The conclusion of “Strange Case” marks the official halfway point of this (hopefully) inaugural season of Lovecraft Country. There are a number of turns in this fifth episode that let you know we’re shifting into compelling new directions meant to take us to the finish line, but taken on its own “Strange Case” is both fascinating and disturbing from a thematic and a visceral perspective. Yes, Lovecraft Country got extremely gory this week, but all the blood and peeled skin on the floor was not what left us raw as the credits rolled.
The episode was mostly dedicated to Ruby‘s story. Her encounter last week with William led her on a strange journey of self-discovery in this episode as she wakes up a white woman, and gets to literally see how the other half lives. William‘s offer to Ruby was metamorphosis, the ability to be whatever she wanted to be outside of the constraints put on Black women. It was the “currency of magic,” as Christina put it, the “unmitigated freedom and power to do whatever the fuck you want.”
“Yes, Lovecraft Country got extremely gory this week, but all the blood and peeled skin on the floor was not what left us raw as the credits rolled.”
Ruby uses her currency to first enjoy a day as a White woman, where she discovered the value of that other currency, Whiteness. She then decided to go to Marshall Fields and do the other thing she could never do as a Black woman, get a job in management at Chicago’s fanciest department store. As Hillary Davenport (which has to be the Whitest name that Ruby could think of), Ruby tries to bolster the store’s one Black employee Tamara, but it’s hard for Ruby to find solidarity with Tamara stacking up her own accounting courses and high school diploma against Tamara’s seventh-grade education and applying on a whim.
It was interesting to watch Ruby struggle in her newfound Whiteness. Would she do better than the way White women treat her, or would she give in to the peer pressure of being considered one of the (White) girls? It was a struggle with no easy answers for poor Ruby because of those understandable resentments of Tamara, while at the same time having in it in the back of her mind how cruel life can be in certain parts of Chicago for a Black woman. Worse still, Ruby’s White colleagues have no issue “otherizing” Blackness as they plot a visit to the south side for what what of them feels will be akin to going on safari.
Before going to the south side though, Ruby has to pay back William for the gift of metamorphosis, which is no safari, but definitely involves a trip into the lion’s den. The beef between Christina and William and Captain Lancaster and the so-called Chicago lodge intensified with Ruby posing as a waitress at a party so that she might plant some incriminating artifact in Lancaster’s private office. Of course, Lancaster is doing a lot to incriminate himself with a guy chained up in his closet with scars all over his face.
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According to Christina, the Chicago lodge rightfully belongs to William but Lancaster had him beaten nearly to death and dumped in the river. Doesn’t seem like there’s something fishy about that story? Last week, Christina seemed to give the impression that the Chicago lodge was illegitimate, founded by people not recognized by the head lodge in Ardham. Perhaps though, it’s just the present leadership of the Chicago lodge that’s illegitimate. Lancaster is overheard talking about people abandoning the lodge, so could a coup be the reason why people are quitting?
“…we’re shifting into compelling new directions meant to take us to the finish line, but taken on its own “Strange Case” is both fascinating and disturbing…”
Adding to the behind the scenes detail about William is when he explains to Ruby that his research into metamorphosis was an extension of what he learned under Hiram Epstein, the man doing experiments in the basement of the Winthrop house with the blessing and assistance Lancaster. But what is William’s interest in metamorphosis, especially when the the potion is no Polyjuice? (You didn’t see the Harry Potter characters tear their skin off to transform back, did you?)
We find out at the end of the episode that Christina and William are, in fact, the same person. William returns home in the evening to find Ruby waiting, but he kneels down in the hallway and tears his skin off to reveal Christina a moment that you as the viewer feel like you probably should have seen coming. Did those two ever appear together in the same scene? With each passing week it’s become clearer just how deeply Christina has planned things, and if that’s the case what plans does she have left for Ruby?
After last week’s eventful trip to Boston, Atticus and Leti stayed close to home after discovering Montrose had “let Yahima go” with Titus’ missing pages. Atticus knew the truth though, which is that Montrose killed Yahima and destroyed the pages. Atticus nearly beat Montrose to death, which singlehandedly undid an entire episode’s worth of father/son bonding, and how they come back from that is anyone’s guess.
But if this week was Montrose at his lowest point in terms of the relationship with his son, it offered him a rare reprieve of drunken self-hate seclusion he normally indulges in. Of course, the source of that is probably that Montrose can’t live the life he’d like to live, which is the life of an out gay man who could enjoy a drag show unironically. Might Montrose‘s indulging in life as he would like it, even if it’s just for the night, be enough to centre him to be of some help to his son? Something tells us Atticus might need that assistance in the weeks to come.
“…as brutal to watch as it was cathartic…”
That brings us to the disturbing message at the end. Despite Montrose‘s attempts at sabotage, Atticus was able to make some effort to decode the Language of Adam, which led him back to the mysterious woman in Korea he called in episode one. “You should have listened to me,” she said after Atticus asks her how she knew. The one word message that Atticus decoded, or at least the one word we’re allowed to see? “Die” It seems that the time’s come to learn Ji-Ah’s role in all this, and at the same time learn how the Korean War helped turn Atticus into the man we see now.
Speaking of acts of war, let’s go back to Ruby for a second (or should we say Hilary?). When Ruby accidentally sees the mild manned store manager Mr. Hughes try and rape Tamara, Ruby decides to use the safety of Hilary’s Whiteness to get paid back. In so much as Hughes deserved to be taken down a peg, Ruby repeatedly sodomizing him with the heel of her Stilettos was as brutal to watch as it was cathartic (and was that Jekyll and Hyde on the TV while Ruby was working?). In so much as we keep hearing about magic being a key to freedom, it seems to be generating a lot of darkness in the people trying to use it to liberate themselves. If our heroes are going this far before even unlocking the real power, what fate awaits them when they do?
Revisit your favorite moments of Lovecraft Country or give yourself a refresher before next by reading our previous recaps of the series HERE. Continue the conversation with us and be sure to let us know all your thoughts on the dark shadow looming over the characters of Lovecraft Country on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club.