By Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi
Lovecraft Country Episode 1 & 2 Review
Jordan Peele has remained one of the best filmmakers today. However, his outputs in television have been mixed received as of late. His recent television works like Hunters and The Twilight Zone have received mixed reviews in comparison to his films “Us” and “Get Out”.
However, Lovecraft Country might change that.
HP Lovecraft remains one of America’s greatest horror authors. His works have received recent adaptations to film and video games to rave reviews, including the recently-acclaimed “Colour Out of Space” starring Nicolas Cage. His work is also influential to the development of modern pop culture including famous franchises like Alien, Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Warhammer 40,000.
However, one dark spot to Lovecraft’s life was his unabashed racism. He was an avowed racist due to his introverted nature. He named his cat after a racial slur and his works have featured racist depictions of non-white people. Although Lovecraft denounced his racism a year before his death in 1940 and embraced socialism and Roosevelt’s New Deal in return, Lovecraft’s racism affected the average perception of his works for many years and only since the late 80s have his works began receiving serious adaptations to other art forms.
Author Matt Ruff, a fan of Lovecraft wrote Lovecraft Country to see the viable link between Lovecraft’s racism and The Jim Crow laws of 1950s United States. Lovecraft Country explores how Lovecraft’s depiction of his mythos alongside his internalised racism corresponds with the racism of The United States between the 1910s and the 1950s, resulting in a fantastic series of novels adapted by Jordan Peele himself for HBO.
In a post-Korean War America, Atticus Freemanheard about a town called Ardham, Massachusetts where his missing father might be located. Jonathan joins up with his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) and uncle George Freeman (Courtney B. Vance) on a trip to Ardham to discover the truth. However, the truth is not what it seems.
Mild Spoilers For Episodes 1 & 2
Episode 1 was one of the best pilot episodes of 2020. Opening on a dream sequence mixing Korean War battles with UFOs and Lovecraftian monsters like Cthulhu and Nyarlahotep sets up the tone that will be established in this and future episodes. Atticus wakes up in a segregated bus heading to Chicago to meet his old family and friends after his service in the Korean war. The relationship between the story of Lovecraftian mythos continues not only from the opening, but also when Atticus discovers the location of his missing father from the pages of Lovecraft’s “On The Origins Of”.
As Atticus, George and Letitia head to Ardham, the realities of Jim Crow began to intersect with something unexplainable to the human eye, as the three were about to be lynched by an all-white police force, an unfortunate racial relic of the Jim Crow past that is still happening till this day with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Only then, the policemen were attacked by Lovecraftian creatures and the three survived to Ardham.
Of course, even the destination is not as fancy as the journey in Episode 2, as Atticus, Letitia and George realize that Ardham carried dark secrets that should never leave the town. From the history of slave labour to the uses of magic (that is aided with slave labour), our three protagonists had to survive the ordeal of being three African Americans in an all-white town of wealthy cultists.
As HBO looks to replace Game of Thrones in its slot with unique fantasy works, Lovecraft Country fills the void that other HBO shows like Westworld failed to accomplish. Though lacking in big names like other HBO programming, Lovecraft Country is filled with fantastic actors like Courtney B. Vance from American Crime Story and Michael K. Williams from The Wire.
Lovecraft Country came at an important time in American history as the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have highlighted decades of structural racism even after the end of Jim Crow laws, as police violence today is seen no different from what Atticus, George and Letitia faced during their trip to Ardham.
As two episodes aired, two police officers in Kenosha Wisconsin shot a young black man named Jacob Blake in the back as he was trying to end a domestic disturbance in his neighbourhood. For millions of African Americans in The United States, nothing has changed since the 1950s, and just like Lovecraft’s monsters of mythology, racism remains irrational and maddening to the human mind as ever.
Lovecraft Country is available on HBO Asia (CH411). The first episode is also available on HBO Max’s Youtube Channel.
About the author: Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi loves television, cinema and video games. A jogger and student by day and a cinephile by night, Mohamad Taufiq has the background and education to appreciate the good (Cats), the bad (Cats) and the ugly (Cats). You can follow him at https://letterboxd.com/Taufiq91/