TV REVIEW: Lovecraft Country – Season 1: Episode 8
The track record of Lovecraft Country up until now has been one of ups and downs, but there’s no question that the show hits its highs when the supernatural and the social commentary seamlessly intertwine with one another. The one thing it has struggled so far to accomplish, is bringing seemingly outside characters into the fold and having them merge with the world of horror, magic, and multi-eyed monsters. Such was the case for ‘Jig-A-Bobo’. An episode that looked at the loss within the Freeman family and outside of it, as well.
Just as ‘I Am’ shifted its attention to Hippolyta and her introduction into this mad world that we’ve been wandering around in for some time, ‘Jig-A-Bobo’ focused on her daughter, Diana, a character that until hasn’t been as exposed to neither the magic, or the harsh reality of the time and the turmoil she’s living in until now. We begin during the funeral proceedings of her friend Emmett Till, the real 14-year-old boy that was brutally killed in 1955 that has left the black community understandably enraged and at a loss over the tragedy. The effort to articulate this is a struggle for all, even more so for the Freeman family and friends who aren’t necessarily on speaking terms. With secrets finally slipping out from Montrose, Atticus and Leti, it’s a testing time for all, but as a result, attention to Diana is limited. So much so that when she flees the scene she’s quickly accosted by Captain Lancaster, who asks the whereabouts of her mother (good question), and her knowledge of magic.
Making the death of Emmett Till so prominent from the off allows, this scene in particular to strike an unsettling and truly terrifying chord, if only for Jada Harris’ performance. Subjected to interrogation down an alley and her knowledge of magic (“like fantasy books?”) is played so delicately that when Lancaster applies the visually grotesque curse, it’s a grisly bit of viewing, almost robbing Dee of her innocence, but she quickly adapts as the episode goes on. Her conversation with Montrose later on is almost numbing (“when they come for you, make them work for it”), before her own demons take the literal shape of Topsy (and an evil twin – Bopsy) from Uncle Tom’s Cabin and present themselves into what might easily the scariest characters of the show so far.
Seeing these sharp-toothed, yellow-eyed monsters contort and claw their way to Dee in broad daylight made for an even more striking image (which only she can see) and wasn’t the usual territory that Lovecraft Country has ventured in to. We’ve seen monstrous horrors and flat-out monsters, but little girl demons are a different ballgame (pardon the pun) that the show manages just right. Facing down racist ‘pig’ policeman and terrors that no one can see, Dee swinging away at the monsters in her last stand hit just how it needed to, but we can only hope she survived the horror that Montrose may have unknowingly intervened in.
Little girl ghosts aren’t the only area, Lovecraft Country nails this episode, either. Ruby battling with the current communal grief and her inner fury came to another bloody fruition when she took a swig of William/Christina’s potion, once again transforming into a white woman and having sex with William. Never failing to make the transformation back to Ruby boring, this passionate scene laced in layers of flesh falling away made for another fascinating bit of viewing. Credit to the special effects department for never making this transformation lose its macabre magic. Unlike a lot of grisly goings on in this episode, though, Ruby’s transformation had purpose, and gave another moment for her to be openly honest about where she is. “She didn’t want to be a black woman fucking a white man.” It’s another stand out moment that highlights Ruby as a rarity within this show; as a character that will easily tell anyone exactly how it is, a contradiction in itself given that she’s at the centre of a body-swapping story within this tangled tale of otherworldly elements. The issue with that, is like previous occasions with Lovecraft Country, is that integrating this with the other mad elements of this show is where it struggles most.
Rather than a big reveal to Leti about her sister’s ‘activities’, Ruby outright tells her she’s been going out and about as a white woman and is fully aware that magic exists in the world. For such a major element of the show it feels almost underwhelming when the older Baptiste sister spills the beans. But such is the issue of having so many different otherworldly elements playing under and alongside one another, resulting in what feels like a another thing to check off the to-do list in order to reach the season’s finish line. The same can be said for Ji-Ah rocking up at the Baptiste household and telling Tic’s current flame who and what she is, before quickly leaving the scene. Given the special treatment Atticus’ wartime love got in her own episode, the high anticipation it built for when she finally met, Leti, it feels like she deserved more. Here’s hoping she gets some and this wasn’t a totally wasted trip.
But the show, like its characters aren’t perfect, and while some interactions with one another didn’t end up the way we hoped, better time was spent with the likes of the Montrose and Tic this week then the show has ever done. Seeing the Freeman father and son sit out on a curb and talk about Tic’s mother and Montrose’s understanding wife was touching, and finally gave Michael Kenneth Williams something more to do than yell his way through a scene or sit and convey an inner turmoil. Seeing these two finally get to know one another a bit more made for a welcome break from the mixed up world they were running around in, allowing us to catch our breath and get to know more about the show’s core family, no matter how small (Montrose being revealed as dyslexic was a particularly nice touch). With that said, this was slightly undercut with the revelation that Tic’s unseen trip through dimensions last week, he crossed paths with his future son (what the?). Any more on that, maybe? We hope so.
It’s moments like this that undercut and may have led many audiences to struggle with a show that has the best intentions but can’t quite get everything to work together. When Lovecraft Country is good (little girl demons, shocking body horror with a statement to back it up) it’s great, but when it falters (poorly executed, or under-explained plot twists) it’s terrible. ‘Jig-A-Bobo’ has a batch of both, and will take more than a new protective, police-munching beast for Tic (though that was awesome), and a bullet-deflecting Leti to save it.