So, with that, HBO’s thrilling journey into Black America – by way of cosmic horror – comes to a resounding end. The final episode packs a lot of story into its 58-minute run time, but finds the time for closure for nearly all the characters. And it does the tricky job of being a suitable finale for a limited series, but also leaving the door open if HBO decide to go forward with a second season (there is, after all, no sequel to the book).
I distinctly remember getting to the final chapter of Matt Ruff’s novel and finding the conclusion a bit messy. The chapters proceeding it had been very standalone, more so than the show, and bringing them all together for a final confrontation wasn’t entirely satisfying. So I’m glad the show decided to do something different, even if the resulting episode felt a little too jam-packed. Though, with this show, it’s in these messy moments that the insanity and unadulterated pulp silliness can shine through best. And this episode had plenty of that.
The episode begins with Dee still in trouble. They have the book now, after last week’s journey back to Tulsa. But as soon as they read from it, Leti and Tic are knocked out cold. They awaken in a different world; the red-tinged Ancestral Plane. Here, Tic’s family and long-dead relatives are waiting for him and Leti to help guide them through what has to be done next. There’s a lot of info thrown about here, and I was a little lost as to what I was supposed to know. But if you just go along with it, it all starts to makes sense. Tic’s relatives have been studying the book of names, and warn Leti to embrace the power, not hide away from it. With that, they manage to bring Dee back. They also teach them an invaluable spell that will supposedly disrupt Christina’s ritual.
From that point on, it’s a lot of magical spells and rituals. And it’s just cool to see how our characters have gone from knowing nothing about the world of magic, to summoning the spirit of Titus Braithwaite and then murdering him (a chunk of his flesh being an important part of the ritual to stop Christina). Our protagonists have got powerful, and for a while it feels like they might even be able to get out of the series unscathed. Even though Tic has been warned of his impending death from multiple sources, you start to believe that there’s a way they can overcome it. But things rarely go so smoothly.
The gang get to Ardham (after an absolutely wonderful scene of singing in the car) and things quickly go wrong. The second ingredient for the spell was a piece of Christina. And it seems that Ruby managed to get a vial of her blood when they were bonking the night before, but that was too good to be true. Upon arriving at Ardham, Ruby reveals herself to be Christina in disguise, who claims to have murdered Ruby and then proceeds to yeet Leti out of a tower to her death. This all comes at you very fast and you’d be forgiven for not following. So let’s break it down.
- Yes, Ruby was killed off-screen (seemingly after discovering her sexuality with Christina, which leaves a sour taste) – though there is an argument that she isn’t dead. For the shapeshifting potion to work, the target needs to be alive
- No Leti isn’t actually dead. She’s revealed to have survived after Ruby/Christina fixed her invulnerability charm that had previously been removed. Admittedly, this bit could have been clearer
- The blood Ruby gave Leti doesn’t belong to Christina, meaning they can’t bind her with Tic and her ancestor to complete the spell
With everything seemingly going to hell for Leti, Dee is set upon by one of the many eyed creatures that stalk the Ardham woods and Montrose, Hippolyta, and Ji-Ah are attacked by weird inbred townsfolk. When things fall apart in this show, they fall apart quickly and the ramifications are serious.
Luckily, there are a few things working in our character’s favour. Firstly is the big creature that is seemingly tied to the family, the one that protected Tic a few episodes ago. This lovable thing comes to the rescue of Dee and is seemingly bonded with her now. As well as that, they have Ji-Ah. I was worried she’d either be underutilised in the finale and/or killed off once her purpose was fulfilled. So I was over the moon to see her be integral to the plot and also survive! Using her furry orifice tentacle (thankfully the ones from her eyes) she holds Tic and Christina together as Leti recites the spell she learned from the ancestors. Despite the messiness getting here, it is a wonderfully nutty ending.
Christina loses her powers – as do all white folk, in an act of reclamation that is certainly not going to sit well with the show’s detractors. Dee finishes her off with her new robot arm, built by her mother after hers withered as a result of the spell she was under. And ultimately, Tic doesn’t survive the ordeal. Usually in these sorts of stories, prophecies and visions that foretell death are usually avoided. But that’s not the case for Tic. But he went out protecting his family, cementing him as a bonafide hero, despite some morally questionable moments.
It seems like religion might have played a part in proceedings too, in an unclear way. Leti insists Tic is baptised before going to Ardham, seemingly giving him the protection of the Lord. I’m split on this. This left-turn towards religious faith makes sense in some respects, many Black communities were and still are built around the church and it’s an important aspect of life for many people – and I’m certainly not going to disparage someone for their religious beliefs. But, the idea of God and religion seems antithetical to everything we’ve seen so far. Surely the existence of these cosmic horrors, time travel, and parallel universes would push you further away from the Lord? Has Leti ever shown a sign of being this deeply religious? I dunno. It was a nice moment, but one that felt out of place from what we’ve seen so far.
I have adored this show. But like the book upon which it is based, the anthology format of the show has always presented one major issue; the individual stories that we are told each week are far more interesting than the overall tale. The trip across the stars, time travel back to Tulsa, Ruby’s adventures as a white woman, the episode set entirely in Korea, the haunted house episode. These were all phenomenal self-contained stories. And it was always going to struggle to tie them together. And without one of those stories, in an episode focused entirely on what is essentially the series’ B-plot, the finale will understandably feel a bit lacking. But there are enough moments of pulp insanity to make it more than worth it. And after all, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
Lovecraft Country has done so much in its short time on screen, and expanded on the source material more than I thought possible. I have enjoyed every second and writing these reviews has been a lot of fun, even if I sometimes felt like I wasn’t the best person to offer an opinion. Thanks for reading! Maybe I’ll see you back here for a second season. Who knows?