Last week’s episode of Lovecraft Country delved into the relationship between Atticus and Ji-Ah during the Korean war. Turns out Atticus’ analysis that things between them ended “strangely” was a severe understatement.
This week, we check back in with Hippolyta on her quest to learn what really happened to George (and maybe explore some interdimensional time travel along the way).
Here Come the Suns
The episode opens with Hippolyta doing furious calculations over something to do with the orrery she took from the Winthrop House. We then flash back to three days ago and her exploring the ruins of Samuel Braithwhite’s lodge. She conveniently locates a board with a symbol on that’s emblazoned on the orrery. She also finds the comic Diana gave to George before he left, confirming her suspicions that his death in Devon County was much more complicated/strange than people are telling her.
Back in the present, Hippolyta shoves away the orrery in frustration. After laying down, however, her perspective combined with the mechanical model’s upturned placement give her the final piece to the puzzle. She locks the device into place, which causes it to spin and emit and otherworldly glow. The orrery’s largest planet then unlocks to reveal a key, some coordinates, and a cryptic message.
In case you forgot, Episode 5 ended with Ruby discovering that Christina and William were actually the same person. Immediately following that moment, Christina takes Ruby down to the basement that had always been locked/off limits. Inside are the dead bodies of Dell (who Ruby looked like after drinking the metamorphosis potion) and William. Both corpses are also having their blood drained to make more of the shape shifting elixir.
Despite Christina’s assurance that both of them were already dead, Ruby is justifiably freaked out. She is also angry about being lied to. Christina counters that everything she said to her as William was genuine.
She also explains that her story about Captain Lancaster attempting to kill William was real except for the part where he was unsuccessful.
Before that, Christina had recruited him to convince her father to teach him magic. He then passed that knowledge on to her. Since William’s murder, she has been on two missions: To get revenge and (more importantly) to become the great wielder of magic her father never allowed simply because she was a woman.
When Ruby demands that Christina tell her everything, she responds that the whole truth involves pages from the lost Book of Names…and her family.
Roots and Seeds
Ruby awakens from a dream in which she’s chasing Atticus’ ancestor Hannah through the burning husk of Titus’ lodge. Just like in Atticus’ dream, she ends up being burned alive. Unlike him, she’s also pregnant.
Leti goes into the study and finds that Atticus has been up all night translating Hiram’s pages and worrying about the mystical war they’ve become involved in. After figuring out that they both had almost the exact same dream, Atticus theorizes that Hanna might be trying to warn them about something. They also realize she was carrying a book which might very well have been the lost Book of Names.
If they can somehow get their hands on that, it wouldn’t just give them access to multiple spells. It would also serve as a step-by-step instruction manual on how to safely cast them. They decide to visit Montrose to see what he can tell them about Atticus’ mother’s side of the family–most of whom were killed in the Tulsa Massacre.
Meanwhile, Montrose wakes up to Sam making them breakfast after spending the night at his place for the first time. Their brief moment of domestic bliss is shattered when Sam tells him about seeing one of his neighbors during a quick run to the store. Montrose immediately becomes fearful/paranoid and takes it out on his lover, chastising him for how poorly he prepared their meal.
Sam wisely recognizes the gaslighting taking place and leaves. Montrose begs him to stay and follows Sam into the hallway, where Atticus and Leti are just arriving to see him. After Sam leaves, Atticus calls his father a f----t. This prompts Montrose to berate his son for calling him that, which is the first time I’ve ever been on Montrose’s side in an argument.
Atticus becomes even more enraged when Montrose admits that his mother knew he was gay. After storming outside, Leti follows him and reveals that Montrose told her about a cousin his mother had who survived in Tulsa. That cousin also had a friend in St. Louis whose address he gave to Leti.
Atticus is pleased with the new intel, but still can’t shake the confusion and anger he feels over learning about his father’s homosexuality–especially since he now knows much of the abuse he suffered as a child was due to Montrose’s pain over having to live a lie.
Later, Atticus and Leti go to Hippolyta’s shop, where they’re surprised to find her leaving Diana with Ruby in preparation to go on a suspect guide trip. When she steadfastly refuses to let them borrow the car, Atticus decides to take the bus to St. Louis while Leti stays behind to mend fences with her sister. Things between the two remain icy until Leti apologizes, something that their mother never did.
That night, Leti plays cards with Diana and some of her friends before checking in with Ruby to see when dinner will be ready. After lying to each other about the current events in their lives, Leti shows an unexpected aversion to garlic, which Ruby jokes might be due to her being pregnant.
