HBO’s Lovecraft Country is ambitious and astounding and will undoubtedly blow your expectations away. Created by Misha Green, who’s working with Matt Ruff’s 1950s-set dark-fantasy novel as source material, the show counts horror visionary Jordan Peele and sci-fi maestro J.J. Abrams as executive producers. The show is full of literary and musical references, along with monsters, both in-your-face and and figurative; we’ll discuss the resulting symbolism on a weekly basis.
From the start, Lovecraft Country has gone gloriously overboard with the “episodic” label: the monster-chomping and cult-ritual episodes, the Poltergeist and Indiana Jones send-ups, and now, the deal-with-the-Devil story. It’s not an anthology series, but the episodes kinda feel that way while joyously jarring us with rapid tonal shifts. Hey, no one can accuse this show of not keeping viewers on their toes. We can guess at some of the reveals on the way, yet the presentation of those reveals end up being something else.
This week, the “Strange Case” episode follows up on Ruby’s apparent partnership with William and emerges with some consequential revelations, in addition to what’s going on with Montrose. I will get a little bit spoiler-y about the Lovecraft Country novel, so be forewarned, but let’s get on with the two most WTF transformations — oh, those gory visuals and sound effects — of the week.
Yep, Christina and William are the same person.
A lot of people guessed the blonde duo’s oneness along the way. It could be argued that this was a poorly kept secret, but I don’t see it that way because, even after about 800 hints, the writers delivered this transformation in the most unexpected (and graphic) way: with Christina emerging from the sloughed-off skin of William.
We knew that Christina was into the spell-making thing, so the magic potion seems (by the standards of this show) logical enough. But a magic potion with a transformation that forces one to literally tear their way out of their host-skin? Jesus.
A lot of stuff’s happening here. Ruby’s finding out that she’s actually been sleeping with Christina, for one thing. Yet the nature of William’s existence remains a semi-mystery. That’s where the show heads off into some uncharted territory because neither Christina nor William exist in Matt Ruff’s novel. Instead, Samuel Braithwaite had a son named Caleb, who did a lot of what Christina does (the ceremony rigging, the transfer of money/the Winthrop House to Leti), but the gender-flipping adds new elements to the cult dynamic. Christina’s got an ax to grind for being held down due to being a woman, and she’s clearly a feminist. She’s not overtly racist like her father and the cult, but Atticus suspects that she wants to decode the missing Book of Names pages to wipe out Black America with nefarious spells, much like Titus did with Yahima’s people.
As for William? He may actually exist as a separate entity (I’ll get to that theory soon) when Christina’s not inhabiting his body. What’s also interesting about William being inserted into this series is that the real-life William Braithwaite was an African-American professor, author, and critic who helped helm the revival of American poetry in the early 20th century. He focused upon publishing Harlem Renaissance poets by founding his own publishing house, and his business partner happened to be romantically involved with (the virulently racist) H.P. Lovecraft.
This history may or may not tie into William’s real nature (enemy, ally, or something else?), or that of Christina, but it suggests that their intent isn’t cut-and-dried. And as for my further theory on William, yeah, I suspect he exists as a separate entity. After all, Christina told Ruby that Chicago PD Captain Lancaster tried to kill William. We could view that as Christina simply manipulating Ruby into planting a relic in the captain’s office, and hell, that might be true. But there’s a good chance that William is somewhere else, and we simply don’t know where yet. Here’s why…
Ruby is Hillary, who is Dell.
Remember Dell, the Dog Whistle Lady from the village near Ardham?
She’s back (as I guessed that she would be), but she’s no longer Dell.
Weeks ago, Leti knocked Dell out in the cell that imprisoned Montrose. Her body is now — through the power of that funky potion — the vessel for Ruby to appear as “Hillary” in Chicago. Through Hillary, Ruby receives confirmation that whiteness is the only currency she needs to gain almost anything she desires, and the show makes that case well. Yet in the book, Dell was still alive (although incapacitated, which might tie into Ruby wondering what’s happening in William’s basement). And that’s why I suspect that the “real” William is hanging around somewhere as well.
Wouldn’t it be a total trip if Christina’s whole plan to decode the missing pages was to whip up a spell where the transformations weren’t quite so excruciating? I realize that Lovecraft Country has bigger fish to fry, but damn, I still think that spell would be worth chasing down as well.
As for Ruby, she did a number on Mr. Hughes. While transforming, she executed a rape-avenger manuever akin to Lisbeth Salander’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo revenge on her rapist. This takes Lovecraft Country into dicier territory. Yes, Mr. Hughes did attempt to rape Tamara, a Black employee, while (disgustingly) insisting, “Just let me smell it.” And Ruby, uh, succeeded at raping Mr. Hughes with a high-heeled shoe, which was quite visceral. I expect there to be discussion on whether the scene went too far (with people feeling more conflicted than while watching monsters-eating-baddies).
Enough gore; here’s another transformation.
Montrose v. Himself:
Montrose is nursing a few head wounds, but other than that, he’s physically fine. Internally? That’s another matter, but he’s feeling (overall) better than last week. We receive confirmation of Montrose’s repressed homosexuality, which is something that Tree had suggested. Of course, Tree also (falsely) claimed to have slept with Leti in high school, but Tree’s gossip ended up being true on the Montrose end. We see him with a lover, and he attends a drag show — all after Atticus nearly beat his dad to a pulp.
That Montrose killed Yahima now takes on new layers, when his motive last week appeared to be one of two things: (1) Protecting Atticus; (2) Carrying out some sort of spell while possibly possessed. At this point, we can probably discard the latter angle, but Montrose is clearly traumatized by what he’s witnessed throughout Black U.S. history. Seeing him start a fire and snarl about how it “smells like Tulsa” takes things back to his suggested witnessing of the 1921 Race Massacre went down, including the bombing of Black Wall Street. Montrose also clearly nurses a hefty dose of self-loathing, which may have given him additional fuel (beyond Yahima’s ability to translate the scroll) to murder Yahima, given that the Two-Spirit entity presented as a trans person.
– What’s up with that woman who Atticus keeps contacting in South Korea? And on a related note, who’s paying for those long-distance charges? Series writer Shannon M. Houston is wondering the same thing.
a question nobody ever answered for me in the writers room: who THEE fuck is gonna pay for all these calls Tic keeps making to KOREA?! Not my kween #LetiLewis, i know that much. #LovecraftCountry pic.twitter.com/w0rReIh3G4
— shannon M houston (@shannonmhouston) September 14, 2020
– How will the police shenanigans further develop? Did you catch this moment, by chance? Also, Christina pushed Ruby to plant that relic in Captain Lancaster’s office (he worked with Hiram), and Ruby discovered far more than anticipated. That man in the closet might have been the most vomit-inducing part of the episode. That’s saying a lot.
– When will we see Hippolyta again? George’s widow is searching for answers, and she’s also got Hiram’s orrery, which is apparently the key to unlocking his time machine. Hopefully, we’ll find out more answers to that soon. In the meantime, Atticus is feverishly working to decode the scrolls (in a house that sits above the tunnels) in between getting it on with Leti and punching his dad. “Strange Case” was a very strange episode!
HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ airs Sundays at 9:00pm EST.