Have you been watching Lovecraft Country? Listen, y’all, it’s… something. Ha! I can’t really adequately describe what’s happening on the screen during this hour-long drama/fantasy/horror/thriller/sci-fi series. I consider myself to be a reasonably smart person and an astute tv-watcher, but the storyline is hard as hell to follow, even for me. That said, whatever it is that is happening, I love it!! And let me warn you – this show is also really fast-paced! I actually have to put down my phone to watch it because if I glance down at the screen, I will miss some important detail. I love that it commands my attention.
As a rule, I don’t watch “scary” movies/shows. Horror is by far my least favorite genre and I’m not afraid to admit that sci-fi usually bores me to tears. I can handle a well-played thriller occasionally, but it’s not my go-to category when I’m searching for things to watch. But I’ve seen enough horror, sci-fi, thrillers to know that one reason Lovecraft Country is so refreshing to my senses is because we don’t usually get to see Black people acting in these types of shows and films. Whenever I’ve watched a horror with a white cast, the lone Black character is usually the first to die. *insert eye roll* And even in the rare occasion that the cast of a horror movie is majority-Black, those stories often appear low-budget, with dumb effects, and they’re cheesy and over-acted, so I don’t even bother. But Lovecraft Country does not disappoint! It is a mind-bending combination of a number of genres in one beautifully-shot, well-scripted, bundle of Black beauty. I am impressed, y’all! Though the monsters and sorcery are not my cup of tea, I’m rooting for errybody Black, so I plan to follow along weekly for the duration of the show and will just have to deal with any nightmares that may come as a result.
Though we’re already three episodes into the series (the third episode airs tonight), I only plan to discuss the first episode, with some brief references to episode two. The reason for that is… there is entirely TOO MUCH to unpack in each episode for me to commit to a weekly recap. I can’t do it, y’all. I’m just not up for the challenge. And, honestly, I’m afraid I wouldn’t do the show justice anyway because more than half of each episode’s content goes over my head. So, for now I’m just here to tell you four (4) reasons why I loved the first two episodes of Lovecraft Country. That’s it that’s all, lol. Hopefully, this will be enough to convince you to watch this beauty if you aren’t already.
- The soundtrack. Y’all, this soundtrack is dope! Music often makes the scene in many shows and movies, and the showrunners of Lovecraft Country get this music right. Though the show is set in America in the 1950s, the music is not confined to that era. Not only is there a rich score created in part by award-winning musical genius composer Raphael Saadiq (yes, THAT Raphael Saadiq, who also happened to work on the soundtrack for our favorite show, Insecure), we hear the Jeffersons theme song (which STILL bangs, lol), there is a “live” cover of a Jerry Lee Lewis song (“Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On”) performed by two actresses on the show, and music by Etta James, Sarah Vaughn, and B.B. King. All of that era-appropriate music is blended right into songs by more contemporary artists like Alice Smith and even Tierra Whack, who is a whole rapper. Mmm hmm, that’s right, y’all. While you are looking at scenes of Black Americans in the 1950s, you are hearing a rap song playing in the background and it all somehow makes perfect sense. But one of the really great aspects of the show is that the soundtrack not only includes music, but also narration. In episode one, that narration is an excerpt from the 1965 debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley (and in episode two there’s some spoken word by Gil Scott-Heron that is such a dope addition, and even gives the episode its title of “Whitey on the Moon”). In episode one, this clip of a speech that plays over a scene as music normally would and James Baldwin’s voice hauntingly asks “What is reality?” And, honestly, by the end of the episode you’ll be asking yourself the same question. What’s real? What’s not? Who’s crazy? I’m crazy? Oh, okay. LOL. Anyway, the soundtrack is masterful and arranged in a way I haven’t really seen done (or at least done well) before. I hope the soundtrack for every episode is consistently this good.
- The history lessons. As I’ve said a few times in this piece, I am not a fan of the horror/sci-fi genre. But what I am a fan of is history. I’m kind of a geek about it. I love learning about the past, particularly our country’s (ugly ass) past and this show does an incredible job of weaving straight facts into the plot and dialogue. For example, the first episode is called “Sundown”, because the storyline centers on our main characters (Tic, Leti, and Uncle George) trying to get out of a “sundown town” by the time the sun sets. If you’ve never heard of a sundown town, now is a GREAT time to Google it. LOL. But I’ll give you a brief introduction to the concept. A sundown town is a place where they better not catch your Black ass in the city limits after the sun sets, or else you’ll be strung up and made an example of. I’ve always known about sundown towns, maybe because my family is from the south (although these towns existed literally all over the country), but it seems like many people were first introduced to them in this episode. Well, I’m here to tell you that sundown towns really did exist… and STILL DO. I’m glad this show is shedding some light on them. You’ll also notice in the first episode that Uncle George and Aunt Hippolyta are the authors of a guide designed to help Black people travel through the south safely by noting which establishments are friendly to the negro. Their guide is a take on The Negro Motorist Green Book, which was a real reference for Black travelers in the days of Jim Crow. Before the internet, these guides were kind of like a hardcopy Yelp, if you will. Of course, as what often happens with hardcopies the information might have occasionally been out of date and you could find yourself in the same position that Tic, Leti, and Uncle George were in when they arrived at an establishment in the book only to find that it was under new ownership who did not take well to “their kind.” Oops. That literally could’ve been a life or death mistake. Those were some scary times. At any rate, there are many other historical references throughout the first two episodes and it seems like the series will be littered with (not-so) fun facts about real-life people, places, and events. If you’re a history buff like me, these gems will be enough to keep you watching.