As you can probably imagine, it’s no joking matter to Leti, especially after the dream from last night. She heads upstairs to get some air and ends up in Hippolyta’s room, where she conveniently finds the orrery that went missing from her house.
Meanwhile, Atticus arrives in St. Louis and visits his mother’s cousin’s friend, who graciously welcomes him into her home for dinner. After getting some background about his mother’s family (who he never knew), she reveals that there was a very important book they talked about having, but she always assumed it was a family Bible or photo album. She also tells him that it was likely destroyed in Tulsa.
Atticus is clearly disappointed by the news, but still indulges the friend of his family and goes through an old photo album with her. While looking at pictures that include members of his family, he notices one of them has a birthmark on their arm that looks exactly like one on his back.
Right as he’s making this discovery, Ruby calls the woman’s house to tell him about finding the orrery. They both realize the “guide trip” Hippolyta took was actually to the coordinates on the model–and that she might be in a lot of danger.
Meanwhile, Ruby spies on Leti’s phone conversation from behind the bedroom door.
Hippolyta travels take her to an a observatory in Mayfield, Kansas. She goes inside and finds a strange device, which turns on with the help of the key inside from inside the orrery. She then begins furiously working out more calculations to deduce what the machine does and how it might work.
Just as she appears to be figuring it out, a pair of police officers walk in while loudly (and conveniently) discussing that they work for Lancaster. After seeing that the machine has been turned on, they quickly find Hippolyta and demand to know what she’s doing there. Thankfully, she’s saved by the arrival of Atticus, who somehow made seven hour drive from St. Louis to Mayfield Kansas in record time.
The four begin to fight, which ends up knocking the machine and causing it to open what appears to be a cycling dimensional doorway. Atticus uses the distraction to hit one of the officers and throw him through it. When the other officer charges him, Hippolyta picks up one of their guns and shoots him.
Before she can even process what just happened, the portal picks Hippolyta up and sucks her in, as well.
Time Warp Again
Stay with me now, because things are about to get weird.
Hippolyta soars through a cosmic void before landing on a strange planet. It appears to be devoid of life except for a glowing white structure in the distance. The glow intensifies and brings forth two robotic humanoid figures who begin walking toward her.
We then jump to Hippolyta waking up naked in a white room. After noticing a strange purple glow emitting from her wrists (and appropriately freaking out), she puts on a grey jumpsuit that has been left for her and attempts to leave the room. Unfortunately, it’s protected by a force field.
Things become even more bizarre when a door behind her opens to reveal one of the robotic humanoids. This time, however, the figure has the face of a woman with an exceptionally large afro. When Hippolyta asks her to identify herself, she responds by simply stating “I am”. The figure responds to Hippolyta’s other questions (what is happening, where am I, etc.) by assuring her she’s not in a prison before locking her inside the room.
Hippolyta yells and bangs on the door until her hands begin to bleed. After laying down in defeat, she decides to forgo brute force and try using her formidable mind, instead.
She eventually figures out how to dislodge a piece of metal from her bed, which she uses to open up an electrical panel and mess with the room’s wiring. This earns Hippolyta another visit from the Afro Woman, who proceeds to telekinetically kick her ass. She then reiterates her statement that Hippolyta is not in a prison before demanding that she “name herself” and asking where she wants to be
Hippolyta responds to this absurdity by laughing and saying she wants to be dancing on stage in Paris with Josephine Baker. This declaration immediately sends her to a stage in Paris dancing with none other than Josephine Baker.
*Side Note: Josephine Baker was a very real, interesting, and exceptional historical figure. I’ll admit that I did not know anything about her until watching this episode. When you add in Watchmen’s use of the Tulsa Massacre, that’s twice now that I’ve learned things from an HBO series I wish I’d learned in school.*
Despite being on stage with one of her idols, Hippolyta’s experience being dropped into the middle of a professional dance production without knowing any of the moves is less than ideal. While the other dancers chastise her for nearly ruining the show, Baker offers some pointers and kind words of encouragement.
As the weeks go by, Hippolyta becomes much more comfortable, both with the dances and her fellow dancers. She also gets close with Baker. One night, the two are discussing how difficult it can be to not let your true desires and talents shine through. In Hippolyta’s case, she now holds even more resentment toward the systemic oppression by white people that has played a part in holding her back–so much so that it makes her want to kill them.
