Lovecraft Country Episode 9 Review: Rewind 1921
Lovecraft Country continues its streak of tapping into historical shared Black trauma, as it takes us to the Tulsa Massacre.
This Lovecraft Country review contains spoilers.
Lovecraft Country Episode 9
Last week on Lovecraft Country, Diana outran Topsy and Bopsy, then stood her ground to fight them off. But Montrose restrained her, which allowed the evil piccaninnies to slash her arm, leaving her in a coma. Now Dee’s arm is dead and in time, so too will she be. Tic, Montrose, Leti, and Ruby all failed to protect her, and now they have to do whatever they can to save her life. They argue over who is to blame and what to do. And when Tic decides to ask Christina for help, thinking he can use the pages as leverage, he learns about Leti’s invulnerability. It’s Ruby who convinces Christina to help, and Christina takes the opportunity to secure Tic’s cooperation for her immortality spell.
But before Christina does the spell she pays Lancaster a petty little visit, wearing Williams skin, and gloats before watching him die. This is not as satisfying as if it had been Dee or someone we’re rooting for, but ding-dong the witch is dead, we’ll take the W. Hippolyta returns to the Southside in time for Christina to use her blood to reset Lancaster’s curse. While Christina works, we see Dee as a piccaninny herself. Was that for our benefit, or could the characters see that as well? And would the spell turn her into one entirely?
Ruby leaves with Christina after she helps Dee. Their relationship is strange, but alluring, sexy and repulsive all at once. I loathe Christina and want her to lose, but I respect her. And I love Ruby and want her to win, but I question her choices. When Christina expresses real feelings, and promises not to hurt Leti, Ruby accepts her. Ruby then turns off Dell’s life support and makes a comment about always imaging herself to be a redhead (which made me think of Doctor Who). This suggests she’s down with abducting and/or murdering a random white woman, and has fully embraced Christina, magic, and its costs. While Ruby isn’t directly oppositional to Tic, she firmly does not care what happens to him, and I kind of love that she sees him as an acceptable loss.
Hippolyta immediately decides to take Dee to the observatory. There she repairs the machine, does the necessary calculations, and uses her newly acquired power—as a motherboard— to open a portal to the Tulsa in 1921, so Tic n’em can retrieve the Book of Spells from his family’s house before it burns down, and use it to remove Diana’s curse. It is a relief to see Hippolyta both back with her family and still in possession of the lessons and tools she gained on the other Earth (Earth 504). She powers the machine herself.
This is an emotionally devastating episode because it touches on so many painful parts of the past. Montrose is deeply affected by being back in Tulsa, and is experiencing PTSD and survivors guilt, all the while knowing he can’t warn anyone or change anything. Even as Montrose acts out, we—and Tic and Leti—are sympathetic to him because we get a glimpse of the beatings he endured at the hands of his and George’s father, Verton (William Catlett).
Montrose is especially vulnerable in the moments he has to watch his friend, perhaps his first love, die in front of both his past and present self. This is a stirring performance by Michael K. Williams, who is ACT·ING, and a poignant moment between Montrose and Tic. Tic is primarily charged with keeping Montrose from changing the timeline. When Past George, Montrose, and Dora are surrounded by white attackers, Tic realizes he’s the mysterious stranger who swings the bat like Jackie Robinson that his uncle always talked about. In a full circle moment, he becomes the hero.
Leti is tasked with securing the Book of Names, and when she’s chased down the block by a pack of white boys with guns, it’s Verton and Dora’s people who protect her and take her in. Leti looks for the book in the mayhem, and has to explain herself to Dora’s grandmother, who realizes that her family dies tonight and she can’t change it. She gives Leti the book and the words to open it, and says “when my great great grandson is born, he will be my faith turned flesh.” Then the room is engulfed in flame. She and Leti clasp hands and pray, over the backdrop of Sonia Sanchez reciting her poem ‘Catch the Fire.’ As the room is overtaken by flames, the camera lingers on her as she burns alive, and it remains until her melted body collapses into the inferno. This is the kind of heroic suffering that’s hard to watch and doesn’t always feel powerful, even when it is.
Leti honors Dora’s —Tic’s— family by staying with them, by observing as their lives become ash and memory, but I hate the visual of a Black woman burning, especially juxtaposed against an invulnerable light-skinned woman. Leti being light-skinned/mixed hasn’t played into the show’s dynamics enough for me and this episode puts that in very sharp focus. Similarly, but not nearly as bad as Christina’s lynching scene, Leti standing in the middle of a blaze knowing she’s safe feels hollow. It’s… uncomfortable when everyone in that house, everyone who burns to death, is browner than a paper bag.
Hippolyta starts to lose control of the portal and for a brief moment it closes, leaving Montrose and Leti in the past. Montrose watches out the window as Tulsa burns, and names many real victims of the massacre. Leti strides down the street, unscathed by the fire, and untouched by the bombs being dropped on the boulevard. This is a powerful, emotional scene that once again reminds us of the horrors Black people face, unrelated magic— the violence and terror of racism. Hippolyta reopens the portal giving Leti and Montrose time to return and the strain turns her hair royal blue, making her Orynthia Blue in the flesh. Hippolyta could name herself anything, and she names herself a hero.
With the Book of Names, they can save Diana. And maybe, with Hippolyta’s centuries of knowledge, the Freeman’s firmer grasp on spellwork, and hopefully the ancestor’s blessings, they can use the book to protect each other.
- This episode employs the causal loop, where the first thing begets the second thing begets the first thing in perpetuity, hence Tic always being the hero. This is one of the more frustrating time-travel devices.
- How will the multidimensional machine play into Christina’s plans and what kind of power does it give the Freeman’s, with Hippolyta at its helm.