Review: Lovecraft Country Episode 9, “Rewind 1921”


The latest episode of Lovecraft Country starts gathering the threads ahead of the big finish but still finds space to tell a great time travel story!

One thing I’ve really admired about Lovecraft Country is how it mixes longform and episodic storytelling. The season is clearly driving at a big climax: Tic and company searched for the lost pages to the Book of Names, the asshole police chief presented an obstacle, and things are finally going to come to a head with whatever Christina Braithwaite is planning at the Autumnal Equinox.

But each episode also has its own identity, whether it’s Hippolyta’s psychotropic trip through time and space in “I Am,” Ruby’s adventures in body horror in “Strange Case,” or Dee facing down these terrifying dancing demon girls last week. It’s compulsively, addictively watchable: if you don’t care for the monster of the week, you can take in the long game. If you’re bored by the search for pages (as I sometimes was), there’s always a haunted house or a nine-tailed fox demon who kills men at the moment of orgasm to enjoy…or whatever.

With only two episodes left, Lovecraft Country starts bringing threads together in “Rewind 1921,” with Tic, Leti, Montrose, Ruby, Dee and Hippolyta all officially involved in the magic A plot. But it also finds time for an episodic adventure. This…this is the time travel episode.

Dee is still cursed after the events of last week, and worse, seems to be slowly turning into one of the creepy demon girls that attacked her, and no one wants that. Christina buys Dee some time in exchange for Atticus coming with her back to Ardham to help with her immortality ritual, but she isn’t saved. For that, they need the Book of Names, and to get it, they need to travel back in time to take it from Tic’s ancestors. Happily, Hippolyta now knows how to fix the magic observatory where she spent over 200 years finding herself, and pretty soon Tic, Leti and Montrose are zapped back to Tulsa, Oklahoma, right before the Book of Names is consumed in a fire set during the Tulsa race massacre.

The Tulsa race massacre was a central plot point of HBO’s Watchmen. When that show aired, a lot of people were talking about how they’d never heard of this shameful part of American history. Now, not a year later, a different HBO show takes us into the massacre, giving us more of a worm’s eye view of the events.

Tic, Leti and Montrose arrive in Tulsa on the day of the massacre, but can’t tell anyone about it lest they screw up the future. It’s kind of like arriving in Pompeii right before the volcano blows, and the tension is palpable.

The most effecting scenes belong to Montrose. Michael K. Williams has done a tremendous job peeling back the layers of this hard, violent men; every time I think the show has reached the bottom of him, it keeps digging. Here, he watches his childhood self get beaten by his father alongside Tic and Leti. He watches as the boy he liked get shot in the head by invading white supremacists, tempted desperately to do something about it but ultimately restraining himself. There’s no excuse for the abusive way Montrose raised Tic, but in seeing how he himself was raised, we can come to understand him better, as Tic seems to.

The Montrose scenes give us a look at how trauma and pain are passed from one generation to another; even if Montrose didn’t mean to pass these things down to Tic, he did. And all of this is set against the backdrop of the Tulsa race massacre, which traumatized everyone who was involved in it and many more besides. I love the layering here.

If I have one complaint about the show, it’s that the dialogue sometimes sounds too writerly, as when Montrose, right before he watches his first love get shot in the head, gives a too-clean speech about how he lied to himself about his sexuality for years. I wish they would keep the dialogue a little more naturalistic, but in the face of how bold and beautiful this show often is, it’s a very minor gripe.

Leti has a banner week, too. She does manage to get the Book of Names out of Tic’s mother’s old house; the elderly matriarch of the family hands it over willingly, after Leti explains her complicated situation in the midst of the massacre. Lovecraft Country once more dips into its bottomless bag of special effects tricks for a terrifying, ecstatic scene as the flames burn the old woman to death, while Ruby is protected by her invulnerability.

In the end, the group manages to get back through the portal just as Hippolyta’s strength gives out. (She’s been keeping it open, and for some reason her hair turns blue from the effort; not sure what to make of that.) Hopefully they’ve saved Dee, but what will it mean for Atticus? I don’t know but I can’t wait to find out.

Episode Grade: A-

Bullet Point Country

  • Uh oh, Ruby is dangerously close to going fully over to the dark side. She’s okay with Christina killing Tic for her ritual so long as she leaves Leti alone, and was she implying that she wants to go out and kill a red-headed white woman so she can make polyjuice potion from her blood? I’m hoping she steps back from the edge, but it’s not looking good.
  • Christina, as William, gets the pleasure of finally seeing that sorcerer police chief die for good. I’m all for that, although I didn’t quite get the logic of why his magic was failing, or why he had a Black man’s body? Eh, he’s dead now.
  • Tic finds out that George may be his real father. At first he’s angry, but after their time travel adventure, they seem to come to an understanding.
  • Also, when it comes to time travel, Lovecraft Country is officially working on Back to the Future rules, not Avengers: Endgame rules. If they change things in Tulsa it can affect the future, and some of the things they do here they’ve already done, like adult Tic helping young Montrose and George fight the mob.

dark. Next. Review: Lovecraft Country finale, “Full Circle”

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