So last we, I reviewed the first episode of HBO's new series "Lovecraft Country" on our Geeks From The Trap Podcast. I thought I had a grasp on what to expect from this series and what kind of show it will be but last nights episode made me realize this show is more than a horror dark fantasy allegory about racism. There was so much to unpack from last night's episode, I had to read collider articles about what the hell I just saw (which I will proceed to share with ya'll).
There was so much process with the newest episode of HBO’s Lovecraft Country, “Whitey’s on the Moon”: This episode focuses on Atticus’ (played by Jonathan Majors) continuing search for his missing father, Montrose (played by Michael Kenneth Williams), with the help of his uncle, George (played by Courtney B. Vance), and Leti (played by Jurnee Smollett). Our main characters finds themselves off the map in Ardham, Massachusetts, in the centuries-old lodge of Samuel Braithwhite (Tony Goldwyn) and his daughter, Christina (Abbey Lee). It’s revealed in the episode that the Braithwhites lead a secret order and Atticus has familial ties to both this white family and the Secret order and Tic maybe the long-lost tool Samuel needs to return to the Garden of Eden (yep, it went there). The episode explores the ways in which white supremacy manifests and the ways in which white ownership over occult practices throughout time allows whites to reinforce their perceived superiority.
“Whitey’s on the Moon” suffers from pacing problems compared to last week’s premiere. A lot seems to happen in the space of an hour, but seems to be happening very slowly. When the show opens with George and Leti waking up in the Ardham Lodge to the sounds of Ja’net Du Bois singing “Movin’ On Up,” the theme to The Jeffersons.. I couldn't help but to think how coonish the sequence was. I don't know why but I do. I love the Jeffersons but like Atticus, I was more focused on the monsters from the previous episode but I get it. George and Leti find themselves in what they considered luxury. In George room, he finds himself surrounded by classic literature, and all the time in the world to read it. In Leti, it’s a closet filled with the latest fashion, all of it perfectly fitting her. These are fantasies are made clear when we cut to Atticus sitting silently in his room, with no one singing 70’s TV theme song but they are intoxicating George and Leti, and to the viewers who get to watch Courtney B. Vance and Jurnee Smollett radiate delight as they dance and sway to the music. From there the episode goes into slave shippers, grand wizards, the freemasons and the KKK.
The one aspect the episode that caught my attention is how the systemic force of classism intersects with that of racism. Especially in the scene where Christina claims "My father and his associates would never fraternize with the Klan," while having a heated conversation with Atticus, "they're too poor." This sentiment, that the only exception between one group of racists and another is the pretense of wealth and pedigree, is echoed in later when Atticus and George attend a special dinner in Atticus’ “honor.” The room of white old men sit awkwardly and grows silent as the two take their seats. “Don't mind the others,” William tells Tic “Just because they don't want you here, doesn't mean you're not supposed to be.” These scenes make the episode’s finest moment all the more palpable, as the so-called “Sons of Adam” are pushed away with their figurative tails clenched firmly between their legs. In one of the episode’s best sequences, Tic realizes that his bloodline means that he technically outranks the other members of Samuel’s heinous cult, and he’s able to order the racist wizards out of the dining room to more directly confront the man in charge. In the end, though, Samuel’s wealth and literal power doesn't mean anything to Tic’s legitimate legal claim, which… feels very familiar today, you know?
The plan to rescue Montrose comes at a cost however. While attempting to escape, Leti is mortally wounded and pitted as a bargaining chip in order to coerce Atticus’ surrender and cooperation with Samuel’s plan. Leti’s wounds are healed, but not without her seemingly suffering a nervous breakdown as a result. It would seem that the near-death experience of resurrection has left a visible mark on Leti’s psyche, one that may or may not shape her behaviour throughout the rest of the season. This episode feels like it could of been a season finale. It didn't feel like a second episode at all, as if they rush through it. If this was a netflix series, I'm pretty sure the first 2 episode we've just witness would of been the whole first season spanned 8 hours. The choice to invoke Gil Scott-Heron’s classic 1970 spoken-word piece as not only the episode’s title, but as the accompanying soundtrack to its dramatic climax, is a savvy one. The juxtaposition between Scott-Heron’s searing condemnation of white affluence and upward mobility — both literal and figurative — at the expense of the black and brown communities with the imagery of a cult of white aristocrats attempting to sacrifice a black man’s body to gain purchase to paradise is a powerful one. Its execution, however, leaves something to be desired, with the scene's sound mixing and overall direction rendering moot what should have otherwise been a rousing emotional finale.
I didn't read the book so I have no clue where the story goes from here but I am here for the ride!