After proudly/angrily declaring her name again, she’s sent back through time/space again, this time to a village of Black women warriors. As if that wasn’t jarring enough, she’s dropped right into the middle of a training session with the head warrior, who is completely ruthless with her.
After a speech about overcoming the bonds of literal and metaphorical slavery, the pair spend weeks training until Hippolyta is molded into a badass fighter. She is then crowned the commander of their army, who she takes outside to fight an oncoming horde of armed Confederate soldiers. Thankfully, they’re polite enough not to use their guns, which leads to them being brutally slaughtered in melee combat by Hippolyta’s army.
As another wave of soldiers approaches, Hippolyta gives a speech about refusing to let themselves feel shame for the anger and desire for freedom that burns within them. She then declares “I am Hippolyta, George’s wife.” This teleports her to a place where she is laying in bed with George Freeman (and causing all of us to squeal with joy).
After sharing a tender moment together, she regales her baffled husband with tales of her adventures through time and space along with her discovery/confirmation that the Many World Interpretation of quantum mechanics is real.
She then admits that she resented George for making her feel small and stifling her desire for exploration and adventure. He realizes she’s right and apologizes, telling her that he wants Hippolyta to unleash all the potential she’d ever withheld. This leads to them turning into characters from Diana’s comic and discovering an inhabited planet together.
From there, she’s transported to a meeting with a celestial version of the Afro Woman, who says she can be integrated into their society now that she’s finally named/discovered herself. Despite wanting to stay and explore all the boundless opportunities before her, Hippolyta asks to be sent back to earth for the sake of her daughter.
Meanwhile, Atticus is thrown back through the portal into the observatory. After calling out to his aunt and receiving no response, he desperately tries to get the machine working again. When that fails, he looks down and notices that a book called Lovecraft Country by George Freeman is in his hand. As police approach, he leaves the observatory…which still houses one dead police officer and Diana’s comic.
I’ll admit that part of me was hoping for a bit more of a standard adventure featuring Hippolyta’s search for answers about George. I knew there would be weird/cosmic elements, but not quite to this crazy level. I also wish we’d spent an entire episode with her and Diana instead of cutting back to other parts of the narrative so much. Those sections were definitely interesting, but Hippolyta’s story felt big enough to deserve its own full hour.
I did like this episode for the most part, though. Even when things got a little too trippy/esoteric for my taste, Aunjanue Ellis was superb in every scene. There are not many actors who could make such a bizarre tale feel so emotionally grounded and poignant, but she pulls it off brilliantly.
That being said, the structural complexity of her story was nothing compared to the narrative vagueness it ended with. I can take casual references to the Many Worlds Interpretation, but it’d be really nice to know where the heck she ended up and how Atticus had that meta-looking book in his hand.
Speaking of Atticus…even in an episode that deals with the elasticity of time and space, him showing up from seven hours away at just the right time is by far the craziest thing we saw. I guess you could argue that she was doing calculations for 7 hours (and that the sun never came up), but I don’t buy it.
I did like that we got some new insight on Ruby and Christina, although it felt weird to drop those huge story bombs and walk away from them for the rest of the episode.
As far as Montrose is concerned, I’m back to hating the guy again. Much as it broke my heart to hear Atticus call him a homophobic slur, that can at least be explained as being a product of the time. Doesn’t make it right, of course, but at a bit more understandable. Meanwhile, watching Montrose’s horrible treatment of a man who loves him despite his many flaws is infuriating.
Also, I can’t be the only one who was surprised he gave up the info he did to Leti, especially after what just happened. Even if he wasn’t still reeling from his encounter with Atticus, it’s hard to believe he’d give up information that would help him and Leti when he’s actively been trying to throw them off their quest.
Let’s step back to the main narrative, though. Whether you’re a fan of weird/heady science fiction or not, you gotta love getting to see George again. As magnificent as this cast has been, Courtney Vance’s presence is still greatly missed.
We also got some impressively gorgeous visuals. The stuff in Paris was great (and sent me down a delightful research rabbit hole on Josephine Baker), but I’d watch a whole episode featuring Hippolyta leading an army.
As it stands, however, we got just half an episode’s worth of her journey, which still has a lot left to be explored. I love that she finally discovered herself and broke free of the mental prison she’d been in, but her struggle was so far removed from reality (literally) that her triumph didn’t feel as satisfying as it should.
Perhaps we will see more of it later. For now, I just hope Atticus can use his super speed to get away from that observatory and back to Chicago by morning.