“My name’s not ‘girl’ it’s Letitia F***ing Lewis!”
But more on Jurnee Smolett-Bell being our ancestors wildest dream later.
Lovecraft Country is multi-tentacled lovechild of Misha Green as well as Executive Producers Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams. The new HBO series stars Jonathon Majors as Atticus Freeman, a man who feels like a long lost relative of Huey and Riley, who goes on a road trip with his friend Letitia and uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) throughout the 1950s Unseasoned States of America. Atticus navigates the micro and macroagressions of American society in order to find his father and uncover a hidden mystical legacy. On their journey, they’ll deal with ominous imagery, pale beasts with rancid teeth, and that’s just what they see when they stop at a gas station after dark.
The show deals with monsters pulled straight from an H.P. Lovecraft storybook, but the gag is that they’re airing out all his racist laundry and putting Black people at the forefront of the narrative. Yeah, the beloved sci-fi author who gave birth to the mythos of Cthulhu also used “n*gger” as often as the word “the,” and the show tackles the racial climate in a time period where Lovecraft and countless men like him make Black Americans feel like they’re living in a horror movie every day of their life. But just on the other side of targeted traffic stops and attacks from vampiric monsters hints at a supernatural method of achieving Black liberation.
The opening of the first episode is a Black nerd’s literal fever dream. Atticus is running through the trenches with his woes catching enemy bodies like gymnastics, but as the camera pulls back, we see a preview of what’s to come in the next 10 weeks, as the battle includes ancient warriors, red bone alien prophets, and the big calamari himself Cthulu getting his wig split by iconic Black baseball player Jackie Robinson’s wooden bat, which feels like a metaphor for how this show aims to deconstruct Lovecraft’s fascinating but dehumanizing vision by placing it under the lens of the Black experience in the 1950’s. If Atticus is having dreams like this early on, we’re in for one hell of a ride.
Back to the wonder that is Jurnee Smollet-Bell, who plays Letitia Lewis, a headstrong young Black woman paving the way to her own destiny in a world that continues to step on her, regardless of whether she can pass the Paper Bag test. We see her pull up to her sister Ruby’s (Wunmi Mosaku) function and join her on stage as they pay homage to the godmother of Rock & Roll, sister Rosetta Tharpe with their rendition of “Whole Lotta Shaking Goin On,” which is basically the thesis statement for this whole series. Leti is beautiful, inquisitive and can run, drive and beat ass like an action movie star. Her aforementioned quote comes from one of the best scenes in the episode, where Leti drives Atticus and Uncle George to safety after their white server at the diner they stopped at called the Bedsheet mob on them. George is doing some…supportive passenger seat driving and makes the mistake of calling Leti “girl,” to which she responds “My name’s not “girl,” It’s Letitia F***ing Lewis!” It’s safe to say that Unc won’t be making that mistake ever again for the rest of their journey together. (Sidenote: Black Canary series please?).
The episode climaxes with the three of them fending off mysterious creatures that show up shortly after they attempt to escape a “Sundown Town” before the KKKPD cuts their journey and their lives short. Now I’m gonna assume that racists taste especially delicious to these particular monsters, because they ran through those Devon County policemen like a 20$ Popeye’s family box. After watching a cop terrorize the trio by making them beg for the opportunity to leave town before dark to avoid a racially-charged execution, I took much delight in seeing some monsters pick their thousands of sharp teeth with colonizer bones. But the episode doesn’t stop there. Somehow the monsters get called away, and the trio makes it to their destination Ardham, where they are met by white man that looks entirely too happy to see them. There’s a lot to unpack here, but these were my favorite highlights of the premiere episode.
I’m definitely invested in Lovecraft Country. Misha Green, Jordan Peele and JJ Abrams came together to drop a delightfully terrifying and inspiring show on our heads. Black people are often made to feel like they’re living in a sci-fi film, where people see the injustices being enacted upon them but don’t say a word. Maybe what this revolution needs is a little pinch of Black magic.