In the hands of different storytellers, episode two of Lovecraft Country would be episode two, three, four, five and probably six. The languid pace of many TV dramas, where plot details are handed out a leisurely pace, is thoroughly undermined in just one episode of Lovecraft where it feels like we ran through a whole season’s worth of plot in one hour that answered many questions from episode one, wrapped up many of the story threads, introduced a major new character, and killed off another. In between, there were 1001 reference, asides and ideas that, like episode one, form an incredibly dense text that has enough going on for about five different shows.
The name of the episode is taken from a spoken word performance by Gil Scott-Heron in 1970 that was commenting on the expense of sending people to the moon while Black communities in the United States suffered poverty, inequality and injustice. Of course, the metaphor goes deeper than that because there was no moon landing for “Whitey” without gifted mathematicians like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and others crunching the numbers back here on Earth. White men lifted themselves to the man thanks to more than a few Black women but they didn’t get ticker tape parades. Meanwhile, as Scott-Heron says, “I can’t pay no doctor bill (but Whitey’s on the moon).”
Of course history is rife with stories of Black people being used to advance the cause of White people, and so it goes in Lovecraft Country. Samuel Braithwhite, the head of the Ardham Lodge, wants to use Atticus‘ blood to open a doorway to Eden where he and the other members of the lodge will achieve immortality. The complex textual basis for this plan is inconsequential to the fact that Atticus, despite being the rightful head of the lodge as the last descendant of founder Titus Braithwhite, is still just a Black man getting his body used for the advancement of a powerful White man.
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“The name of the episode is taken from a spoken word performance by Gil Scott-Heron in 1970 that was commenting on the expense of sending people to the moon while Black communities in the United States suffered poverty, inequality and injustice.”
The story of how Atticus came to be the hereditary head of the lodge is also pathetically ordinary in its awfulness. His ancestor, Hanna, was a runaway slave owned by Titus, who we’re told was nothing but kind to the people he owned, but what would drive Hanna to run through a woods full of monsters in the dead of night? William, the facilitator for Atticus and friends to the lodge, may buy the fairy tale that Titus was a benevolent slaveholder, but no Black person is going to buy that, and when William says Titus made his fortune “shipping”, Leti correctly notes, “That’s code for slaves.”
Of course, Leti and George are initially drawn in to the opulence of the lodge, celebrating their arrival to the tune of the Jeffersons theme music, a show that’s about 20 years away in the timeline of Lovecraft Country. Famously, The Jeffersons was a show about a successful Black family that moves to the Upper East Side of Manhattan after being introduced as neighbours to the Bunkers in All in the Family. According to lore, The Jeffersons was a response to another show created by Norman Lear called Good Times, which was about a working class Black family in Chicago. Members of the Black Panthers took exception to another show about poor Black people created by a White man, so Lear gave them a new vision.
For a while it seems like William and the lodge is the Norman Lear of real-life for Atticus and friends, suddenly they’re “moving on up” as part of this mysterious lodge in the middle of a county that nearly killed them for being Black and out after dark. Atticus though never really bought into that, likely because of his Braithwhite blood, and likely because he was the only one that remembered Shoggoth attack from the night before. There aren’t just monsters in this world, there’s magic too, and everyone gets a taste of that by confronting their worst nightmares.
For George, his nightmare was probably the most pleasant, a vision of a woman named Doris and it’s strongly hinted that she and George were in love before he met Hippolyta. The added complication, as we come to see later after we meet Atticus’ father Montrose, is that Doris is likely Atticus‘ mother, and that she was also likely pregnant with Atticus when she married Montrose, which would make George Atticus‘ father. How these revelations play out in the wake of the episode’s final events will be interesting, and heartbreaking, doubly so when you consider the obviously friction that exists between supposedly father and son.
“Courtney B. Vance [channels] his days as the ADA on Law & Order: Criminal Intent […]“
It’s hard to say goodbye to George because he was on fire this week. From his instance to play it cool as Atticus freaks out about the hidden dangers, to his discovery of secret passageway, to the way he laid down the laws of the lodge to its members from what he learned behind that passage. Courtney B. Vance was certainly channeling his days as the ADA on Law & Order: Criminal Intent as he explained why Atticus was the one in charge by right of birth, but Samuel, like a lot of White men, was not above using belief to achieve his ends while being an unbeliever himself. Still, George was magnificent as he made his case.
Unfortunately, it was George‘s blaze of glory moment. Samuel shot Leti and George to make Atticus more compliant, but in the end only Leti was saved as Samuel’s ritual went all wrong. It looked like all members of the lodge were killed, including Samuel, but it’s probably a safe bet that his daughter Christina Braithwhite and William survived. Also, the lodge itself was destroyed, replicating the same result when the ritual was tried in 1833 and killed many, but not all of the lodge members at the time. They’ve rebuilt before, they will likely rebuild again, and where does that leave Atticus?
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