Last week’s penultimate chapter of Lovecraft Country concluded with Atticus, Leti, and Montrose returning from a trip back in time (via Hippolyta’s awesomeness) with the Book of Names. The good news is that it should help Diana get rid of that nasty curse Lancaster put on her.
The bad news is that it brings us one major step closer to Atticus being sacrificed by Christina so she can become immortal.
Before we dive into the finale, I wanted to take a moment and give Lovecraft Country showrunner Misha Green some major credit. Remember last week when the observatory was shown as being in Kentucky when and we all thought it was in Kansas? Well, she addressed it:
Considering all the dimensional weirdness and time traveling on the show recently, Green could have totally played this slip up off as a mystery–just like a lot of other showrunners/EPs do when they make continuity mistakes (cough LOST cough). Instead, she owned up to it and gave fans an answer. Her brilliant writing is good enough on its own, but this makes me an even bigger fan than I was before.
Now let’s see if Green & Co. can stick the landing on what has been a fantastic journey thus far.
The episode opens with Atticus, Leti, Hippolyta, and Montrose rushing a deteriorating Diana home to perform a spell from the Book of Names to save her. Things immediately get weird after Atticus reads a spell in the eldritch Language of Adam (which sounds like a very close relative to the fictional R’lyehian from Lovecraft’s mythos).
First, the Book of Names flips open to a page featuring the same birthmark Atticus shares with his mother’s side of the family. After that, Atticus and Leti pass out and fall to the floor. Unbeknownst to their panicked companions, the pair have entered a dream/ethereal realm.
Leti finds herself in a red hued recreation of Dora’s home before it was burned down–specifically the room in Tulsa where Hattie gave her the Book of Names. Hattie shows up as well, explaining that she and Atticus must learn how to wield the book’s power to protect their unborn son.
She also reveals that the Red Realm she’s finds herself in was unknowingly created by Hannah when she opened the book (which she mistakenly believed to be Hell). Before taking her own life, Hannah bound the Book of Names shut so that the pain it caused wouldn’t be visited upon her ancestors.
It now falls to Leti to protect the book. Hattie implores her not to bind it out of fear, but to instead use its gifts to protect her family.
Meanwhile, Atticus finds himself in a red hued recreation of his recurring dream where he chases Hannah through the burning Sons of Adam Lodge. This time, however, he can hear his ancient relative speak when she tells him “the answer is in your blood.”
Hannah goes on to explain to explain that after escaping from Titus, she used a spell to hide their bloodline from those who know magic (hence where the birthmark came from). Unfortunately, the flames that chased her from Titus’ home continued in her dreams, causing her to take her own life.
While trapped inside the Red Realm, Hannah came to realize that the flames were actually her rage, which she learned to tame and wield. She also discovered that magic was not something to be feared, but a gift to be passed on.
Atticus then admits that he unbound the Book of Names to save his cousin. Hannah responds that he’s going to “save them all.”
Following a bright flash of light, Atticus finds himself in a red hued recreation of his childhood home…and face to face with his mother.
Dora warmly embraces her son before inviting him to sit down with her. Atticus lays his head in her lap and tearfully admits that he’s afraid to die, which he will if he does what Hannah says is required of him.
Dora responds that as scary as it might seem, we should not fear the path laid out before us–especially when it leads to what we are supposed to do. She was always destined to have both Montrose and George be part of her life. Because of that, Atticus was molded into a man containing the best parts of both of them. Now his sacrifice will change everything for the ones he loves.
Dora then leads Atticus into another room that looks like the same one in the real world where Diana is. It’s also where Hattie is teaching Leti spells from the Book of Names.
After giving his mother one last hug, they join Hattie and Leti in a circle around the bed. As Hattie begins to recite from the Book of Names, Diana’s curse is transferred into the Red Realm, where it quickly disappears.
Back in the real world, Atticus and Leti wake up with a start to find that Diana’s appearance has returned to normal…mostly. The girl wakes up, takes one look at her still mangled arm, and begins to scream.
Pound of Flesh
While Leti works on what Hattie taught her, Atticus explains to Montrose that the spell Hannah showed him requires a physical tie between him, Titus, and Christina. His father isn’t having it though, especially when the book his future grandson wrote says that Atticus will die by Christina’s hand during her spell ceremony.
Atticus assures his father that the future in the book can be changed, but the look on Leti’s face tells a different story. Montrose begs them to leave, explaining that the birthmark he carries will hide them from Christina. Atticus counters by saying that everything they’ve been through is proof that the evil will always find them.
