I almost forgot that this show was about to air when all of the Lovecraft Facebook groups that I follow became flooded with posts and reviews.
Before I get into my review of the first 2 episodes, I had a few things that I wanted to say:
The first is that this review covers Episode 1 and Episode 2 of Lovecraft Country on HBO and I wish I could that it was an artistic choice to combine the review of both of them together, but it’s not. The truth is that I didn’t even think about reviewing the episodes until a day before the third one aired. This two episode combination review is my “catch up.”
Secondly, (this is where I address the 30 huge elephants in the room) Lovecraft Country covers a dark period in American History that a lot of white Americans like to pretend didn’t happen. The subject matter (race and racism in the 1950’s, not the Lovecraftian stuff) triggers some people in a way that I see as entirely selfish.
What I mean by selfish is that these people (read that as “racists”) have no problem watching an uncomfortable subject matter in another period piece as long as it doesn’t pertain to race or ‘Murica. Denying our darker past to forget about it is selfish, ignorant, and, of course, racist. I bring up this salient point for a multitude of reasons.
The first of which is that a large percentage of the posts I saw on those Lovecraft Facebook pages were claims that the show’s message was too much or statements that demanded that black people shouldn’t be put into the racist author’s legacy.
One post went as far as to claim that the Nazi’s didn’t go far enough, and used this to imply that if they had, this wouldn’t be a discussion.
These people are disgusting, obviously, and are a complete waste of the flesh they use to house their hateful demons. That being said, I am going to address some of these points.
Claiming that adding race to HPL’s stories disgraces his legacy is dumb for several reasons. Being a damned racist in the first place is what disgraced his legacy. Nobody can even speak about Lovecraft and being a fan of his work in this modern era without someone mentioning his overzealous amount of racial hatred. If anything, adding new and diverse ideas to his mythos only keeps the mythos alive by adding fresh stories and working to redeem the author’s dark opinions.
The other thing that bothers me is this claim of ownership over HPL. Trying to gatekeep people from creating any type of story, including those that include race, directly contradicts his feelings concerning the shared universe of the mythos.
The current, accepted, belief regarding new stories in the mythos is that none of his stories are protected in a way that stops authors from adding and joining them. The mythos was meant to be a sandbox that allowed creators to expand and play in. Imagine the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or The Flash’s Multiverse, but with existential dread. We, as creators (and the “Nazi” that I meantioned previously is actually a fairly famous creator) can’t create and add to the mythos when it suits us and then try to close the gate when the other artists create something that we don’t agree with. The only person who has that responsibility died in the late 1930’s.
Finally, my last major point to the haters is that this show, and the book by Matt Ruff, have been clearly advertised for years without demonstrating any sort of hidden agenda. This show is clearly what it claimed to be. If a show doesn’t intrigue ME with it’s trailers and ads, I won’t watch it. These haters all had ample warning to the content of the show and could have simply avoided it.
Instead, they watched it anyway and then bitched about it online. They are trolls looking to be fed and I encourage all moderators to block users who conduct this behavior so that they will starve and, hopefully, learn from their behavior.
Anyway, that is the only time (I only kind of promise this) that I will be bringing up people needing to stop being racist assholes in reference to this show. Now onto the review. Full disclaimer: I’ve read the book, and it was a long time ago, but I remember enjoying it.
Disclaimer number 2: My brother and I watch this together, remotely. He watches on his tv 20 minutes away while I sync my show up with his (“Ready? Ok, 1, 2, 3, hit play.”) and we sit in a party chat. Mikey’s opinions will be regular short pieces in these reviews.
Disclaimer number 3: I tried to write this without spoilers. I couldn’t do it. You’ve been warned. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. Boom! Warned again.
Episode 1 – Sundown
This episode is a perfect example of how to introduce characters and keep things moving. The opening scene is beautifully done, and while I know everyone was talking about it, I was excited to see the dread lord Cthulhu get his ass handed to him by the powerful swing of Jackie Robinson.
Atticus is the main character, but it becomes obvious that we’ll be following several other characters (his uncle Geoge and his wife, Letti and her sister, and the almost too white Braithwhites) throughout this series.
Atticus has just returned from the Korean War and there are questions as to whether he has “Shell Shock” or PTSD as we know it today. On top of that, he’s found a letter from his father requesting that he go out east and find him in “Lovecraft Country” (OMG they said it!).