- The monsters. I continue to stand by what I said earlier – I don’t really do monsters. (I can’t say this enough, lol.) And, unfortunately, in the first episode, we’re introduced to a gang of grotesque “massive bubble blobs with hundreds of eyes”. The special effects are good enough to make me jump a few times, but the monsters are fantastical enough to keep me from having nightmares. But when I reference the “monsters,” I’m not just talking about the imaginary scary creatures our trio meets in the forest, I’m also talking about the white people who literally terrorize our protagonists throughout these two episodes. Their racist behavior is what’s nightmarish and even scarier than the actual monsters because the racists are real. In the first episode, when Tic, Leti, and Uncle George stop for the night at Leti’s brother’s house, they are warned to be on the lookout for the sheriff of Devon County, Eustace Hump. The next day when the trio hits the road again and are stopped by Sheriff Hump, I was much more terrified for them than I was when the monsters were introduced. Monsters? Light work. But racist white cops? YIKES, and Lord have mercy on them! Maybe these scenes with the cops hit differently due to current events in this country, but the race to get out of the sundown town before sunset was soooo tense and terrifying for me. And when Tic and Leti are later facing off with the sheriff and his deputy in the cabin in the woods, I am totally floored that the sheriff still finds time to be racist toward them… even as monsters are stalking all of them, both the Blacks and the whites, just outside the cabin walls. So, you mean to tell me that even after losing an arm and being hunted by ferocious monsters, you can still find it in you to be racist? That is a sickness, indeed. By the end of that scene, I’m thinking that Tic, Leti, and Uncle George should probably take their chances with the supernatural monsters outside rather than deal with the human monsters inside. Episode two brings more of the same. It seemed to me that Tic, Leti, and Uncle George were safer outside the Brathwaite mansion than they were inside its walls. After giving this some thought, I have a feeling that the real villains in this story won’t be the CGI monsters after all. But I do look forward to seeing what other creatures we meet along the way.
- #BlackGirlBadassery. Okay, so I’ve seen Jurnee Smollett act in a lot of things. Most of the time, I find her incredibly annoying, lol (I know, I know… I find everyone annoying!). Some of her more recent roles have been more palatable for me. For example, one of my favorite of her roles has been Rosalee on Underground (great show, btw! I was so bummed when it was cancelled). But my new favorite role for her? That of “Letitia F*ckin’ Lewis” on Lovecraft Country! Listen, Jurnee kills this role! She really IS Leti, and Leti is a character I love. In the first episode, Leti comes through for her friends when she saves the day… TWICE… When she and her friends are cornered in the cabin in the woods by the monsters raging outside the doors, Leti’s fear is palpable. But when it becomes obvious that someone has to make a run for it, she volunteers herself. She does what many Black women before her have done when their people are facing adversity, she literally puts her body between the danger and her friends, calls up courage by reciting scripture, puts her head down, takes off running with a goal in mind, and ultimately gets shit done despite the odds stacked against her. I cheered for her more than once in the episode. She kicked ass and looked amazing while doing it (her wardrobe is fire!). She similarly saves the day in episode two (along with the spirit of Tic’s ancestor, a strong-willed slave named Hannah)… and my spidey senses are telling me this won’t be the last we see of Let’s heroism. Aunjanue Ellis as Aunt Hippolyta and Tic’s little cousin Diana don’t make the journey with the trio, but these two ladies are the ones who load up “Woody” (the car the use for the trip) and make sure our leads have all they need for the road. Again, doing what Black women do. Also, Diana’s comic about a Black girl’s interplanetary adventures looks dope! I want to get my hands on a copy and I don’t even like comics. This show is full of amazing, courageous, well-developed and fully-formed Black women — again, these are characters we don’t get to see often — and I am HERE FOR IT.
There’s soooo much more to delve into with these two episodes, but alas this is where I stop, haha. (I feel like it’s better for me to quit while I’m ahead, wouldn’t you agree?!). I love that from one episode to the next I have absolutely no idea where the show is heading. Episode one and episode two were SO different and by the time we get to the end of episode two so much has already happened that it’s hard to figure out what trouble our trio (which is now a duo + a new character) can get into by the next episode. It for sure keeps you on your toes!
Also, I recommend watching each episode more than once to make sure you catch all the many details, and even then you won’t catch them all — believe me, I tried! Both episodes are chock-full of nuggets designed for us to pick apart and trying to see it fully for what it is will take some time. And even if you’re a scaredy cat like me, I can confirm that this show is worth the investment… and the guaranteed nightmares.