A muddled story filled with inconsistencies only provides the broadest form of social commentary, but “Lovecraft Country” is also just plain bad for fun.
[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Lovecraft Country” Season 1, Episode 10, “Full Circle,” including the ending.]
Identifying the bloodiest, most batshit moment in any episode of “Lovecraft Country,” let alone the finale, is an exercise for those with stomachs of steel – probably literal steel, being given the frank show we are talking about. But with hands over eyes, let’s look back at the finale’s final death for a second: Diana (Jada Harris) wielding the furious power of her cousin’s black shoggoth (again, the subtext is text in ” Lovecraft Country “), walks over to the half-crushed body of Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee) and looks at the trapped villain. Christina begs the teenager to save her; hoping, even while waiting for the young black lady to help this once invulnerable white lady – even though Christina fair murdered Diana’s dear friend and family member Tic (Jonathan Majors).
Of course, this being “Lovecraft Country” – HBO’s latest quirky horror show masquerading as a prestige television – the most extreme choice is played: Diana first reveals a sleek, new robot arm far too advanced for 1955, then uses said arm to crush Christina’s throat until as blood explodes through his sparkling metal fingers.
It’s… extremely disgusting, but before the Dark Shoggoth even finishes growling at the full moon, the final scene in the finale begins to crumble. So… Diana is a murderer now? Are we supposed to be happy a young girl who just went through the brutal death of her best friend and a demonic clown possession that cost him an arm is so quick to resort to murder? Or is it more of a classic finale moment – the kind that typically pops up in post-credits scenes these days, where next year’s big bad is billed as a tease for our heroes’ next quest?
Either way, it’s hard to deal with, and worse yet, the scene feels like fans are meant to be enjoying. Like much of the show that precedes it, the last shot looks cool. If it was another year, “Full Circle” would perform in a theater or two in Los Angeles or New York, probably at midnight, and when the shoggoth was done spitting on the moon, the audience would scream and howl. with the credits. But others sat in silence, still trying to figure out exactly what they had just seen, what it meant, and if there was anything else to think about as they left the theater.
Eli Joshua Ade / HBO
Far be it from me to pass a moral judgment on the vision of justice of black Americans in a totally unjust United States – in particular a vision of justice expressed through the prism of fantasy television. Christina definitely had to die, for a thematic closure as much as for the need for a new villain in Season 2. (Christina was fine, but she never felt like a proper threat compared to other monstrous individuals, like the despicable pilot’s sheriff or the aptly named Chicago Police, Captain Seamus.) But, both logically and emotionally, why didn’t Leti (Jurnee Smollett) have it killed? Christina not only killed the father of her child and the love of her young life, but she also murdered her sister, Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku)? And Leti was there! She could have finished Christina much faster, and the four adult survivors wouldn’t wait for Diana to come back to the car.
Honestly, that would have been a pretty funny post-credits scene: the four of them, who just finished carrying Tic’s body to Woody, the family station wagon, sit and sulk, check the time and get together. ask why their emotional teenage passenger is taking so long. Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) would be angry! There is crap to be done! The funeral was not going to be planned and all Diana had to do was sit in the car!
Looking back on Season 1 and heading into Season 2, this is the biggest problem facing “Lovecraft Country” – the series just doesn’t know how to have fun.
Yes, the main objective of the final is not a good time: Tic dies, Ruby dies, it’s very sad… except that it is not. Not really. “Lovecraft Country” killed Leti in the second episode and brought her back almost immediately; the moment only worked because Smollett is such a dedicated and intense performer, but in the long run, her rebirth has always set a standard: death doesn’t mean gone in “Lovecraft Country”, and there’s no reason to believe we saw the last of Tic or Ruby.
Also, details haven’t been a strong point throughout the season. Tic and Leti’s romance was sped up via pilot editing, then slammed on the brakes to make room for more intrigue, then rebooted when we needed to feel these two lovebirds. The same could be said for most characters in general. Majors and Smollett push their tiny size to the limit, time and time again, and Majors is uniquely adept at finding new reactions on similar emotional terrain. But they do more work to earn our devotion than scripts, which also struggle to build the world. Almost none of the magic / monster stuff makes sense, and the rules change too often for the audience to be in the moment with the characters. (Hippolyta shouting: “The spell will only work if their bodies are connected” at once by a Ji-Ah flashback to “becoming one with the darkness” is a hysterical quick fix to a poorly organized final fight.)
Eli Joshua Ade / HBO
This is after the finale has spent 40 minutes setting up the last 20, which still requires a decisive edit for more condensed exposure (the series of dreamy flashbacks when we learn Diana received the shoggoth + more steps in the plan to stop Christina). Their plan shouldn’t need this lots of explanations, and if you want to sit your audience this a lot of groundwork, then you have to smooth out those scenes with some substantial character development and some good old-fashioned entertainment. (Remember the first fight scene? When our two bosses summon ghosts … to fight … and kill … again? Yeah, that’s not fun either, just confusing.) The only one scene which is pure fun in a pumped up finale is the sing-a-long road trip (which is awesome, love it, give me more car rides).
If “Lovecraft Country” were weighed down by its social commentary, that would be one thing, but the series seems content to let most of its racial discourse play in the background: the parallels between these mystical stories and the world today. This clearly shows how the racism of the 1950s still exists, and it is still horrible. Declarative moments that force you out of the supernatural narrative exist – like Diana saying “I can’t breathe” when tortured by two cops in Episode 8, or Montrose (Michael K. Williams) reciting the names of real ones. victims of the Tulsa Massacre in Episode 9 – but the conversation never progresses beyond what was evident in Episode 1: Monsters are Scary, but Racism is more frightening.
Unless “Lovecraft Country” does a much better job of balancing its convoluted plot with precise character development, Season 2 needs to build on its most entertaining elements. Other than its excellent production design and pricey VFX, this is not a high profile TV show; it’s a crazy TV thriller. And that’s OK! Take the big budget and create bloodier, batshit TV; it’s often just as vital for audiences as it is for those steeped in imports, and such a talented ensemble and ambitious producers can certainly turn this one into something special. Right now, between the messy storytelling, flexible rules, and buckets of blood, it’s just too difficult to master “Lovecraft Country”.
Quality: C +
Season 1 of “Lovecraft Country” is now streaming on HBO Max.
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