I have a confession to make. TV isn’t my jam. I’m bad at it. I’m known to start a series only to fall off after a couple episodes. It takes a lot to really grip me. HBO’s Watchmen did it most recently, but I couldn’t tell you what I watched before that. Enter Lovecraft Country. This show existed only in my periphery for a while. I was vaguely aware of it, and hadn’t even seen a trailer when I sat down for episode one. What I was fully aware of, however, was the pedigree surrounding it. A tag team producer core of Jordan Peele and JJ Abrams behind the wheel of a Lovecraftian tale? Sign me up. But does Lovecraft Country make me a believer? Or will I change the channel halfway through?
In this weekly write-up I will be recapping the series and offering my thoughts, from the point-of-view of a lifelong horror fan and reluctant Lovecraftian fan (let’s face it, the dude sucked, but he could write the occult like no other). I’m a little bit late to the game, so in this introduction I will do a mini version of the full thing for the first three episodes. Buckle up, fam, shit’s about to get real weird.
Episode 1: Sundown
The curtains go up and we’re immediately slapped in the face by a dream sequence involving red aliens, a flying cthulhu, and a baseball-bat wielding Jackie Robinson smackin’ the shit out of everything. What the fuck!? Loved it. Crazy ass imagery out the gate. Back in reality we’re introduced to Atticus (Jonathan Majors), who returns home to 1950’s Chicago to investigate the disappearance of his father. His research leads him to “Lovecraft Country,” the fictionalized area outside of Boston. In tow are his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and childhood friend turned stowaway Letitia (Jurnee Smollett). 1950’s America was inhospitable to Black Americans (to put it incredibly mildly) and our protagonists journey east is fraught with the ugly face of racism, including being ran out of town by a shooting mob, and dealing with an evil sheriff who uses deadly force to enforce his county’s “Sundown” laws. And then there’s literal monsters, who (thankfully) make quick work of the evil law enforcement. Our heroes are able to ward off the monsters in a tense and memorable scene before stumbling upon their ultimate destination, a strange and mysterious mansion where they are being expected as guests.
Whew. That was literally the shortest recap I could muster. I’ll be much more thorough in future reports. Here’s some things I loved, some things I was neutral on, and some things I hated in this first episode. I loved the genuine scares, especially the tense build-up moments it had, specifically the diner scene and the law enforcement scene. Some of the scariest television I’ve seen. I also loved the creature effects and how it really “goes for it” in the gore department. I was neutral on character development. I feel like I don’t really know these characters as people. I hated the pacing. There’s a butt load of exposition here. There’s a neighborhood block party scene that overstays its welcome. Wonky, plodding, uneven pacing. Dings an otherwise spectacular opening. Overall I was so impressed by the first episode that it can go literally anywhere from here and I’m on board.
Episode 2: Whitey’s on the Moon
Atticus, Leti, and Uncle George are welcomed into the Braithwaite Mansion under suspect circumstances. For some reason, neither Leti nor George can remember the gruesome and shocking events that unfolded the night before. William (Jordan Patrick Smith), the butler (I think?) offers cryptic clues about who this family is but not why our trio has been summoned here. Our heroes explore the odd village surrounding the estate, full of racist ass townsfolk stuck in the past. Atticus is summoned to meet Samuel Braithwhite (Tony Goldwyn) by his daughter Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee). We learn that Samuel leads a cult called the Sons of Adam who are seeking eternal life by visiting the literal Garden of Eden through magic. How do they achieve eternal life by visiting the garden…? Who knows. All we know is that Atticus is the missing piece to this puzzle, because he is the bastard son of the OG Braithwhite hundreds of years ago. Atticus nopes the fuck out. They find dad (Michael K. Williams) who may not actually be Atticus’s real dad, Marilyn Manson plays, magical shit occurs, Leti and George get shot. Leti is healed. George is not. Atticus agrees to participate in the ritual in exchange for healing George. Christina Braithwhite is doing some shady stuff behind her dad’s back. Shit goes down. Bad guys turned to ash. Entire castle literally implodes. George dies.
You catch all that? No? That’s because this episode is a borderline disaster. The pace is breakneak, the exposition is a slog, character progression is thrown out the window, and it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s bad. I had an hour long discussion after the episode with my friends where we put the pieces together into some sort of coherent sense. Big oof. The “song” Whitey on the Moon slaps though. A real banger, though oddly placed. If it wasn’t for the episode three stinger (and peer pressure from a group watch) I could have hung my hat up on this show…
Episode 3: Holy Ghost
…I’m glad I didn’t. Episode three largely follows Leti, who, nearly a month after the events of the first two episodes takes place, has returned to Chicago and purchased a large home on the north side. She is planning on using this space as a boarding house for fellow Black Chicagoans who need a roof over their head. The white neighbors don’t love this idea. They park three cars outside the home with bricks tied to the horns as a source of constant annoyance. Meanwhile, Atticus is making plans to return home to Florida, but struggles with feelings of obligation towards Uncle George’s widow and the estrangement he feels with his father, who’d rather forget the whole thing happened. Atticus agrees to stay in Chicago a while longer once Leti’s home is being threatened by the racist neighbors. That’s not the only threat, however. The house is haunted. A former “doctor,” who had ties to the Sons of Adam, owned the house, and was performing horrific, disfiguring experiments on Black people. The house is ultimately purged of the evil presence, and we find out Christina Braithwhite was behind the purchase of the home, and that the evil doctor who once lived there had a missing piece of the Sons of Adams’ book of magic.
I really enjoyed this episode a lot. It has a distinct beginning, middle, and end. The haunted house vibes were genuinely unnerving and the acting is terrific. My biggest gripe has to do with how the overarching plot was haphazardly incorporated through brief expositional dialogue that felt forced. I find myself not really caring about the overall plot. Other major gripe is the super cringey sex scene between Atticus and Leti where he essentially forces himself on her and immediately leaves. It felt pretty gross. Overall the episode redeemed the trainwreck second episode and has left me excited for more.
Thanks for hanging in there with me. These articles will be more succinct when I’m not cramming three episodes into one write-up. Lovecraft Country airs Sunday nights at 8PM Central on HBO. Check out Screenland Theatres on Twitch Sundays at 9PM for a live post-episode discussion where you’ll get my immediate gut-reactions. And of course check out Downright Creepy for all your creepy needs. Am I right about this show? Wrong? Let’s chat! See you next week for a ONE episode recap and review.