Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Lovecraft Country inspects America’s “History Of Violence” in another great episode

Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, and Michael K. Williams
Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, and Michael K. Williams
Photo: Eli Joshua Ade (HBO
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

On this week’s episode of Lovecraft Country, the haunted Winthrop House hides roots that lead all the way to Boston. Ruby gets her groove back but loses out on her dream job. The Amazons begin to solve a bigger mystery as the mother and daughter pair bond. Tic, Leti, and the newest member of the trio, Montrose, get their Indiana Jones museum adventure on as they explore “A History Of Violence.” And we get another look inside Titus’ secret vault and the horrible massacre that took place there.

Advertisement

The episode begins ominously, with a warning on the radio that a “barbaric Russia’’ will wipe America off the face of the planet if the country does not agree to destroy its nuclear stockpile, thus signaling the start of the Cold War. Montrose struggles with his internal war. Haggard with grief for his brother, George, Montrose sinks further into his alcoholism. Simultaneously he explores the history and rules of the Sons of Adam. As America reckons with its violent past against a foreign enemy, Montrose hears his father calls for a switch while his younger self pleads for forgiveness. He seems to bury that past in new knowledge as he reads a cryptic verse from the Sons of Adams’ book.

Adam Named.

Eve F-cked.

God brought forth Monsters.

Monsters Devoured.

God smites Eve.

Let the conspiracy theories begin! Okay, so in “Whitey’s On The Moon (an episode I stand by as being excellent as it establishes the rules of much of this series), Samuel Braithwaite gives his “Adam Names” speech to Tic and his daughter Christina (Abbey Lee). In his speech, Samuel explained that the white male was the next best thing to God Almighty. God let Adam order the world. Therefore, Adam must be in charge. But a lack of pigment could not save Samuel, whose superiority complex encouraged him to cast a spell to which he did not have all the words. Foolish. But, it means we understand this first line of the poem—Adams runs shit.

Advertisement

The hilarious second line indicates Eve fornicated on her own. Adam, saintly namer that he was, did not dirty himself by laying with a woman. Oh no, Eve lived in that garden by herself breaking God’s rules. “Whore.” All women must follow her example, and therefore are unworthy of the super-cool, superiority complex-riddled Sons of Adam.

undefined
Aunjanue Ellis
Photo: Eli Joshua Ade (HBO
Advertisement

“God brought forth monsters” leads the poem into a more cryptic territory. Who or what do the Sons of Adam consider monsters? Whom do those monsters devour, and how? So far, the only monsters showcased on the series are the ones that respond to the Braithwaite whistle and are allergic to light. Given that this is a restructuring of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, and considering the story takes place in Jim Crow America, perhaps this line suggests the creation of other races? Are Black and brown people, as the “savages” and the museum tour guide explain, the monsters?

Finally, and you guys feel free to tell me different in the chat, but “God smites Eve” sounds like little Miss Christina or perhaps our beloved Leti may need to be sacrificed to solve the Sons of Adam’s final riddle. Though, I’m also wondering if the golden-haired alien woman from the opening of season one might be a neo-Eve. Or, was Hanna, Tic’s ancestor, a descendent of Eve herself? Perhaps creating a new bloodline of Braithwaite children made her an Eve of sorts—there’s lots to speculate.

Advertisement
undefined
Jurnee Smollett
Photo: Eli Joshua Ade (HBO

Okay, back to the show. Montrose decides that the best thing to do is commit the book to memory and then destroy it. This way, no one can use the book against the family. This action proves short-sighted of Montrose, as we see later in the tombs beneath the museum. The scene ends with Montrose standing over the burning book and the line, “Smells like Tulsa.” Tulsa in 1921 smelled like burning flesh and wood. Metaphorically, it smelled like thousands of charred possibilities. History nearly erased a wealthy Black state from the face of America. Montrose sought and found retribution in this act of destruction. He found power.

Advertisement

Leti’s found power in her retribution house, too. The goat’s blood the Orisha put on the door keeps Christina from entering the home. The blood can’t stop Christina from revealing that she was the one who bought the house. She tried to use faux sisterhood—revealing Tic’s attempted murder—to bond with Leti. But Letitia F-ing Lewis wasn’t born last night, and she banishes that woman from her porch with a quickness.

Christina quickly finds herself in police custody after racing her Rolls Royce through the city while blasting “Bitch Better Have My Money” by Rihanna. While her interaction is not pleasant, it’s not nearly the rough ride Leti received. The Captain tries to threaten the rich white girl and put her in her place, but Christina’s playing chess while he plays checkers. The loss of the Winthrop house to Black tenants stings something awful. Christina’s not afraid of throwing it in his face. A new rivalry begins! I imagine this will be a quick bump in the road for Christina, who clearly has something to prove. We’ll have to wait and see if the Captain heads the brutal warning Crane (Alex Collins) left for him.

