“Smells like Tulsa.”
In another episode, Lovecraft Country changes the rules of the game once again, and presents us with a very different kind of pulp scenario. ‘History of Violence’ feels more like action adventure stories, like Indiana Jones or The Goonies and it’s a lot of fun.
The gang heads out on a road trip to Boston, to retrieve Titus’ pages from the Book of Names. Tic and Leti know now that Christina is meddling in their lives once again, and decide that its about time they had a few spells of their own. She is, after all, invulnerable. Both magically and in the eyes of the law. Apart from some goat’s blood on the door frame of the Winthrop house, Leti and Tic are on the back foot. They piece together the location of Titus’ secret vault; underneath his wing of a museum in Boston. And it’s worth noting that the entire Titus Braithwaite wing is crammed with artefacts that the man himself stole and pillaged from indigenous cultures, in return for “teaching these savage tribes the ways of civilised man” – an idea that underpins the whole trek into the bowels of Boston.
Journeying into the centre of the Earth is Tic, Leti, and a reluctant Montrose. The older Freeman is not crazy about pursuing this cult, but doesn’t want to leave his son to do it alone. For most of the episode, Montrose is a really abrasive presence in the early parts of the episode, but I found myself warming to him (until the final scene of the episode, at least). Michael K Williams plays these sorts of grizzled characters really well, and there’s the hint of something under the surface, something decent – though that may be my love for the guy as Omar from The Wire. It’s clear he’s going through something, as seen in his breakdown that opens the episode. The line about Tulsa is more than throwaway reference too, and I think we’ll be seeing more from Montrose and George’s time in Tulsa before the series is through.
The bulk of the episode centres around the difficult journey to Titus’ vault, and it’s a real thrill ride. The walk across the physics-defying plank is insane, and just when you think you couldn’t be more nervous for the characters, the show reveals a ginormous swinging axe. On top of that, the plank starts disappearing, like some reverse version of the trial in The Last Crusade. It’s a very entertaining set piece, and one that ensures your fingernails will be well and truly chewed by the end. Following this, the reveal of Titus’ very macabre underground vault/ship is jaw-dropping. It’s a real weird feeling to see something on a TV show that you’ve truly never seen before, but Lovecraft Country somehow keeps managing to do precisely that. It’s not by the numbers and it’s definitely not playing it safe, which is a breath of fresh air. It’s balls to the wall, which is the ideal way to tackle this sort of supernatural fuckery.
As far a CGI goes, there’s a real impressive moment towards the tail-end of the episode, as we witness a horrible zombie ghoul morph back into a human being. It’s such a great shot, with some really haunting visuals. And I can’t believe I’m saying it, but things just get crazier from there. This figure is Yahima Maraokoti, a two-spirit tribes-person from “The Land of Many Waters”, kidnapped by Titus, along with their family, and cursed forever to guard the pages. Yahima can read the pages, and is a really interesting character that I don’t think I’ve seen before. Not to mention, they’re intersex and that is something that I don’t think we’ve really ever seen on screen. And all of this makes it all the more shocking when Montrose slits their throat. The image of an indigenous intersex character being introduced and then being swiftly bumped off is uncomfortable, and I wonder how the showrunners failed to see what this would look like. Especially when the episode deals so openly with the abuse indigenous cultures suffered at the hands of powerful white people. But the show has been confident in every other respect, so I hesitantly trust that they know what they’re doing. It makes Montrose basically irredeemable (assuming it was Montrose they brought back from Ardham) and it sucks we won’t see more of Yahima.
So now the heroes have some of the pages, maybe they can start fighting back? Well, it seems that the other set of pages is somehow linked to the model solar system that Christina is convinced is within the Winthrop house. Another allusion to a “time machine” hints at what’s to come. In the book, Hippolyta ventures into the furthest reaches of outer space. Judging from the clues here, and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it clues in the trailer, it looks like Hippolyta might be venturing back in time. Perhaps Winthrop has hidden the pages in the distant past? Either way, this episode ends with Hippolyta rushing back into Lovecraft Country to find some answers.
Elsewhere, things heat up for Ruby, in a number of different ways. William – the weird, aryan manservant – pays her a visit and starts putting the moves on her. Now, I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews, but I am 100% convinced now that William is Christina, and it seems that other people have picked up on the clues too. I wish I could see the relationship between William and Ruby as positive, as its cool seeing a larger lady getting hot and heavy in such a great scene (to the not-so romantic growl of Marilyn Manson of all people), but he’s definitely using her for something. He’s going to grant her wish, allow her to see the world through a white woman’s eyes, but it’s a monkey paw type of situation. Be careful what you wish for, because there’s always a catch.
Next week’s episode looks to be a Ruby-centric one, so I think we’re about to see her step into the shoes (and skin) of a white woman. But as I said above, there’s bound to be a catch. I’d be keeping an eye on William…