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LOVECRAFT COUNTRY Review: “Whitey on the Moon”

August 25, 2020 in Review

Did you watch the first episode of Lovecraft Country yet? The hype built itself up pretty well. Makes me think of when Game of Thrones first came out. My husband had read the books and eagerly awaited the show. I watched with little intention of getting into it but after that first episode I was hooked. So here I am now, forcing all my friends to indulge in Lovecraft Country. And my husband and I eagerly dove into episode two, titled “Whitey on the Moon”.

A New World

This episode starts off with a little montage of Uncle George and Letitita exploring the wonders of their guest rooms in the massive mansion that out protagonists discovered Ardham. Scored to the theme song of The Jeffersons, this opening plays in a comedic way, which kind of gives us a nod, like, “Hey, remember how the first episode opened, because you should probably gear up for some weirdness again.”

So we get to watch George and Leti indulge in some classic literature and a very kick-ass 1950s wardrobe, all while Atticus sits in his room absolutely traumatized. All it takes is the the group to meet for breakfast on the patio the next morning for Atticus to realize that his comrades have no memory of the racist-police-turned-Shoggoth-attack in the woods the night before.

Some Crazy Convoluted Backstory

Their host, the strange white dude named William, gives them a background on the home, (which I totally felt was familiar, and was correct to assume that it was familiar in that the front facade Bisham Manor in LaGrange, Georgia, which is the same house they used at the mansion in The Haunting of Hill House, with some CGI additions.) We get some long-winded exposition on the entire backstory that links Atticus to Ardham Manor. Built by a man named Titus Braithwaite, a man who built his fortune in “shipping”, which Leti reminds us means he owned slaves. Except William assures us that he was “awfully nice” to his slaves, meaning that eventually, one of them got knocked up.

ANYHOOOOOO, Titus was the founder of this weird cult of wizards, otherwise known as the The Order of Ancient Dawn, and he believed that he could open up a portal to the Garden of Eden and gain eternal life or something. The ritual failed, and the house burnt down, killing everyone inside but one woman…

Hannah, the knocked-up slave, of course!

The Village

After realizing that some shannegans are going on, but not BEFORE Leti gets a chance to eat herself a proper breakfast, ringing for servants to spice up her bland-ass white person food, the trio heads out to the nearby village to figure out where the hell Atticus’ father, Montrose, is.

The village is, well, very old-time-y. The villagers, full on Amish-dressed, don’t seem to take any issue with three black people wandering about their Shamelan-inspired wilderness retreat. Leti even gets to snap a few pictures before they come across the tower that George believes is the prision that might be holding Montrose.

The woman standing before the tower, however, plays the village crazy lady, Dell, who does take notice of our heroes being black. She wields a gun and dons overalls and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the villagers and I have to wonder why? Are the villagers under a spell and she isn’t? Does she get paid to act as some kind of warden to the people in Ardham? She clearly knows enough about the monsters, telling our heroes to go back to the house before the sun goes down.

Our heroes do not listen for some bizarre reason. George believes that Montrose must be in the dungeon of the tower, but then decide to escape Ardham by walking away? Makes no sense. The shoggoths bust out of the ground and threaten to devour our trio, but then the whistle goes off again. The shoggoths bolt and the blond-haired woman driving the silver Bentley in the last episode takes them all back “home”.

Some New Revelations and EVEN MORE CONVOLUTED BACKSTORY!

Atticus gets invited to meet the current owner of Braithwaite Manor. He’s another white blonde named Samuel, who is Christina’s father. Atticus doesn’t get to meet him right away though. Instead he gets to watch Samuel getting his liver removed without any anesthetic. Fortunately the gore-factor is pretty toned down in this show, so it’s not a tough watch.

Atticus, Samuel, and Christina get acquainted after Samuel redresses himself. He’s primarily interested in gaining the power of eternal youth, referencing that verse in the Bible where God lets Adam name all the animals, believing the Garden of Eden to be some source of power or whatever. The cult itself seems to focus mainly on Adam’s part with establishing the function of the world, which ultimately seems to be Samual’s end goal, I guess? Honestly, I started drifting a bit because the weirdness was getting a bit TOO weird for me, but hey I persevered.

Witchy Stuff?

At night, our three heros each get locked in their rooms. But it’s okay because Christina gives them all some entertaining hallucinations. Shes a witch, or a wizardress or something. I dunno. She admits to Atticus earlier on that she has powers but not how or why she has them.