Advertisement
undefined
Abbey Lee
Photo: Eli Joshua Ade (HBO

The music selections, which also include Leikeli24's “Money,” highlight the parallels of capitalist greed and society-approved violence. H.P. Lovecraft called Indigenous people “savages.” The slur encapsulates the disdain and perceived ignorance colonizers often held for native people. When might equals right and greed is good, there can be little room left for humanity. After all, a museum dedicated an entire wing to the brutality of Braithwaite and theft of cultural history, while also allowing the mummification and psychotic displaying of a serial killer’s trophies in an underground bunker.

Advertisement

Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) and Diana (Jada Harris) slowly blossom into the Amazons they’re named after. Hippolyta took the model universe Christina looked for at Leti’s. She theorizes that two suns exist in our solar system. She got the idea from Diana’s original comic book. The mother and daughter seem tapped into a higher truth. Hippolyta knew Tic was lying to her, but she also insisted on going on the road trip with George. In the museum, Hippolyta reveals she named Hera’s Comet, but the credit went to a white woman when they discovered Hippolyta was Black.

undefined
Michael K. Williams (left) Jonathan Majors (right)
Photo: Eli Joshua Ade (HBO
Advertisement

Tic’s lost a lot in his short life. His mama’s gone. His uncle/mentor died in front of him, and he witnessed the deaths of hundreds of men in the trenches. Like his father, when he’s hurt, Tic builds walls. Letitia’s tired of the mess, and their frustration with one another builds as they make their way through the museum. Leti’s well-read, fearless, and willing to fight with Tic. And it isn’t until he sees her as his equal that they can embrace one another. They finally kiss for real! My OTP realized.

Playing the “Henry James” role, Montrose turns out to be the perfect guest for a museum heist. He knows how to work a system, gathering information from the security guard to break in after hours. But I still can’t be sure whose side he’s on. He claims to be protecting Tic on George’s orders, but he kills Yahima (Monique Candelaria), a survivor of genocide, and we have no idea why. It’s a bit traumatic to have the only trans individual on the show, and the only Indigenous person be murdered right away, particularly given the mass homicide rate experienced by Indigenous women and trans women across America.

Advertisement

“A History Of Violence” takes the classic “Indian burial ground” trope and attempts to uplift it beyond a cursed and evil space. Instead, the episode places the responsibility solely on the killers. The most popular use of this trope is Poltergeist, the 1982 film by Tobe Hooper. In it, a family discovers their house has been invaded by evil spirits who want to lure their children into the spirit realm where they’ll be trapped forever. The film doesn’t delve into the systematic genocide of indigenous people, or the ways in which many Americans continue to proper off the colonization of tribal lands. By giving space to an Indigenous actor, by showcasing a nude intersex body, by having Yahima tell the horror story of westward expansion and lynching in her own words, Lovecraft Country ventures toward better representation for Indigenous people in American horror storytelling. But the immediate erasure of that character leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Yahima (Monique Candelaria) could not only read the language of Adam, but knew the text from a nearby cave. Much more of their story could be told; to lose them so soon seems a loss for the audience.

That being said, the overall adventure in the caves is thrilling. Once again, Jurnee Smollett proves herself an action star with that daring underwater race to grab the papers. The puzzle to open the door to the next chamber, while the thin plank quickly disappears and also defies physics by not plummeting to the bottom of the pit when unanchored, sets the tone for the mystic horrors that lay on the other side of the door. The revitalization of Yahima genuinely horrified me, and exists as another feather in the cap of the VFX team.

Advertisement

Big girls be praised! William put it down on Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku). Sex scenes for plus-sized women are notoriously corny and distressing. Big women are shown as being sexy despite their fatness, or they are fetishized for it. Both depictions create a limiting and toxic environment for fat girls to explore their sexual desires. But, oh boy, Ruby took charge of her needs and her despair after discovering another Black woman received a job at the Marshall Field’s. Their delicious (and probably painful) stair sex looked so good. William promises Ruby the world, but is he doing Christina’s work? Is Ruby in danger, or are the sidekicks about to team up and surprise everyone?! We’ll have to wait for another chilling adventure of Lovecraft Country.

Stray observations

  • Anybody else think Hippolyta and Diana are going to save Emmett Till? Two warrior women always hovering around him, supporting him, and checking in with his mama makes me hopeful. But his lynching led to huge wave of reform and action for national civil rights. If he lives, what does the journey to equality in America look like?
  • Diana advocating for her mother is the sweetest thing that will happen on television this year. I don’t care that it’s only September. This is fact.
  • When Christina was in the Sheriff’s secret office, one thought came to mind. First, is this a commentary on the Chicago Police Department’s black ops site recently discovered in Chicago? If so, that would explain the poor soul in the closet whimpering in pain.
  • Montrose might be gay?! Or, is this gay panic?

*This article previously referred to the character William as Crane. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

Advertisement

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.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter