Lovecraft Country Episode 2 Review: Whitey’s On The Moon

Lovecraft Country brings new meaning to from ashes to ashes and dust to dust in its excellent second episode.

Lovecraft Country Episode 2 Whitey's on the Moon
Photo: HBO

This Lovecraft Country review contains spoilers.

Lovecraft Country Episode 2

The Jeffersons theme song plays. Uncle George and Leti blithely explore the luxurious suites in the opulent lodge they were inexplicably welcomed into, despite landing at the door bloody and disheveled. George, comfortably clothed in a robe and slippers, delights in the shelves upon shelves of his favorite books. Leti dances airily around the room as she tries on the beautiful garments that fill the wardrobes, all of which just so happen to fit her like a glove. Tic meanwhile, sits solemnly in his suite, replaying the events of last night over in his mind. This scene is incongruous with what we saw in last week’s episode, which is a fun reminder that you can’t really expect or prepare for what’s next on Lovecraft Country.

This exposition-heavy episode gives us a lot of information, which is all important background and setup for the story to come. Ardham Lodge was built by Titus Braithwhite, a slave-owner and literal wizard —one of the founders of The Order of the Ancient Dawn. Titus attempted a spell to open the gates of Eden, but lost control, setting the original lodge on fire and leaving all but one survivor. The sole survivor of the fire was an enslaved woman named Hanna, who was pregnant by Titus and is Atticus’s ancestor. Tic is a Braithwhite.

Samuel Braithwhite (Tony Goldwyn) wants to open the gates to Eden where things are perfect and nobody dies. Samuel’s daughter Christina (Abbey Lee)—Miss Silver Bentley herself—has convinced her dad that Tic’s magic-infused Braithwhite blood is the key to completing the spell. (And I’m sure the very fact that he’s distantly related to a Black man has Samuel ready to depart from this Earthly plane, post haste.) So… Christina brings Montrose to Ardham to lure Tic there, so her father could use him in a ritual to open the gates to Eden. But Christina also has an agenda of her own, which is evident in how she attempts to ingratiate herself to Tic.

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During the first half of the episode, Leti and George have only vague recollections of the preceding night, and no memory of the monsters whatsoever. They worry that Tic has lost his mind, when he recounts to them what happened. Tic is convinced they are under a spell, which he happens to be right about. And, to prove to Tic that “not all us white folk are out to get you,” Christina removes the spell. Then one by one, Leti, Tic, and George are haunted by past traumas and heartbreaks.

Leti bears her emotions to who she thinks is Tic, but when their kiss escalates, she has to fight off the hallucinated-Tic and his serpent penis. Tic, in his room, is ambushed by a Korean soldier, a woman, the very same one who appeared as the red martian princess from his dream in the last episode. They fight, until he subdues and ultimately kills her. George has a dance with the love of his life, Tic’s deceased mom Dora. She implies that Tic is his son, and George ends the dance, realizing quickly that she’s not real. The men Samuel gathered for dinner have been watching this all play out, which is unsurprising considering that most awarded and lauded stories about Black folks are centered on their trauma.

After dinner, Tic n’em find Montrose and try to escape in the silver Bentley. When they attempt to cross the bridge, they collide with an invisible barrier. Samuel shoots Leti, who dies. Then he shoots Uncle George. Leti is revived on the contingent that Tic willingly participates in the ceremony, which he agrees to. As Tic is prepared for the ceremony, he and Christina talk about carving out their own destiny. She can never be a Son Among Sons, like Tic is by nature of being born a male descendent of Titus Braithwhite. It becomes clearer that Christina wants more out of this than ensuring her father’s success.

There is a compelling power dynamic at play here. Functionally, Christina is a rich, white woman who can literally wield magic. But for all intents and purposes, Tic is above her on the hierarchy, despite being Black and a muggle.

The spoken-word poem “Whitey on the Moonby Gil Scott-Heron scores the magical ceremony at episode’s conclusion. Samuel and the other Sons of Adam chant their spell, and the gates to Eden appear to open, as beautiful flora emerge from the newly-formed portal. Tic is at first overwhelmed by the power, and being consumed by it. Then he seizes control of it, and pushes it outward, turning everybody else in the room to dust, in a satisfying display of “yo ass thought.” The blast destabilizes the very foundation the lodge is built on, which causes the entire structure to collapse. You love to see it.

Tic follows the image of Hanna (Joaquina Kalukango) to safety, and she looks upon her descendant with pride. Outside, Tic is reunited with Leti and Montrose, but Uncle George succumbs to his wounds. The ceremony was nearly successful. Samuel, or more likely Christina was right that Tic’s body is a reservoir of magic potential. I look forward to the exploration of what that means for Tic and how it will affect his life and sense of self. 

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What makes this episode brilliant is how grounded it feels despite the absurdity of everything that is happening. Rooms that are perfectly tailored to their occupant, cool. A man having parts of his liver removed to later offer as an hors d’oeuvre, fine. The trio each having very specific and revealing hallucinations that are being observed by nameless white men, sure. Christina delivering a newborn shoggoth in a barn, super chill. Lovecraft Country doesn’t withhold, it just continues to ask new questions. It doesn’t handhold either. Magic, wizards, monsters, heaven, hell… all of it is real.

The poem “Whitey on the Moon” juxtaposes the real unmet needs of Black peoeple against the unnecessary act of putting a (white) man on the moon. It expresses that there are practical issues that can be solved with the resources that are being used to address nonexistent problems. What does putting man on the moon actually do to better the lives of the American people? Similarly, what could be accomplished if the Sons of Adam used their innumerable resources to better the world, instead of trying to escape it?