Leti attempts to get out of her room, only to be consoled by Atticus, or rather, a version of Atticus who I instantly knew hasn’t real, considering she was paranoid and he just made her sit down and talk it out. This was not the Atticus who talked her into running out into the woods the night before. But Leti likes this seductive Atticus, telling him about her fears of abandonment as a result of being abandoned by her now-dead mother. They start to bone and we get a shot of this weird painting in the room of a dude with a snake-dong ready to bone a chick with his snake dong. But then the foreplay gets a little too hot and too heavy and Leti asks Atticus not to take his pants off, but yeah, the zipper goes down and the snake comes out and GAHHHHHHHHHHH WHYYYYYYYYYY.

Meanwhile, George gets a nice hallucination wherein he gets reacquainted with a former love, Dora, who remembers fondly the nights where she and George and Montrose would play “What If?” together under the stars in Tulsa. I loved this little story because it hints pretty obviously that Dora had some feelings for both of these men, and now she’s dead (perhaps from the massacre?). She wants George to come away with her but he pushes her back, knowing that it isn’t right, and the only question I have now is: IS DORA ATTICUS’ DEAD MOM BECAUSE SHE HAS TO BE?

Lastly, Atticus tries tapping morse code messages through the wall to his uncle, but is then countered with a Korean assassin-like woman with a knife. Clearly, Atticus knows this woman, because he calls her by name. Yet, she’s still hell-bent on killing him, which she fails at doing when Atticus counters her with his, super sexy man arms that don’t quit even after getting stabbed. Could this woman be the one he called on the phone? Is she really dead? Is she a ghost haunting him?

Cut back to this weird mirror room with Christina Braithwaite and a bunch of rich white dudes laughing at our heroes emotional trauma. Like fuck rich people. They suck.

A Baby is Born

But maybe Christina doesn’t suck that much. She does at one point say that friends are important and seems to suggest to Atticus that they should be friends.

She also gets called by some little village boy to come out to the stables to for some reason birth a tiny baby Shoggoth out of a cow. THe villagers ride the high of the new birth and one of them asks Christina if she’s ever done this before. She hugs the baby Shoggoth and says “No”, to which I say that she must be fucking lying because she rolled up those GORGEOUS grey billowy silk (House of Foxy-looking) blouse sleeves up like a pro and birthed that thing in like 30 seconds.

But the mom in me thinks the baby Shoggoth is cute. My son is like 16 months old now and is becoming quite the hellion so I miss those baby years. Even baby Shoggoths give me the fever, I won’t lie.

George Does Some Digging

While Atticus watches some morbid stuff, George discovers the classic “pull the book out of the shelf to unlock a secret door behind the bookshelf” lock and finds a book called Bylaws and Precepts of The Order of Ancient Dawn. This brings him a wealth of knowledge that he brings to the fancy rich dude formal cult dinner that George and Atticus get invited to.

All the white men are like SHOOK to see two black guys there, and what’s even better is that George gets up and mighty (calling back to his attitude at the racist white diner) telling them all that the order is made of various members of wealth, but that the truest members (the “Sons Among Sons”) have blood ties to Titus Braithwaite.

Turns out that Atticus has the closest ties to Titus, being that Hannah is his great great great (x whatever) grandmother. The fancy dinner being served up is Samuel’s liver for some reason, which Atticus tells George not to consume. He also tells everyone but Samuel to get the fuck out.

And they listen! Like DAAAAANNNNGGG.

In their private exhange, Atticus asks Samuel to return Montrose. Samuel sighs and goes into EVEN MORE EXPOSITION, mentioning something about The Book of Names, which is a book that Titus used to open the gate to The Garden of Eden and that Atticus must be used for the Samuel’s own gate-opening ceremony, being that he’s a “resevoir” of that power. He’s useful for Samuel’s work.

“Do not mistake useful with indispensible,” he says, walking away.

Weirdness Strikes Again!

Cut to George and Atticus breaking into the tower dungeon to find Montrose. The gun-weilding racist lady strikes again, though, but not before Leti smashes her over the head with a pan or something, killing her instantly. The three follow Montrose’s Shawshank Redemption tunnel out of the dungeon and back into the dark night.

We finally get to see Michael K. Williams in all his glory again, and he plays a majorly messed-up dad, who gets enraged to see his rescue squad. When Atticus confronts him about the letter, Montrose insists that he wrote it under duress, meaning that he was held hostage just to get Atticus there to participate in Samuel’s morning ritual seance thing.

The foursome decide to get the hell out of dodge, stealing the Bentley for speed, only to crash it into an invisible wall at the end of the covered bridge leading out of the town.

