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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Lovecraft Country comes “Full Circle” with an ode to Black motherhood

Aunjanue Ellis
Aunjanue Ellis
Photo: Eli Joshua Ade/HBO
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The final episode of Lovecraft Country serves as a tribute to Black motherhood in all of its many shapes. Highlighting single motherhood, the loss of a mom, and found family, the finale puts a nice bow on the many threads running through Lovecraft Country. By ending at the beginning, with Hannah’s struggle to liberate herself and keep her unborn child safe, we get a “Full Circle” image of how Atticus became a man.

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With Diana close to death again, Tic and Leti are sucked into the spirit world. Ester (not Hannah, who burned in the Oklahoma house), Hannah, and Tic’s mother appear around the salt circle ready to take out Titus The Recurring once and for all. While the women chant, Tic does what the army trained him to do. He beats the ever loving out of Titus and cuts a piece of his flesh out. Unfortunately, it takes a couple tries to end Titus, who briefly escapes the circle, landing right in front of Christina’s fancy car. Thrown from the vehicle, Christina nevertheless recognizes her ancestor. The clock to the autumnal equinox begins to tick.

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When one calls on their ancestors for guidance, they’re asking for all the lessons learned by their makers to manifest in their being, so that they might make better choices in the present. Tic’s dealt with his daddy issues over the course of this series, but his mommy issues simmered in the background—not unseen, but untouched, the wound of that loss too much to bear. But the story of Lovecraft Country is a matriarchal one. It’s Hannah’s story. She ran away from an enslaved life while pregnant, and managed to destroy a physical representation of her objectification in the process. This choice protected her progeny for centuries. Now all the mothers, the bringers and nurturers of existence, guide Tic one last time.

As Tic and Leti release each woman, it’s done with an expression of gratitude. But when they get to Tic’s mother, he’s unable to let go. Leti carries Tic’s son, and that blood makes her family. She’s able to cast the spell. Hannah entrusted her with a single mission, and she helps Tic say goodbye to his mother. Finally, all of Tic’s demons, fears, and losses are exposed to his love, and his burdens dry up in the light. For the first time, Tic’s able to operate unencumbered by guilt, grief, or shame. Which is perfect timing, because Christina walks into his uncle’s garage like the colonizer she is.

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Jurnee Smollett
Photo: Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

One thing about Christina, she always felt entitled to her actions. Impressive, given she lived in the 1950s, a time period well documented for trying to shove women back into the kitchen. On the other hand, she consistently claimed to understand the Black plight in America, even going so far as to pay to be killed like Emmett Till. Yet, she storms into that garage demanding ownership over a stolen book. “This isn’t generational hate. Our families are not at war. This has never been personal,” Christina states. But they were one family, connected by blood, not two feuding families. She enters believing her right to freedom trumps Hannah’s sacrifice and Tic’s magical ability. “(Tic’s) death is a consequence of a spell I’m attempting to cast,” she pleaded with Montrose who survived more in the last 48 hours than she would experience in her entire life. “There’s no other way...at least that I could figure out.” But there lies the rub—Christina stopped looking. Once she found a way out of the male dominated circle her father forced her into, she stopped caring about the consequences of her actions. An entire life became inconsequential to her. The arrogance! In petty fashion, Christina yanks her protection spell from Leti, making her and the baby vulnerable again.

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Speaking of innocent babies, Diana, whole and in her bed, thanks to the grueling physical sacrifices of her mother, remained hurt by the brief time her mother left her side. “You left me.” She hurled the greatest sin a mother can commit, and expected it to land a crushing blow. Instead, Hippolyta gives Diana a gift. A mother made whole lights a path of excellence for a child.

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Wunmi Mosaku (left) Abbey Lee (right)
Photo: Eli Joshua Ade/HBO
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When my baby brother and I were in grammar school, my mother earned two degrees, including her master’s, and eventually became a teacher at the local college. Her mother before her earned her Ph.D. while my mother was in grammar school. Before her, my great-grandmother opened a hat shop during the Great Depression to feed her children while they went to school. And before that, my great-great-grandmother sued her husband for alienation of affection, won, and moved three of her children across the country to find a better life, when my great-grandmother was six. Each woman tells the story of their mother making space for herself with pride and admiration. For it was in those long nights, when we first had to fend for ourselves, cook our own dinners and check our siblings’ homework, that we could appreciate all the warmth and protections our mothers crafted for us. Their strengths were too close to be appreciated for the treasures they were.

Seeing Mom dominate a new road, while we conquered the homefront, gave life to new goals, possibilities, and realities for our future. But most importantly, mom became real. Flesh and blood, fallible, courageous, exhausted, and stronger than ever before Mom taught us how to be independent women. How to survive in the world on our own two feet. Like Diana, we did not yet realize that though Mom pulled away, she was not first to do it. At some point, most children will ask their primary caregivers to stop helping them. Stop picking out the clothes, don’t pick out the activities. Until one day, the child moves away entirely. The relationship between a parent and child is a series of letting go. Until finally, one of them takes the ultimate journey, where none may follow.

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Diana’s too young to understand this. She emotionally managed the murder of her best friend, her first frightening run-in with the cops, and the murder of her father by herself. None of the adults in the room had the fortitude to walk themselves through these crises, let alone a child. So, Diana clung to the now familiar comfort of anger, struggling to forgive the person she loves the most. Luckily, Hippolyta respects her daughter. She apologizes, and makes a solemn promise that Diana will draw again. Then, she shows her a secret room with bells and whistles that we did not get to see.