George, Letti (who’s a mooch and a drifter), and Atticus decide to make this trip together and get paid doing it as George is the editor-in-chief (with his wife) of the “Green Book.” The Green Book is a book that is sold/handed out to black people to tell them safe routes, places to stay, and more in the incredibly racist 1950’s. This book is the key to surviving a roadtrip if you happen to have the wrong skin. Unfortunately, it isn’t always perfect and needs to be regularly updated, as we’ll see throughout this entire series, I’m sure.
The first 70% of this story is just them getting to their destination and dealing with very horrible people (chased out of town with shotguns, told to get out of a county before sundown, etc). It’s the getting chased out of the county that opens up the first real (there was minor bits before) supernatural stuff.
The sheriff is going to kill all three of them in the woods when suddenly…
There are few televised moments that make me that happy. You can verify with my brother, Mikey, that I screamed with terror and delight when they arrived on the scene. The shoggoths came from nowhere, and even though I had them spoiled for me a little before the show, I still jumped.
Let’s get the big thing out of the way that everyone is talking about: No, they didn’t look like shapeless forms of whirling flesh, or a black mass of gel, or whatever you think shoggoths are supposed to look like, but that’s ok. As a writer for Shoggoth.net, I know what I’m talking about. Shoggoths have the ability to take many shapes, and they have come in many different flavors. This might have big six limbed bipeds, but they also had eyes and mouths covering their entire bodies.
Also, the vampire bite changing thing bothered a few people, but obviously nobody that was bothered by that ever watched “The Thing,” by John Carpenter. The monster in “The Thing” was the best vision of a shoggoth that I have ever seen, and simply touching a person made it take over and replace that person with it’s own self.
These things were shoggoths, and they were beautiful. I want 2.
Anyway, I’ve already broken my cardinal rule and spoiled a lot of the episode, but this episode ended on quite the high note (the shoggoths, duh) and put our heroes into a place that I thought (from my vague memories from the book) they wouldn’t get to until the end of the season.
6 out of 5 stars. It was that good.
Mikey’s thoughts: “The best line in that entire episode was tied for Letti screaming for them to get the F out of that diner and for Uncle George looking at Atticus and asking what happens when someone gets bit by a vampire.”
Episode 2 – Whitey’s on the Moon
They ended up at Braithwhite mansion, the last place that Tic’s father was seen. The Braithwhites are weird, but friendly, and offer them anything and everything, but they were also expecting them and all of their favorite stuff fills each of their rooms.
Another odd thing, no one without Braithwhite in their blood can remember the shoggoths, and George and Letti can’t see to recall any of Tic’s weird crap he’s explaining to them. So Tic must be a Braithwhite. When he discovers the memory crap he makes friends with the lady of the house (who’s name is escaping me) and demands that she proves her friendship by undoing whatever spell stops George and Letti from remembering. She agrees and suddenly there are screams everywhere.
Fast forward a bit and they quickly discover that Daddy Braithwhite is trying to make a spell that will open the door to Eden and provide him with eternal life. This spell had been tried once before by (as it turns out) Tic’s great-great-great grandfather and super bad cultist, but he screwed it up and the house burnt down with Tic’s great-great-great grandmother escaping to give birth to the next line of Braithwhites.
George has a powerful scene in this episode where he does what he does best and reads. His readings lead him to understand this cult and their bylaws thoroughly and he uses those to manipulate the entire cult into giving Tic everything he wants, namely his father.
George and Letti get shot, with Letti getting killed, and the cult uses her revival to explain that they can also save George, Tic just has to take part in the ceremony.
Hoo-boy…that was a doozy.
In a good way, of course. I don’t think this show could do anything wrong if it tried.
Anyway, Tic does the ceremony but it goes all wrong and I don’t know if it was because of Tic’s will, Tic’s great-great-great grandmother, the cult screwing up, or Lady Braithwhite doing something behind the scenes. I’m sure they will let us know later in the series as a big plot twist. Whatever happens, everyone, including the house, gets destroyed except for Tic, Letti, Montrose (Tic’s dad), and George…
And then George bites it.
Anyway, another 6 out of 5. This show is better than anything I’ve watched in a while. I’m on the edge of my seat the entire time and can’t get over how dang good it is. To prove how much I like it, just look at how many names I remembered. I never remember names of characters, not even in shows that I like.
Mikey’s thoughts: “All I have to say is ‘Snake Penis.’ We knew it was going to happen as soon as they showed the stained glass window. Even so, I was still not fully prepared.”