TV REVIEW: Lovecraft Country – Season 1: Episode 3
Things are pretty uncomfortable for Tic, who is living in close quarters with a grief-stricken Hippolyta and Dee. Leti, on the other hand, has found an enormous (but dilapidated) house in a white neighbourhood and is determined to be a Black ‘pioneer,’ meaning that someone has to be the one who takes the first difficult steps towards integration. It will of course not be easy, as within minutes of her arrival, her white neighbours are erecting signs and gathering outside her house in order to intimidate and threaten her, hoping they can force her to leave.
The other spanner in the works is that the house is definitely giving off majorly haunted vibes. After some persuasion, Leti manages to get her sister Ruby and Tic to move in, as well as other Black artists such as writers and dancers, one of whom I’m sure is James Baldwin. It doesn’t take long for the spirits to make their feelings known that Leti isn’t welcome, but she is determined to remain put, defying the demons within and without the house.
Unpacking all of the references is one of the joys of this series and finding all of the influences – both visual and audio. Misha Green has brought in an unusual use of spoken word, instead of songs or score over pivotal scenes and Episode 3 opens with a close-up of Leti at George’s funeral. The voiceover comes from an unexpected source – a Leimony Maldonado for Nike NYC Be True Campaign – Green has taken inspiration from a wide range of places and is not afraid of using things which may seem anachronistic. The voiceover has the repeated refrain of “Hey Lei” (but could easily be “Hey Leti”) and contains phrases that will become relevant later in the episode, when Leti is both battling with and fighting to release the ghosts which haunt her house – “did they (the ancestors) tell you that you saved them too?” and “go ahead Lei – fly.”
Leti defiantly decides to throw a huge housewarming party and a more period-appropriate cultural reference comes with Ruby (brilliant actress and singer Wunmi Mosaku) singing “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” as Tic enters in his full dress uniform from Korea (mainly as a warning signal to the white neighbours). He cuts a dashing figure, as does Leti in a beautiful seagreen silk dress with a fringed skirt and these two beautiful people come together in the bathroom, which leads to Leti losing her virginity to Tic. The party is interrupted by a burning cross on the front lawn, which leads to a fabulous “bust your windows” moment with a baseball bat wielding Leti, which is undoubtedly inspired by Beyonce’s Lemonade.
When the ghosts in Leti’s basement really decide to make themselves known, this becomes the scariest episode yet, with Jurnee Smollet giving a visceral, harrowing performance. Tic gets possessed at one point, some of the white neighbours come ‘visiting’ and meet a grisly end, there’s an amazing shot from inside the elevator – it’s a thrilling sequence, showing the best this show has to offer. It’s a shame then, the episode must end with Christina Exposition Braithwhite (Abbey Lee) making a return, which is a bit of a slump after such a high point. But the episode does end on Sinnerman, which I’m never going to complain about.
As for things to look forward to, it’s still difficult to say whether the series is taking the book’s approach of being more like a collection of connected short stories than a more coherent narrative. The book’s chapters focus on different characters and I’m very much looking forward to Hippolyta, Ruby and Montrose getting their time to shine (if that’s the approach the show is going to take). I definitely hope that the relationship between Tic and Leti is going to develop, because that’s an aspect I’m really enjoying. My take so far is that the show has not been flawless, but has certainly been risky, brave and boundary-pushing. I would much rather have that than be bored. I’m loving being able to look up the references eg. the Gordon Parks photography from the pilot and I look forward to that aspect with each new episode. So, I’m definitely excited for what is to come.