The group heads back to Leti’s house. Across the street, another Black family has moved in! They’re taking back the neighborhood. Two dozen exploded cops and no arrests probably led to swift white flight. The Orisha’s X remains on the doorframe, and each member of the family pays it a nod of respect as they enter the domicile.

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And Ji-Ah returns: I knew they didn’t bring this woman all the way to Chicago to be dismissed by Tic. Of course, she finds herself dealing with white nonsense and objectification. At least Tic makes a proper apology for his cruelty. Ji-Ah’s recently lost her mother as well. Tic, who just learned his mommy lesson two minutes ago, does his best to pass what he learned to Ji-Ah. He claims her as family, and she offers up the truth of what she’s been told. Tic will die, and she will become a monster. But Tic once thought the same thing in the middle of a war, until he met Ji-Ah and realized he could choose. Ji-Ah will need to choose, too.

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Wunmi Mosaku
Photo: Eli Joshua Ade/HBO
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Ruby had two families, neither treating her as she deserved, to pick from. Her sister, who flies in at her convenience and out at her hysterics, whom Ruby could never rely on nor trust, claimed everything would be different. Christina—who humiliated Ruby, used her, and listed to her—makes love to Ruby in her true form for the first time. While Christina wishes she didn’t have to kill her last living relative, the option remains fully on the table. Ruby eventually chooses her blood, giving over a vial of Christina’s blood so Leti and company could perform the binding spell.

Once in Ardham, they form a salt triangle, and Tic eats the bit of flesh he carved from Titus, and chases it with Christina’s blood. In the burned out hollow if the Braithwaite ancestral manor, under the full moon, the creepy white townsfolk prepare Tic. How’d they know he was coming... I feel like this is a fatal flaw in their plan. Is this a plan?

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Back in the meat silo that once held Montrose, Leti and Ruby begin drawing protection runes on the top floor. But then, a double cross. Christina stole Ruby’s body! Now, it’s time for everyone to prove what they learned about physically fighting for their life over the summer. In a dramatic family fight that would make WWE fans happy, 2X4s and chairs fly as Hippolyta and Montrose fight some of the locals on the covered bridge. Just when Leti pins Ruby/Christina to the ropes, dangling five stories above an open stone pit, Ruby/Christina bounces back and shoves Leti out a window! My god, are they trying to kill us? Plot armor must protect her right? Or is this an alternate ending?

Of course, when Tic hears the news his beloved died, he is beside himself. Strapped up, everyone tied and brought to a knee, poor Montrose laid up on a makeshift gurney, Christina in a white dress, the witching hour is upon them—all truly seems lost, and certainly Tic is a goner.

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Abbey Lee
Photo: Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Their only hope? Diana waited in the car with her flashlight and read a comic book her mother drew. A wererabbit leaps from the ground and slams into the car, scattering shattered windows everywhere. But then, just as the hour seemed its darkest, familiar beast tackles the wererabbit. Did they perform a new protection spell for Leti?! Did it happen just in that moment?

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Leti’s body still lies on the ground. Christina drinks from Tic’s slashed arteries. Her white lace dress soaked in blood made me think of innocence lost. The entire time we’ve known Christina, she insisted she was nothing like her father. Here, she stands in his full image, completing his goal, murdering the same son he tried to kill another lifetime ago. She is the arbiter of her own nightmare, and she didn’t even know it. Any part of her worth saving vanished the moment she murdered Ruby.

But as we soon see: Leti lives! Plot armor rules.

Unfortunately, our dear Tic dies, though not before he sees the love of his life one last time. The twangy banjo makes me want to hear the ballad of Atticus Freeman. It’s quite the story.

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Jonathan Majors
Photo: Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Leti, full of rage, charges at Christina, piercing her through the abdomen. But Christina never turned over her blood, and she finished her spell first. It’s here that the premonition given to Ji-Ah makes sense. The plume of smoke, being one with the darkness, seeing a lot of death, her hundredth kill, all add up to her binding Tic and Christina.

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Then, the Lord’s divine judgement takes place. Balanced on the scales, Tic and Christina stand their judgment. Tic, now baptized and made whole through his journey of acceptance and forgiveness, is practically a saint. Christina killed the woman she loved. So. You know. She goes to the bad place.

In the spirit of bringing things full circle, this makes a lot of sense. If the spells were stolen from indigenous and enslaved people, it’s nice that they ended up with the rightful owners. Christianity played a huge role in enslaved life, the Underground Railroad, and later, the organizing of the Civil Rights movement. Many Black Americans, like Leti and Ester, still cling to the values and community of the church. Seeing both the ancestral religions and the religion of the new world blend together does feel circular.

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The final goal accomplished, magic now belongs to Black Americans, which is as sweet a wish as I can imagine for Black people, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. A guaranteed protection from white supremacy would be the greatest gift. Of course, magic takes as much as it gives, not unlike the Lord. We have the unenviable task of watching Michael K. Williams act his ass off as he must come to terms with the death of his child. Knowing now what Montrose survived as a child, this scene shatters the heart. In death, Atticus gives a final gift to Montrose. He asks him to be the father he always wanted to be, this time to his grandson. For the second time, Atticus plays hero to his father.

In the show’s final scene, Diana ends the life of Christina Braithwaite. Revealing a mechanical arm her mother built, she crushes the woman’s neck as her new protector howls at the moon in a dramatic conclusion. Diana will never be unprotected again, never be vulnerable to white supremacy again. They kept her from the portion that would emotionally scar, and gave her the tools to survive in their absence. What wonders will she wield? Her future is endless.

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A contributor for Playboy and Hollywood Reporter Joelle writes about film, television, and comic books. A speaker, host, and avid podcaster her reviews have been featured on NPR, BBC1, and ET.

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