In the latest episode of “Lovecraft Country,” magic is in the air (literally) as Atticus & Leti make deals to protect their futures.
Warning: don’t read until you’ve watched the entire episode!
This is another episode of Lovecraft Country that presents a lot of ideas, and then doesn’t really seem to know what to do with all of them. Certain characters are “complicated” to the point of being vague and inconsistent, which is a hard thing to juggle when you’re down to the last three episodes. This would normally be the point where we finally know where everyone stands with each other, and where lines are drawn as a set-up to either a final confrontation or a cliffhanger. We’re still not quite there yet, though, and I fear that means the last two episodes are going to be as rushed and haphazard.
But that’s alright, because the most important thing you need to know about this episode is that, finally, we get some goddamn Lovecraftian monsters again.
Before that, however, things open on a somber note, with the funeral of Emmett Till, who was, indeed, the boy who received an ominous message via Ouija board in the third episode. With her father dead and her mother missing, a distraught Diana (Jada Harris) flees the funeral on her own, and is accosted by the odious Captain Lancaster (Mac Brandt). Unable to shake her down for information about where Hippolyta might be, he performs some sort of grotesque spell on her that involve rubbing his saliva on her forehead, as if marking her. It’s a particularly cruel spell to cast on a child, making her hallucinate a pair of dancing and leering little girls who look like rag dolls that were sewn in Hell, and who never, ever leave her alone.
While Diana spends much of the day running around Chicago trying to escape these spectres, Atticus (Jonathan Majors) meets up with Christina (Abbey Lee) to swap the (broken, but Christina doesn’t know it) key to the time machine in exchange for information on how to cast a spell of protection. Christina, with the casualness that comes with being a chaotic neutral, tells Atticus that she’s planning to cast a spell of immortality on herself, something that no other member of the Order of the Dawn has been able to accomplish. One interesting aspect of Lovecraft Country is the surprising lack of duplicity on Christina’s part. Other than against the other lodge members, none of her actions seem to be done with malice, or to deceive anyone. When she’s asked a question, she answers it directly, seemingly with honesty, as opposed to almost all the other characters, who are keeping one secret or another from each other, in some misguided effort to “protect” them. Christina knows what she is, and she knows what she needs to do, and you’re either on board with it or not, it doesn’t matter to her either way. It’s an interesting way to present a character that could have easily been written as a stock villain.
Leti (Jurnee Smollett) is doing her own double-dealing with Christina, swapping negatives of the spellbook pages in exchange for a spell of invulnerability cast on Atticus. Christina agrees, but casts the spell on Leti instead, for reasons which will become apparent at the end of the episode. Atticus, we’ll soon find out, doesn’t need any extra help, earthly or otherwise.
The most important thing you need to know about this episode is that, finally, we get some goddamn Lovecraftian monsters again.
Meanwhile, Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku), after attending Emmett Till’s funeral, goes immediately to sleep with William (Jordan Patrick Smith), despite knowing that, on the inside, at least, he’s really Christina. She’s still taking the potion that turns her into Hillary Davenport, but transforms back to herself right in the middle of sex, a gruesomely compelling moment that’s undoubtedly someone’s fetish now. Later, Ruby tries to corner Christina on her feelings about Emmett Till, and Christina coolly concedes that she doesn’t care about Emmett Till, or race riots, or anything that doesn’t immediately affect her, simply because they don’t affect her. It feels like pointed commentary on performative white guilt, and it’s about as chilling a moment as anything else that has come so far on Lovecraft Country.
Christina calls Ruby out as well, telling her that if she truly felt so much sorrow about Emmett Till, she’d be mourning with her community and not all the way across town having sex with a white man. Ruby is emerging as another character who, like, Montrose (Michael K. Williams), the show is unsure what to do with. She’s mostly powered by anger (as she should be), and vengeance, but in a gray area that suggests she could end up as dangerous to Leti and the others as Montrose. This is still a very busy show that is still scrambling to put all of its ducks in a row, and I’m still wondering how (or even if) this will all be resolved in two weeks.
Speaking of Montrose, he and Atticus have another tense reconciliation, and Atticus tells him that Leti is pregnant. She hasn’t told him yet, but he knows, because at the same time Hippolyta was taking her trip through time, Atticus traveled to the future and discovered that he will have a son, George, who will grow up to become an author (his book is called, not surprisingly, Lovecraft Country). Faced with irrefutable evidence of his family’s future, Montrose finally makes up his mind to help Atticus, and reads the ancient language that casts the spell of protection on Atticus (or so he hopes).
Diana, unable to shake the rag doll creatures, tracks Captain Lancaster down at the lodge, but refuses to give up the orrery in exchange for the curse to be lifted. Diana’s sudden show of defiance and sass in the face of such clear danger seems a bit forced, to be honest, and exists mostly for the audience to pump their fist in triumph. Lancaster lets her go, and the rag doll creatures become more aggressive, eventually gaining the ability to attack her, even though no one else can see them. Montrose, who, as has been made abundantly clear, isn’t the most efficient parental figure, does at least show up to try to save her, and we’ll just have to see how that goes next week.
Christina’s test run with her immortality spell is a success. In a scene of what is questionable at best taste, she allows herself to be murdered in a manner far too close to Emmett Till, by a couple of local thugs who apparently really will do anything for money. It’s a damn hard scene to watch, not just because of the intense violence, but because Christina is essentially co-opting a Black child’s death for her own devices. Again, it doesn’t seem like it’s meant with malice, but more she simply listened to Ruby explain how Emmett Till was killed, mentally filed it away, and then later determined it to be a pretty effective way to die. Still, that doesn’t make it any easier to watch, particularly when Christina survives, no worse for wear, and Emmett Till is still dead.
Captain Lancaster and his crew show up at Leti’s house, but, unable to enter the house thanks to the spell the shaman placed on it back in episode three, they opt to shoot it up instead. Atticus shows up, and when one of the cops fires at him, his spell of protection works in a way he hadn’t anticipated: it causes a monster to burst out of the street in front of him, and make short, gory work of everyone, including Captain Lancaster.
Yes, finally! I was starting to think that we’d never see monsters again. It still seems a little odd to have a six episode gap between when they appear and when they reappear, but whatever, I’ll take it, it’s still a great scene. Atticus also discovers that not only will the monster not hurt him or those he loves, he can control and tame it (and presumably direct it to attack). It might not have been exactly what he imagined when casting a spell of protection, but perhaps he should have been more specific.
Dispatches From Kingsport:
- Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung) also shows up for a hot minute, in a weird, unnecessary scene. I guess it’s somewhat understandable why Atticus is angry at her, even though none of this is her fault or doing, but why does Leti seem to all but simmer with hatred over a woman she’s never even met before? Either way, it serves no purpose, and, at the risk of repeating myself, renders Ji-Ah into yet another character Lovecraft Country doesn’t really know what to do with, despite the beautifully moving episode that introduced her.
- Also, I stand corrected, those are tails that come out of Ji-Ah’s body, not tentacles.
- My sense is that Montrose is being set up as the heroic sacrifice, laying his life down for the son he mistreated for so long.
- That being said, is anyone with me in the belief that George will still come back, somehow? I mean, these folks have access to time travel now.
- Amusingly anachronistic music cue: “Cruel Summer”
- Keep an eye out (though it’s pretty hard to miss) for the excellent Nightmare on Elm Street reference just before Diana shows up at Leti’s house.
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- Nightstream: “Black Bear” blurs the line between art & reality - October 14, 2020