeed involve a heck of a lot of blood, mostly pouring out of Atticus’s forearms. The spell is a success, but it also revives Leti, somehow, who runs her through with a knife. Immortality has already taken hold, however, and their last hope is Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung) who uses her tails to bind Atticus and Christina together, draining Christina of her immortality and completing the spell. “Magic belongs to black people now,” Leti tells Christina, now mortally wounded under fallen debris.
Victory comes at a great loss (as it often does), when Leti discovers that Atticus has died. I know, I know, I was shocked too, and yet thinking about it a day after watching the episode, and considering the series as a whole, it feels as if all signs were pointing to this. Nobody ever said that Atticus would live to raise his son, just that he would protect him and secure his future. Given the devastating look of grief and deep and abiding love he gives everyone when they’re preparing for the final trip to Ardham, he understood what he was supposed to do, and was ready for it. Atticus’s parting message by letter isn’t to Leti, but to Montrose (Michael K. Williams), forgiving him, wishing him “supreme happiness” and telling him that he has a chance to be the father figure he’s always wanted to be to his grandson. It’s a deeply human moment in a show driven by magic and monsters, and it’s what makes Lovecraft Country an overall success. The show could have cheesed out and used magic to revive Atticus, but it would have lessened the impact of sacrifice and what lengths people are forced to go to keep those they love safe.
But Gena, what about the monsters? Yes, well, as a whole there was definitely a much lower ratio of monsters to people than the trailers for Lovecraft Country would have you think. One does show up at the very end of this episode, trained by Diana, who, thanks to Hippolyta’s endless knowledge, now has a kick-ass robotic arm. She uses it to crush Christina’s throat, putting a nicely gruesome ending on a show that managed to successfully merge horror, mystery, adventure, romance and drama, with only a couple stumbling points. The episode closing with a monster roaring at the moon is fun, powerful, and very satisfying. Atticus’s loved ones will grieve for him, but they remain strong, bonded, and victorious.
Final Dispatch From Kingsport:
- So I’ll keep what I didn’t like about Lovecraft Country short: they simply tried to do too much with the limited time they had. Certain subplots, like Ji-Ah’s connection to the story, barely had time to develop, while others, like Montrose’s relationship with Benny, ultimately served so little purpose that they could have been easily edited out and it wouldn’t have changed much. I’m not sure I entirely understood how the magic worked at times (like, for instance, why Christina successfully casting the immortality spell revived Leti), and while that might be because I lack certain attention skills, it also might be because certain aspects of the story were rushed to squeeze in as much plot as possible. On the other hand, trying to do too much is certainly a better problem to have than not doing enough.
- Atticus’s inability to finish the incantation that will cause his mother to disappear is another beautifully sad moment in a series that’s chockful of ’em.
- Depicting Dora, Hattie and Hana as existing in a version of Hell is a jarring and interesting choice. It’s a stark reminder that every decision has a consequence, even when they’re made with good intentions.
- The quick shot of another Black family moving into Leti’s neighborhood is a nice touch, a sign of hard-fought progress.
- And that’s a wrap on Lovecraft Country! Could it have had more monsters? Definitely, but so could most HBO prestige television. Have Perry Mason fight a chupacabra next season, or one of the family members in Succession get eaten by a werewolf. More monsters are always better.