TV REVIEW: Lovecraft Country – Season 1: Episode 9
After Episode 8 (Jig-a-Bobo) used Emmett Till’s funeral as the backdrop to one of the scariest episodes yet, Episode 9 (Rewind 1921) of Lovecraft Country is set during the Tulsa massacre of 1921. HBO’s Watchmen already highlighted this event – one of the darkest few days on American soil – at the end of last year, bringing more awareness to an area of history that has long been suppressed.
The reasons why Tic, Leti and Montrose end up time-traveling to 1921 are – in now typical Lovecraft Country style – convoluted and confusing. Dee has been bitten by the hideously terrifying ghouls who were stalking her, resulting in a zombie-like infection or curse, because she appears to be turning into one of them. The only hope for her is to go back to the intertwined lives of Montrose, George and Tic’s mother Dora (who are all around Dee’s age in 1921) to retrieve the Book of Names. Hippolyta opens the portal for them (at great cost to herself), but she is obviously willing to do anything to save her daughter’s life.
The Tulsa-set part, that makes up most of the episode, is obviously heart-breaking for many reasons. We see the source of Montrose’s trauma and understand more about the fact that he has perpetuated the cycle of abuse onto Tic, something Tic is understandably having a hard time letting go of. We also see a boy – Thomas – that Montrose obviously had feelings for, but has to reject for obvious reasons. We see tragedy befall both him and Dora’s family, who have their house set on fire by the white mob who are indiscriminately attacking everyone and everything in the Black neighbourhood of Greenwood. Tic, Leti and Montrose cannot intervene and save any lives due to the butterfly effect.
Tic does get his Prisoner of Azkaban moment though and wield his baseball bat like Jackie Robinson, saving George, Montrose and Dora. Tic knew this had already happened because it had become family legend, he just didn’t know it was his destiny to fulfill this role. It’s extremely emotional to see Tic connecting with his ancestors and Leti is very conscious of the legacy that will continue, from Dora’s family’s sacrifice, through to her unborn child. Leti is now impervious to harm, so watching her become consumed by the flames that kill Dora’s family is overwhelming.
While Episode 9 isn’t as strong as Episode 8 (following the rollercoaster trend that has been this season), the main Tulsa storyline is excellent. Where Lovecraft Country tends to come undone is packing in far too many subplots with too much going on and trying to keep track of too many characters. Therefore, Ruby, Christina/William and Captain Lancaster all feature in this episode, but it’s hard to focus on what’s happening with them too. Abbey Lee (who plays Christina) has been phenomenal throughout the season, which is unsurprising to those of us who love The Neon Demon. It is hard to tell how much she genuinely feels for Ruby, or if she is just exploiting Tic, Leti and Ruby for her own selfish reasons.
Hopefully this, as well as many other threads and unanswered questions will be answered in tonight’s finale. This has been one of the most frustrating TV shows I’ve ever watched, due to the fact that it has had such high highs and low lows. It has shown the potential to be so good, but has made many many bizarre and questionable choices along the way, that continually upend the goodwill you feel towards it. Some of its biggest strengths have included the costuming, the unusual use of spoken word and music over key scenes and the real historical references. The women of the show, especially Jurnee Smollett, Wunmi Mosaku and Abbey Lee have all been wonderful. But not all the changes from the book have been for the better and some decisions have been clumsy, clunky or occasionally offensive.
As this is my last recap, I’ll finish by highlighting some of the aforementioned highs and lows.
Best episodes: 1, 3, 6, 8
Worst episodes: 2, 4, 5, 7
Mixed bag: 9
My frustration comes from the fact that episode 5 (the Ruby episode) and episode 7 (the Hippolyta episode) were much better as chapters of the book. Lovecraft Country soared when it kept things simple – as with the sublime Korea-set Episode 6 (which isn’t even in the book). But giving Ji-Ah such an amazing episode and then doing absolutely nothing with her character (unless she gets an amazing moment to shine in Episode 10) is indicative of the problems with the season as a whole. It has often done its characters a disservice by not following through properly on their storylines.
So much relies on the finale now and I really hope that Lovecraft Country ends on a high.