Marilyn Manson plays as our heroes wearily climb out of the car. Samuel and Christina confront them on the bridge, and we don’t get to listen to much Manson because Samuel shoots Leti right in the gut. She collapses. Atticus goes to help, using his military calm to keep Leti focused, only she doesn’t remain all that focused for long.

Before like, dying. And let me tell you, a had to frantically do a deep brain dive to recall any other scenes of Leti in the trailer, because like, she can’t die, yo!

But then Samuel asks Atticus to choose between his father or his uncle, giving Atticus no time do decide before he shoots George.

Sexy Bath Time + EVEN MOAR EXPOSITION!

More Manson! Yay! Some people didn’t like this song choice but it works for me. Gives it some proper campiness. This scores a weird nude bathing scene with a bunch of white nun-dressed ladies sponge-bathing our rippled hero. Christina walks in and explains that if Atticus goes through with the ceremony that Samuel will heal George like he healed Leti.

Annnnnnd CUT to a magic portal window showing Leti waking up from her death.

Christian explains that there this Language of Adam that must be wielded to cast the right spell to properly open the door. Blah blah blah. SHe gives him a gaudy cult ring, obviously JEALS because she should have one but can’t have one because she’s a woman and a black man still gets to have one.

White girl problems, right?

We get to the ritual thing, where Atticus stands in the middle of three electric orb things that light up, shock Atticus, and open up the gate with flowers and stuff. It gives me Green Man of Chilling Adventures of Season 3 vibes, but oddly less disturbing for some reason.

This scene is scored to a spoken-word poem by Gil-Scott Heron, called “Whitey on the Moon”, which tells the story of Heron’s sister, who was bitten by a rat and came down sick. The family couldn’t pay the medical bills, and the poem conveys the alternate realities that most black people dealt with in that pivotal time of innovation when man first landed on the moon. Some might say that it’s not as great at the travelling montage from last episode, but this one was fun and created so much movement to the scene. While we watched the lore of the backstory play out, we also get to experience the racial struggle and it plays out so damn well in this scene.

Anyway, the ring turns black as the gate opens. The flowers begin to die and Atticus sees a pregnant woman in the portal. Hannah. She holds a book, which we can presume is this elusive “Book of Names”. The spell goes haywire. Samuel turns into stone and the other cult members explode. The house shakes and cracks.

I didn’t catch this on my viewing, but multiple comments from book-readers suggest that Christina put a spell on the ring to ruin the ceremony, so I suspect that that is what happened here.

Meanwhile, Montrose, Leti and a weakened George, rush to get out of the house. Atticus follows the spectre of pregnant Hannah, who leads him out the front door in the nick of time.

But not really the nick of time, because he arrives at the car just as George dies in Montrose’s arms. And damn if I wasn’t busted up about that. Gotta applaud the actors on this one, especially Jurnee and Jonathan, who both shift between that “THANK GOD YOU’RE ALIVE” and “UNCLE GEORGE DIED” shift so effin’ well.

RIP GEORGE

Stray Thoughts

  • George does not show up in any unseen scenes from episodes 1 or 2 in the trailer, so he’s legit dead dead, which makes me sad. He was my second favourite character after Leti. Granted, narrative structure basically dictated that he’d die, but it’s still sad to see good people go.
  • On George’s notepad: WIZARDS
  • In the bed scene that occurs before the spell goes awry, George and Montrose have a little heart to heart, wherein Montrose discusses the abuse he sustained from their father after their tried to support their favourite baseball player. Explains a lot about why Montrose is who he is now. Lots of meat in his character to chew on in later episodes for sure.
  • ALSO discussed between the brothers is that Montrose might not actually be Atticus’ father. Like legit, Dora is the mom and was caught between two bros. A tale as old as time.
  • Leti’s little post-death panic attack was so epic. Jurnee Smollett NEEEEEEDS to be the next scream queen. I need it. She’s wonderful.
  • The next episode looks to bring the weirdness back to Chicago when Leti buys herself a super fancy house in a white neighbourhood and I. CAN’T. WAIT.
  • It’ll be nice to feel like it’s the 50s again, because this episode felt a lot like Harry Potter, no? Anyone else? Just me?
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Rebecca

Rebecca is a neo-noir author from Kamloops, British Columbia. Her first collection of gritty short fiction, Vile Men was published by Dark House Press in 2015. She also writes about her writer lifestyle on her blog at rebeccajoneshowe.com.

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I'm Rebecca Jones-Howe, a neo-noir writer and author of the short story collection, VILE MEN. My work has been featured in [PANK], Pulp Modern and Punchnel's, among other magazines. This site houses my writing profile and my blog, which features posts on writing, fashion, lifestyle + more. Want more?

- RJH

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