HBO’s Lovecraft Country
1×09: “Rewind 1921”
Directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Written by Misha Green, Jonathan I. Kidd, & Sonya Winton-Odamtten
* For a recap & review of “Jig-A-Bobo,” click here.
* For a recap & review of the season finale, “Full Circle,” click here.
Poor Diana’s not well, her arm withered by the demons Topsy. The grownups are left to wonder how to fix things. Atticus suggests they call Christina, whereas his father doesn’t want to trust a “white witch.” Leti thinks they shouldn’t mess around with “more magic.” She also lets Atticus know about her trade with Christina and the invulnerability she was granted, despite not wanting to invoke further magic. They still have one last chance, if Ruby can use her new relationship with Christina to get them some help.
And they do, but it’s more difficult than simply casting a spell. Christina can only recent “the curse‘s cycle,” however, eventually Diana will still succumb to the curse. She agrees to do it, only if Atticus willingly goes with her back to Ardham on the night of the Autumnal Equinox. He agrees. This sets things in motion. They need Hippolyta’s blood, but she’s not around, which leaves Montrose.
The body-swapping spell Captain Lancaster and his men are trying to use isn’t working. The man’s almost dying from the stitched on Black skin over his chest. That’s when William/Christina shows up. She only ever wanted to make Lancaster suffer, she never really wanted to help him. And so she, through William’s eyes, watches as the life drains from the police captain right in front of her.
Big revelations come when Montrose is drinking and admits to Atticus that he may not be the young man’s father. This sends his son into a tailspin, thinking about all the years he’d hide from Montrose’s beatings and wish Uncle George was his real dead. A lot to process. Then, in walks Hippolyta like she was only on a road trip, not a trip across the cosmos. Worse is that Lyta’s come back to see Diana is transforming into the demonic Topsy.
The ritual to reverse the curse on Diana begins. That’s not a permanent solution, though. If they can’t do something more finite to cure the girl of that curse, then she’ll remain doomed to die, becoming a demon herself. Hippolyta’s taking action. She wants to find the Book of Names, so they can get to “the source of magic” and remove the curse. She’s going back to the observatory, to use the “multiverse machine.” She wants to use it, along with her space age tech, to go back to Tulsa in 1921. She’s also not taking no for an answer from Montrose or anybody else.
In Christina’s weird lab she has a new woman ready to become a meat sleeve for her to use. She’s confronted by Ruby about what her intentions really are helping Diana. Ruby asks if Christina plans to kill Atticus during the Autumnal Equinox. The witch says she requires all his blood for her plan. This doesn’t sit well with Ruby, though she’s not running out of there, either. Christina tries to chalk it all up to fate. This, again, doesn’t turn Ruby away, and she’s drunk on the power of being able to be white via magic.
At the observatory, Hippolyta’s working to fix the machine with Atticus helping. Leti and Montrose get Diana comfortable and her pregnancy comes up as the reason she took the chance at invulnerability. Montrose also tells her about how Atticus found out he’d die because of Christina’s spell. There are many conflicted emotions going on. Leti tells Montrose she’s having “a boy” right when Lyta gets the machine working again. Hippolyta becomes a literal “motherboard” and uses an old picture of her husband to channel a path back to Tulsa. This lets Atticus and Leti jump through time. It takes Montrose a moment, recalling the difficulty of his youth. But he goes through the rip in space and time, jumping into 1921 Tulsa.
To be back in Tulsa is a traumatic thing for Montrose, remembering how school got shut down only hours before the riots began— the first night, his wife’s house got burned down with the family inside. He, Leti, and Atticus head out on the streets. They cut through an alley where Montrose starts to have vivid memories of the riots. Atticus blames it on his father having a drink, instead of having a little compassion; it’s hard for him to do that, given his father beat him when he was young. He then says that their relationship’s over once Diana’s safe.
The trio come across a moment from Montrose’s early life, when his father Verton beat him brutally with a tree branch for wearing a corsage in his hair. Young Montrose was saved by the girl who’d grow into the woman he’d go on to marry, Dora. Such a sad scene, especially when Dora also admonishes young George for not picking up for his brother. While this is going on, Montrose wanders off. Atticus is sure his father’s going to try to warn young George about what will happen years later at Ardham.
Leti gets chased by white men back to the Freeman house, where she and Verton take shelter next door with Dora’s family. There are more white men waiting nearby with plenty of weapons. Verton goes on offence, as Dora’s father Gilbert hands out guns to everybody left inside the house, going up to take watch from the roof. “You shoot to warn, then you shoot to kill,” he tells the women. Across town, Atticus finds Montrose. His father’s not there to warn George, he’s there to warn a boy called Thomas so the boy won’t get shot in the head. Atticus tells Montrose he can’t save his friend—clearly an early lover, his first—because it could change the future, it could even prevent Atticus from being born. This moment’s a haunting thing for Montrose, as he watches himself call Thomas “a faggot” to push the boy away. Atticus is getting a view of all the sacrifices Montrose made to be his father. And it helps him reconcile some of his anger.
Leti just about gets shot by Hattie (Regina Taylor), forcing her to spill the beans about being “from the future.” She lays it all bare for the lady, who has a birthmark that helps confirm the story. The old woman realises things are about to go horrifically wrong for their family. Leti explains the future, telling Hattie they have to let the past play out as it does or else things will be altered irreparably. Hattie takes out the Book of Names from a hiding place, handing it over to Leti, as white men set the house on fire. At the same time, Montrose watches Thomas get killed, again, and then he tells his son of a stranger wielding a bat who saved him from the white men. But nothing happens. Atticus assumes they messed up time coming through the portal. Out of nowhere, a bat drops to the ground at his feet. Atticus becomes that mysterious bat-wielding stranger who ran in to save Montrose, by way of space and time warping. An amazing sequence here set to a version of Sonia Sanchez’s “Catch the Fire.” Leti watches Hattie accept her fate in the fire, untouched because of Christina’s magic.
Atticus and Montrose rush through the fiery streets back to the portal. Leti isn’t there, and something’s wrong with the portal. Atticus jumps through to see Hippolyta foaming at the mouth, unable to hold on longer. The portal disappears before Montrose can come through, and Leti’s still nowhere to be found. Montrose has to look down over Tulsa as white men hunt Black people down and shoot them, all the violence happening in the street below.
Soon, the portal begins opening again. Lyta puts her full force into it; she lifts off the ground, eyes rolling white into the back of her head and hair turning blue. Montrose waits in that room in Tulsa and Leti walks unscathed through the wreckage of the riots. They’re able to get through the portal before it closes. Lyta’s alive, albeit probably changed forever. At least they’ve got the Book of Names. They can hopefully cure Diana, and maybe do a whole lot more, too.
This is a contender for my favourite episode of Lovecraft Country. It took the whole season for me to really love the show because of a few major missteps along the way that muddied the whole sociopolitical intent of the show. I’m hoping there’ll be a Season 2. Not sure if that was the plan in the beginning, but the plot and story are hitting a nice stride now, it’d be a shame for the series not to continue at this pace.