Hippolyta takes an adventure through time in a moving, powerful and mind bending episode.
Warning: don’t read until you’ve watched the entire episode of Lovecraft Country!
Lovecraft Country isn’t a perfect TV show. I still remain firm in my belief that, with three episodes left to go, it’s impossible that every single plot arc that is being introduced (and still being introduced) will be pulled together in a way that feels complete and coherent. So many supporting characters have been introduced that they’re often forgotten for several episodes at a time. “Montrose is angry and violent because he’s gay” comes off like nothing so much as fanfic, and probably should have been edited out of the final script of the series. That being said, Lovecraft Country creator Misha Green clearly loves horror and sci-fi, and treats the material seriously, without a “Isn’t this silly?” wink at the audience. She also loves her female characters, giving them their own arcs and often keeping them front and center, taking action instead of needing to be rescued. Now it’s Hippolyta’s turn in “I Am,” an episode that is, at various times, exciting, funny, inspiring and deeply moving.
After finding the ruins of Ardham Manor (and irrevocable proof that Atticus and Montrose lied about George’s death), Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) returns to Chicago, and is able to get George’s orrery (the model of the solar system Christina is so interested in finding) working. It’s a dazzling sight, made more so by the fact that it’s hiding a key, and what appear to be latitude and longitude coordinates for a town out in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas. At least as excited about lighting out on her own adventure as she is determined to find out what really happened to George, Hippolyta takes off to Kansas on her own.
Meanwhile, in another part of town, Montrose (Michael K. Williams) lets Sammy (Jon Hudson Odom) stay the night for the first time, despite worrying about what the neighbors might think. They’re already bickering like an old married couple, though, with Montrose complaining about the quality of Sammy’s cooking, and Sammy refusing to take his guff (“What are you gonna complain about next, the coffee’s too wet?”). It’s funny, but it’s also ominous, particularly since it remains unclear (a) what Montrose’s deal actually is, and (b) what if anything this subplot will amount to. Worst case scenario is that Sammy is being set up to be a victim, but more likely he’ll simply act as a conduit for a father and his aggressively straight son to eventually reconcile their differences. That’s a shame, because Sammy as a character–an openly gay Black man in the 1950s–is interesting enough for his own plot arc.
But for now, the secret is out when Atticus (Jonathan Majors) and Leti (Jurnee Smollett) show up unannounced at Montrose’s apartment while Sammy is there. Atticus’s reaction to it is less than great (here’s where I give a big ol’ CW for gay slurs), and it’s once again up to Leti to be the voice of reason and get some intel out of Montrose about an elderly family friend who may have information about Atticus’s mother. Atticus takes off for St. Louis to get said information, but Leti opts to stay behind and make amends with Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku), both of them still under the mistaken belief that Leti was the sole inheritor of their mother’s estate.
Both of them refuse to talk about, except in the vaguest terms, what they’ve been experiencing, emphasizing the distrust and distance that remains between them. The strings Christina (Abbey Lee) seems to be pulling to get everyone to inadvertently do her bidding are so apparent you can practically hear them twanging here, particularly when Leti find the orrery and calls Atticus to tell him that Hippolyta is in danger. Ruby eavesdrops on the conversation with a look on her face that maybe, kinda, sorta suggests that she might go running back to Christina with the news that the orrery has been located. Christina has, after all, seemed to convince Ruby that, despite her initial deception, she’s on her side, and that they’re ultimately working towards the same goal.
Hippolyta is in danger, but not in the way anyone would expect. The orrery’s coordinates lead her to what appears to be an abandoned planetarium, but is actually a time machine (yep, we’re bringing time travel into it). The key she found in the orrery turns it on, and while trying to flee a pair of murderous security guards, she’s sucked into the rip in the time-space continuum it causes. She ends up somewhere in the far future, held captive (or so she thinks) and given strange implants in her arms. The implants allow her to travel anywhere in time she wants to go, and, forced to choose, blurts out that she wants to go to Paris and dance with Josephine Baker. Though Hippolyta is a clumsy dancer at first, Josephine (Carra Patterson) is charmed by her determination, and she gets to experience a taste of the bohemian life, even briefly rubbing elbows with Frida Kahlo. Hippolyta seems to be remarkably skilled at making the best of a challenging situation, though, as we’ll eventually learn, it’s often been at the expense of her own happiness.
She then finds herself training to fight with a tribe of women warriors, and like when she first arrives in Paris, though she’s not a natural fighter, she’s stubborn and determined. If there’s a better moment this entire season of Lovecraft Country than Hippolyta wearing armor and murdering the shit out of a bunch of white men with a big sword (complete with blood splattering the camera), I’ll be shocked. Her final trip (for now, at least) is the least surprising, and yet it brought tears to my eyes anyway–waking up in bed next to George (Courtney B. Vance). She tells George about her adventures, and bless, not only does he just let her talk, he also listens when she recounts with sorrow how much of her inner and desire to discover and see the world has been stifled. It’s a powerful moment, even moreso than when Christina explains to Ruby about why she created the spell to let her exist in another woman’s body for a little while.
They take the trip of a lifetime together, to a sweetly corny version of 1950s “space” (indeed, it resembles the cover of the sci-fi comic Diana has been seen reading), and then Hippolyta, though she could travel through time and space forever if she chose to, opts to return to her real life, with considerably less adventure (except for her memories), and without George. Or she tries, at least, before the time machine breaks down, leaving her trapped.
Though I would never deign to say that I have it as hard as a Black woman, Hippolyta’s anger and sadness over not being able to live the life she dreamed of herself, while men, many of them unambitious and, worse, uncurious about the world, just do and take what they want, is a universal pain for women. Even now, when women insist on being acknowledged as more than just someone’s wife and/or mother, it’s looked at askance, as if to suggest that those roles aren’t important. They are, of course, but there is so much more out there, a whole world waiting for us to discover, even if it’s being kept a secret.
Dispatches From Kingsport:
- In other newly introduced Lovecraft Country plot arcs, Leti is apparently pregnant, which means now she and Ruby are both intrinsically tied into the legacy of the Order of the New Dawn.
- We also learn that William did actually exist at one time, and Christina’s story about other Sons of Adam murdering him to take his place in line for leadership of the lodge is true (or so we think).
- Not much comes out of Atticus’s trip to St. Louis, other than the reveal that he and his mother had matching birthmarks.
- Amusingly anachronistic music cue: “Lady Marmalade”
- Can I just say that the chemistry between Hippolyta and Josephine is scorching? It makes me wonder what other kind of adventure Hippolyta might be seeking, ifyaknowhutimsayin.
- Stop reading this and go read some stuff about Josephine Baker, one of the most interesting figures in 20th century history.
- Continuing HBO’s commendable tradition featuring women characters over 40 who are allowed to be interesting, and even sexy, Aunjanue Ellis is, incredibly, 51 years old.