Series Review: Lovecraft Country Ep. 2 & 3
You Can Still Fight By Jaimie K. Wilson
A reaction to HBO’s Lovecraft Country
SEASON 1 EPISODE 2: Holy Ghost and EPISODE 3: Whitey's on the Moon
The first episode of Lovecraft Country ends with our protagonists narrowly escaping ravenous monsters and racists and arriving at their destination, Ardham, in their hunt for Atticus’ missing father. Upon reaching a mysterious and sumptuous mansion estate, they are quickly ushered in by a lead scout of the Woodland Elf King. Not really, but an extremely pale man (perhaps a cousin of Edward Cullen) welcomes Atticus “home” and ushers the bloodied group inside.
It seems Atticus, George, and Letitia have found the ancestral home of grand white wizards – the couture version of the KKK, but with actual magic. And in this manor of snobbier-than-thou white wizards, George and Letitia are presented with pleasant addictions – fine books and tailored clothes – while the history of their trauma is shuttered from their minds.
Meanwhile, Atticus struggles to understand the dark legacy bequeathed to him through blood and fire. It seems Titus Braithwhite, the OG of the White Wizards of Beverly Hills, liked to get friendly with the help as so often happened. When Braithwhite attempted to open a portal to Eden and incinerated himself and the mansion in the process, a slave carrying his future heir was the sole person to escape the blaze. And after a lot of heavy-handed, blatant juxtapositions and metaphors, the posh wizards attempt to use Atticus and the magical power granted to him by birthright to open a passage to Eden.
If there is one story I don’t need told, it’s this one. Black people have forever been the stones that pave the roads white people travel. I don’t need to see Atticus literally pulled apart – his essence becoming a flowering garden path for a white man – to get the lesson here. It’s over the top. And yet… it almost seems intended. It feels like Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, but with Black people and racism. Although Lovecraft Country follows a central storyline, each episode exists as its own mini-drama, offering as much Black redemption as white oppression.
In the third episode, Holy Ghost, Letitia takes center stage when she purchases a broken-down old house in a white neighborhood. Letitia, played by Jurnee Smollett, mysteriously inherits money and tries to make a fresh start for herself, her sister and friends by converting it into a boarding house. The home, once owned by a scientist fired for “unethical practices,” has other plans. The white residents aren’t too keen on having Black folks as neighbors either.
While facing intimidation from white neighbors and the local police, Leti must also confront the hate and torment haunting the house itself. After the scientist, Hiram Epstein, was fired for dangerous human experimentation, eight Black Chicago residents went missing. The police captain gleefully informs Leti their remains were found in the basement of her house, and by the condition of their mutilated bodies, he doesn’t expect its new Black residents to last very long at all. Of course, everyone has an agenda. The police captain was involved in the murders and the mysterious inheritance actually came from Christina Braithwhite, who hoped Leti would uncover a magical artifact she hopes to find.
Instead, Leti comes to terms with this new world she inhabits and digs into the mystery of the murdered Black residents. In the end, she enlists the help of a Black conjurer and it is a relief to see magic, which has so far been the province of white wizards, wielded by a confident Black woman. Leti, the conjurewoman and Atticus exorcise the malignant, white poltergeist from the house, but not without Leti having to call on the eight, tortured souls. “YOU CAN STILL FIGHT!” she screams. They add their strength to the exorcism, and as they do, they revert back to their true shape, unmutilated and whole.
And this is the turning point that comes in each episode, where the real horror is repelled by the seeming horror. This is the lesson. The tragedy and injustices inflicted upon Blacks in the past, like the Tuskegee study, are still ours to bear. Their fight is our fight and our redemption also belong to them. When we face a terrible past, but still stride bravely into the future, our ghosts march with us. Together, there is no horror we cannot banish.
The first child of a white mother and Black Japanese father, Jaimie K. Wilson felt she grew up in the margins of mainstream society. A sense of displacement fueled the search for her own identify, which is why her writing often centers around the quest to know oneself and how strongly someone’s history – when not taken from them – can guide their future.
Jaimie became a newspaper reporter after graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in 1998 and won several SPJ awards for features on race, culture and family. She was also the recipient of an artist residency for poetry at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. A single mother of two, Jaimie now works as a freelance writer, contributing articles, essays and features to a variety of publications both for herself and various clients. Jaimie is currently working on her first adult fantasy novel, which she hopes to complete sometime before her children drive her completely insane.