Lovecraft Country S1.01 — The cops are the monsters

A new show on HBO has started based on the novel Lovecraft Country, which I have not read. I will be writing reviews each week of the episodes that air and then I’ll probably read the book after.

Wow, what a premiere. So much happened, they told a really complete story, and yet, there is so much more to go. I am really excited.

The episode starts with a war scene, but there are spaceships, red alien women, and giant monsters all around. It ends up being a dream, but I am sure there will be a lot of truth to that scene. Jackie Robinson destroying the killer alien sets the stage for the continued allegories surrounding race relations right after the Korean War, which is when the show is set.

Atticus, also called Tic, is a Black veteran, pulp-fiction-head on his way back to Chicago because his dad, with whom he had a tumultuous relationship, has gone missing. His mother passed away some time before. His aunt and uncle are his family in Chicago. They write a “Negro travel guide”, helping Black Americans travel safely through Jim Crow land.

When Tic returns, he learns from the local bar crew and Uncle George that his father has been missing for roughly 2 weeks. He also hears that his father was last seen getting into a very fast silver car with a white man. His father sent Tic a letter telling him he found his mother’s lineage, and Tic’s birthright, in Ardham. (Originally, Tic thought it said Arkham, which is where Lovecraft’s books were published. My guess is that will come up later, even though Ardham ends up being correct).

Tic, Uncle George, and Tic’s childhood friend Letitia, who has ruined her relationships with her brother and sister because she missed their mother’s funeral and just generally can’t seem to get her life together, set out for Ardham through dangerous Midwestern towns. This is where it gets really dark.

Knowing the show is based on Lovecraft’s stories, we were expecting monsters, so there was an underlying tension as we were watching. The creators knew this and turned it on its head — the fear was very real — but racism is the monster. At every stopping point, Tic, Uncle George, and Leti are faced with white people looking to murder them.

First, they try to eat at a diner that used to be Black-owned or at least Black-friendly, but they are run out and chased. As they are speeding away from the truck full of white men with guns, a silver car comes out from a side road, turns in front of the truck, and it flips. The truck never hit the car, and as far as we know, it didn’t hit anything else either. A white woman with white hair gets out of the car and looks right at Tic before they drive off.

After they stop at Leti’s brother’s house and learn of the horribly racist sheriffs in the next 2 towns, the group sets off to find a hidden road in the woods (bad idea! Such a bad idea!). As Tic jokes with Leti about million-eyed glob monsters, the real monster arrives. A sheriff who gives them 9 minutes to get out of his county or he’ll hang them for being there after sunset.

Driving the speed limit, they beat the sun on the dot, only to be cornered by a group of different cops, this one even worse than the last. Once again, the monsters lie in wait. These officers force Tic, Uncle George, and Leti into the woods because they think they robbed a house the day before. When it looks like all hope is lost, actual monsters attack and bite the sheriff and kill 4 of the men.

Tic and Leti run down a hill and into a cabin, Uncle George is left on the ground. The sheriff and one other officer follow into the cabin, forcing them at gunpoint to open the door. Uncle George pries the flashlight out of the sheriff’s severed arm and makes his way down to the cabin as well. He realizes that the monsters can’t stand light, which he explains when he arrives.

The officers make Leti run to get the car so they can use the headlights to keep the monsters away. Weirdly, no one gives her a flashlight even though they have 2 in the cabin. Luckily, she was All State in track in high school and she makes it to the car. As she’s running the 500 and battling monsters, Tic and Uncle George realize that the sheriff is becoming one of the monsters.

The greatest allegory for police brutality continues. As the cop becomes a literal monster, his fellow officer will not shoot him. Instead, the sheriff bites the other one and they both become monsters! I don’t ever want to hear that “one bad apple” shit again. THEY ALL BECOME BAD. (I mean, duh, the actual phrase is “one bad apple spoils the bunch” so people who use it are extra dumb).

Leti rams the car into the cabin and lumber falls on Uncle George. They keep him in the light and then Leti and Tic put out a perimeter of flares to keep the other monsters (read: racist cops) away from them until the sun rises.

All 3 of them wearily and covered in blood walk to Ardham, where they come upon a huge brick house. The door is opened by a young white man with white hair who says “we’ve been expecting you, Mr. Freeman. Welcome home.”

Stay tuned for next week when I’m sure we will find out what is going on in the house, learn more about Tic’s birthright, hopefully meet his father, and see some more cool monsters.

Originally published at http://lizziekreitman.wordpress.com on August 17, 2020.

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