North Texas Daily

Season one of ‘Lovecraft Country’ is a mostly solid success

Season one of ‘Lovecraft Country’ is a mostly solid success

Season one of ‘Lovecraft Country’ is a mostly solid success
October 22
21:21 2020

Content warning: Minor spoilers ahead

“We have to stop letting their fear shape us.”

So, “Lovecraft Country” brought its first season to a thunderous finish Sunday night. Across ten episodes, the Freeman and Baptiste families struggled against mind-bending horrors, a cult of sinister wizards and racist America for their safety. Throughout, showrunner Misha Green and her team mixed explorations of Black identity, the idea of family and cosmic horror to mostly success.

The first four episodes of “Lovecraft Country” have already been covered, and the praise that was given to those episodes pretty much goes for everything covered here. The acting is solid from everyone, especially from Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett and Michael Kenneth Williams. Majors and Smollett continue to have great chemistry as Tic and Leti, while Williams’s Montrose gains more sympathy and complexity as more of his backstory is exposed to the audience.

However, the second half of the season gives Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku), Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) and Dee (Jada Harris) each and every chance to shine.

As Ruby, Mosaku dazzles as this conflicted, repressed woman who gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fulfill a taboo desire. As Hippolyta, Ellis explores the dreams and fantasies of a woman no longer restricted by time and space, even working through her own problems with her late husband. Lastly, Harris impresses in her character-focused episode as Dee, fighting to outdo a blood curse.

The second half of the season gives the supporting women of “Lovecraft Country” their own spotlights and each of the actresses nail it. Abbey Lee also gets to some deeper character cuts as Christina, who continues to fascinate as an antagonist, going between condescendingly evil and oddly helpful to our heroes.

As the show goes along, Green and her team dive deeper into the characters, with the middle-to-end being mostly comprised of slice-of-life narratives that really dig into the protagonists’ desires and complexities. “I Am” gives the until-now underused Hippolyta considerable depth, while “Jig-a-Bobo” balances plot development with a dash-against-inevitability that climaxes in an absolutely cathartic bloodbath.

Another standout episode is “Rewind 1921,” which is another depiction of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. While “Watchmen” earned praise for a no-holds-barred depiction of genocide and for being unafraid to show just how vile the worst of white supremacy is, “Lovecraft Country” goes for a less-visceral, more character-driven exploration of the town right before the massacre. It’s a damn-good dramatization in its own right and a nice contrast to its sister show.

The horror is also much better, setting in on more disturbing implications about the main characters’ existence, while not being afraid to touch on societal taboos in considerably unexpected ways and some truly disgusting special effects.

However, two criticisms still hold up, plus another.

One, the depiction of LGBT+ characters still needed tweaking — after Yahima’s (Monique Candelaria) murder in the first half and a certain violent character being outed as gay, the second half does not do much better. The rest of the LGBT+ characters are either manipulative racists or murdered violently. Green has apologized and admitted she failed Indigenous viewers for how she handled Yahima, so the creative team is at least listening and seemingly addressing their failures.

Two, while the rest of the show dives into more classic “Lovecraftian” tropes, such as curses and beings from beyond time and space, there are times where it seems to pull from horror as a whole rather than cosmic horror. This is much more of a nitpick, and “I Am” plays with expectations of powerful aliens beautifully, so it’s not as bad as it was in the first half.

However, “Lovecraft Country” suffers from a slightly larger problem — the series doesn’t give all its plot threads enough care. By the season finale, the show is juggling Tic’s potential impending death, the true identity of his father, Dee’s own resentment toward her parents, Montrose’s trauma and Leti’s pregnancy — it just becomes a lot to bear. While it is not overwhelming, it is pretty clear Green and her writers could have cut some stuff and more finely threaded certain plot yarns.

While “Lovecraft Country” has some strong individual narratives, the resulting mosaic is somewhat muddled and inconsistent, if entertaining.

Regardless, Green and her writing team have delivered a solid debut season and a strong springboard for future stories. With a second season all but confirmed to be on the way, “Lovecraft Country” is an excellent addition to horror television.

Final rating: 3.75/5

Featured image: Courtesy HBO

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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