This Lovecraft Country review contains spoilers.
Lovecraft Country Episode 8
Lovecraft Country has never shied away from depicting the brutal reality of the violence committed against Black people, and this episode is no different. However, instead of forcing the audience to experience the trauma of Emmett Till’s death through a visual of his mangled body, “Jig-A-Bobo” focuses on the emotional trauma stirred by his death. Till, known fondly as Bobo, is one of Diana’s best friends, and his murder comes on the heel of her father’s death, and her mother’s prolonged absence—though she has not been told that Hippolyta has disappeared.
Diana has been shielded from the truth about both of her parents, but that has left her exposed. When she runs away from Bobo’s viewing, alone, she’s accosted by Captain Lancaster who questions her, then puts a curse on her. She’s then incessantly pursued by an entity who takes the form of corrupted Topsys, the character from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which will kill her if they catch up to her. Now, Diana has to grapple with her missing mom, the brutal murder of her best friend, and evil wizards. But she, like her parents, takes to magic like a duck to water and doesn’t need much time to process the reality of it. She follows Lancaster to his lodge and confronts him, and when he tries to convince her to get what he wants, she spits on him and says, “fuck you pig.” Diana is That Girl. She leads Topsy and Bopsy home, backdropped by Naomi Wadler’s powerful March for Our Lives speech, and bravely confronts them.
The problem with the Freemans and Leti is that they believe protecting people means keeping things from them, though it has never worked to their benefit. Lying about George’s death propels Hippolyta into a search for answers, and ultimately leads to her disappearance. Montrose destroying the pages and killing Yahima to keep Tic from magic, only makes Tic more desperate for answers. Leti hasn’t told Tic she’s pregnant, but he knows because the copy of “Lovecraft Country” he brought back from the portal was written by his future son. Everybody is making deals with the devil to protect each other without consulting one another, and any leverage they have individually or as a group is compromised by their inability to act as a unit. This pattern of behavior has become frustrating, and it makes fools of otherwise very intelligent characters.
Tic gives Christina the key from Hiram’s orrery in exchange for information on spellcasting. He doesn’t know what that key means for Christina, but it puts her one step closer to her goals, which is also one step closer to whatever her plans are for him. Leti asks Christina to give Tic invulnerability in exchange for negatives of the pages, but Christina refuses, offering to make Leti (and her unborn child?) invulnerable instead. Leti should have prioritized herself in the first place, given that she’s suffered as much or more than Tic —she fucking died! Which she reminds him of — but Christina gives her the Mark of Cain. Leti is immediately rewarded when Lancaster and his goons shoot up Winthrop House in search of the orrery, bullets deflect off of her.
Christina now has the key and the pages, and her lifelong knowledge of magic puts her above and beyond anything Tic n’em can conjure against her. But that doesn’t mean Tic is powerless. When he and Montrose cast a spell for protection, it manifests at the perfect time as a guard monster of Tic’s very own, like the shoggoths that guard Ardham. The beast savages Lancaster’s squad, which is truly a *chef’s kiss* moment of pure violent delight, then heels to Tic, it’s master. It is a bonkers scene, and so satisfying. I don’t know if it’ll ever get old. But now Tic and Leti have to deal with… All of that.
There are too many heroes and not enough folks saying, “but what about me?” and this is what makes Ruby so refreshing. She cares about things, sure, but she cares about herself most. That is perhaps why she and William connect like they do, because they are both adamant about getting what they want. After the viewing, Ruby goes to William’s house, where he bathes her, and they have sex—after she takes the potion to become Hillary— and it is a grisly, decadent scene. Ruby later tells Christina, “today of all days, I didn’t want to be a Black woman fucking a white man.” Which Christina refutes, “you took that potion cause even on today you’re a woman who wanted what she wanted.” Both things are probably true, and that contradiction makes Ruby a dynamic and exciting character.
Ruby finally confesses to Leti what she knows about magic, and her relationship with sometimes-William Christina. She tells Leti, “I finally got that job at Marshall Fields and you know what I learned. I don’t wanna be white. I’m just sick of forgiving every space that I enter cause it’s not for me. I want to create my own space.” Which is a word. “I can do that with magic, Christina’s gon’ teach me.” Now this… this is naive at best, blatantly stupid at worse, but Ruby has gotten everything she’s been promised so far, so it makes sense she trusts Christina’s word. What is unclear at the moment is what Christina gets out of the arrangement. That might be answered by Christina’s actions later in the episode. Maybe she… cares?
Like “A History of Violence,” this is a solid episode soured heavily by one egregious choice that takes away from everything that comes before it. Christina, for reasons unknown—but maybe in an attempt to feel empathy?— pays two white men to brutalize her in the exact way Emmett Till was, down to being dragged into a river. She emerges five seconds later mostly unscathed, except for pain and bruising on her abdomen, but this is just… gratuitous violence that doesn’t do justice to Bobo, or serve Christina. We enjoy violence on Lovecraft Country because it is earned. White folks who attempt to murder, and rape, and otherwise abuse, are given immediate karmic justice. Christina is a villain, but the specific violence she perpetuates on herself is removed from that context, so it feels like mockery, not a respectful ode or nod to Emmett Till.
If this is an attempt to humanize Christina, or make her sympathetic, it fails to do so. What makes Christina compelling is how comfortable she is in her privilege, and how she utilizes white femininity to protect and empower herself. As she tells Ruby, she doesn’t care about Emmett Till or his murderers. And while an argument can be made that her relationship with Ruby has softened her somehow, she doesn’t deserve redemption or anything like it, and more importantly, she shouldn’t want it. She can be affected by Ruby without being changed. Of course, if that’s not The Point, I am even more puzzled by the choice.
Lovecraft Country gets so much right. Its storytelling and character work is consistently on point. But when it fails, it does so spectacularly. Yahima’s murder is a still a sore spot. I love this episode. I love it for Diana, for the relationships between Tic and Montrose, and Ruby and Leti. And I love that Tic finally has some grasp on magic. I love it except for Christina’s self-imposed lynching, which is another perplexing and upsetting choice, that begs the question: what was the reason?! There is such a thing as doing too much, and this episode absolutely does it. If I could remove this scene, this would easily be top three, alas. We can only hope that there is some justification for these choices in the episodes to come.
- Ji-ah arrives in the midst of all the dealmaking and grieving, which is poor timing and a touch too late. Tic rejects her, which is bitchassery on his part, but maybe she’ll play a larger role in the conflict to come.
- Montrose and Tic finally talk honestly, about their family, and about Montrose relationship with Dora. It was a tender moment and long overdue. (Montrose also reveals he’s dyslexic, which I think counts as positive representation because of his relationship with books/reading.)
- There are several folks in Leti’s house when the police open fire and I want them to be okay. I also want them to have witnessed the monster rampaging, because I love the idea of magic being an open secret.
- Leti nor Montrose can see Topsy and Bopsy following Dee, and I don’t think Montrose had time to see the drawings Diana made of them, but he should, at this point, instinctively expect something malevolent. If she’s swinging, he should be saying,”what is it, point me at it!” Not trying to hold her down. LOL. How many times do you need to be confronted with monsters before you expect monsters?
- Where the fuck is Hippolyta?!