“LOVECRAFT COUNTRY” SEASON ONE EPISODE ONE RECAP
Lovecraft Country isn’t Watchmen.
This review was written after I’d only watched the first episode. After finishing the rest of the season, I can now say don’t watch this show. It’s a waste of your time. Read on for my very first impressions if you want.
Misha Green’s Lovecraft Country had an amazing premiere episode and every moment of the show is an experience. This HBO show fantastically draws you in to a fantasy world where monsters, racism, and a black adventure story coexist so smoothly, Green’s universe feels very real. It’s powerful.
The first few minutes of the show sets the tone for greatness. The odyssey begins with a vivid imagery of a war between humans and aliens. Atticus’ (Jonathan Majors), our protagonist, steals attention while maneuvering around a heated battlefield, leaving some of his comrades dead. Everything happens in what feels like seconds; he ducks, shoots and jumps away from danger so swiftly, you never get to clearly see who he’s fighting until eventually, he takes a moment to pause to observe the descendance of a female alien from an aircraft. Shortly thereafter, a Jackie Robinson like figure, with a mighty swing, saves him and knocks him and the audience into reality. That’s just in the first couple minutes of the show. Makes you think … bruh.
Beyond the compelling and foreshadowing moments in the beginning, it quickly becomes apparent that Lovecraft Country will be astonishing simply because of the magic of Atticus. Atticus is carefree and confident in a very fraught moment of black American history. Sitting in the back of a bus with a dark skinned older black woman, they talk casually about the racism that they’ve had to adapt to like it’s nothing. They smile and laugh as if their life isn’t precarious. And so you can only see how stark that black experience is when the camera zooms out to give the landscape of their situation. Even though they’ve paid for the right to sit on the bus, they have to stay within the boundaries of the coloured section of the bus. Worse, later on when the bus shuts-down, instead of getting a ride to the next town, they’re forced to walk for miles. Despite all these mounting hatred, Atticus is brave and demands attention and respect with his body language. He walks with so much confidence, it’s hard to be unmoved by his charm.
In conversation with the older black woman, we discover that he is a dreamer, fond of books and stories and has a propensity for adventure. As a matter of fact, he set out on a journey from Florida to his uncle’s house (Courtney B. Vance) in Chicago in search of his missing father who we later learn, wrote him a cryptic message about his lineage and his connections to a secret origin.
Even though travelling while black can be dangerous (even now) he was determined to meet up with his father at an unknown place that he’d learned about from his childhood fantasy book. Luckily for him, Uncle George was a publisher of the The Negro Motorist Green Book which made travel for black Americans safe during the Jim Crow era when a bad turn could literally mean the death or injury of a black traveller. The series is filled with many such allusions of the heinous mark of racism in the U.S with blatant hints to history from the Sundown towns in America to the archival photographs of Gordon Parks, an iconic black photographer.
Yet, as daunting and disheartening as it is to learn about the atrocities against black Americans, Lovecraft Country is far from a boring educational series. Letitia (Jurnee Smollett), Atticus’ childhood friend, and likely love interest is sharp, outspoken and a badass. She’d planned to join them momentarily while setting out on her own trip somewhere else, but it’s clear that she’s being primed to permanently assist Atticus’ as a companion on his search for his father—which if we’re being honest is favourable for Atticus and Uncle George because she has a good sense of danger and when they need to run. (It’s a necessary personality trait when the threat is racist eating monsters who aim for your head first when attacking.)
Perhaps the show feels special because it’s a horror series with a vibe much like the energy you’d expect during the peak of The Walking Dead or Stranger Things. Like both series, the show is filled with a lot of suspense that is so gritty and thrilling, it sets expectations very high.
The attention to detail is remarkable, from the use of music, picturesque scenes, use of colour and lighting to historical artifacts, nothing is placed without meaning. Green carefully details the really insidious and dreadful aspects of racism and vestige of slavery with a striking look at a raw part of American history which is often glossed over, invalidated, or minimized. The life of black people can be so tragic, it can often feel as though you are the subject of Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream, when dealing with demoralizing violence, whilst everyone around you gaslights or normalizes the abuse towards you. Thoughtfully, the last twenty minutes of the show best illustrates this horror. Irrespective of the facts that deadly aliens exist, the racist white cops in the show still choose their hatred over survival. It demonstrates how far hatred can stray your away from the right and more sensible path.
Importantly, Lovecraft Country isn’t Watchmen. Although both focus on historical periods in black history as settings for their stories, Lovecraft Country seems to offers a much more nuanced look into the black experience. The first episode details this differentiation in good and bad ways. While Watchmen focused primarily on a period of trauma for one character and his family to set the back drop for racism towards black people, Lovecraft Country offers a much more holistic look at racism as it affects black people as a whole. This racism is noted in the nuances and details of every scene or decision. It’s prevalent in the characteristics of personalities, their mannerisms, to their body languages. And yet, like Watchmen, Lovecraft Country fails in one major area: finally giving way to a dark skinned black woman in a leading role as a love interest for a dark skinned black man. Although this seems trivial, think back to how often you’ve seen major American productions with dark skinned black women as love interests for a major character beyond a short stint here and there. The reality is, it’s so small that when it happens, it’s always worth noting and it shouldn’t always be like that. Even so, the show is revolutionizing Sci-Fi as we see it and that’s pretty incredible.