It’s time to make a stand using the power that is also their family’s birthright.
I’m guessing he won the argument, because the next scene shows Atticus and Leti heading to the Winthrop House to use its underground portal for a trip to the Braithwhite vault in Boston (from back in Episode 4).
After putting his hand on a subbasement door to calm down Sprinkles the Shoggoth (!!!), the pair take the elevator into the vault’s watery depths and hike back out into the central chamber. They immediately get to work pouring salt in a binding circle formation and drawing glyphs with Atticus’ blood. Once that’s completed, they chant a spell in the Language of Adam that results in Titus Braithwhite being summoned before them.
They also summon Hannah, who Titus angrily asks why he’s brought back. When she explains that it’s to exact some payback for attempting to sacrifice her baby, he calls her “ungrateful” (along with some other choice words) before chastising his former slave for using “his” magic. After Hannah explains that he can’t steal what wasn’t his to begin with, Atticus attempts to attack Titus only to be tossed aside.
When Leti tries an attack of her own, Titus vanishes from the vault and reappears in the middle a street…and right in front of Christina and Ruby traveling in the silver Bentley.
*Side Note: I know it’s tempting to write this off as a ridiculously convenient occurrence, but it actually makes a lot of sense. If there’s one place Titus’ temporarily freed soul would be drawn to, it’s in the close vicinity of his only living white descendent.
Christina swerves to miss the seemingly random pedestrian and crashes into a phone pole, ejecting her from the front windshield. She is unharmed, but her first and only concern is Ruby, who she rushes back to check on. After seeing that her friend/lover is okay, she takes note of the man she almost hit and immediately recognizes who it is.
Just as he’s telling her that Atticus and Leti are in the possession of the Book of Names, he’s teleported back to the vault. This time the trio from before are joined by Hattie and Dora, who cast a spell that binds him to the circle. Atticus attacks again and doesn’t miss, knocking the old man down before ripping open his shirt and cutting off a large slice of his flesh.
With their brutal task completed, Atticus and Leti cast another spell that sends the mutilated spirit of Titus back to wherever he came from. They also reluctantly cast a spell allowing Hannah, Hattie, and Dora’s spirits to dissipate, as well
Back in Chicago, Diana is justifiably traumatized and angry about what happened to her. Even when Hippolyta explains why she left and what she experienced (and that she was always planning to come back), Diana points out that none of it excuses abandoning her–especially when you consider the terrifying ordeal she had to go through alone.
Meanwhile, Atticus, Leti, and Montrose make preparations for their trip to Ardham. Leti suggests they ask Ruby to help them get a piece of Christina’s flesh for the spell, which Montrose is definitely not on board with. Atticus also points out that they need to amplify their level of intention, which will be even more difficult since they can’t summon the ancestors again (BOOOO!).
The intention issue is solved when Hippolyta walks in and pledges to help them. Their moment of solidarity quickly morphs into fear/awkwardness when Christina drops by for an unexpected visit.
She attempts to explain that sacrificing Atticus is simply a tragic cost of her spell to become immortal and nothing at all personal. This goes over about as well as you’d expect.
Christina then reveals that she knows they have the Book of Names. If Atticus is willing to give it to her, she promises to find a way to become immortal without his death and leave his family alone. When he refuses, Christina casts a spell removing Leti’s invulnerability before storming out.
Atticus calls Ji-Ah and asks her to meet him for dinner, where he admits that what they had together in Korea was real. He also apologizes for how he spoke to her back in Episode 8, explaining that he thought if he could deny their relationship, then he could also deny what she saw in his future.
Ji-Ah confesses that after losing Young-ja and her mother (and Atticus in a way), she fears not having anyone to love anymore. Atticus tells her that the feelings people have for each other never truly vanish. The grieving we experience after losing someone we care deeply about is something that requires the love and support of family. Considering all they went through together and how much they cared for each other, that’s what Ji-Ah is to him.
Feeling a huge burden lifted from her heart, Ji-Ah tells Atticus about what the shaman revealed to her back in Episode 6. In response to her prediction that he’s destined to die and Ji-Ah will “enter the darkness,” Atticus says he doesn’t believe it. She’s living proof that we always have a choice: To be monsters or to be heroes.
The next day, Leti and Ruby visit their mother’s grave. Leti finally tells her sister that she didn’t come to her funeral because she was in jail. That said, she still didn’t want to go. They aren’t obligated to consider Eloise Baptiste their family just because she gave birth to them. Family are the people willing to sacrifice everything to protect each other.
Leti uses her heartfelt speech as a segue into asking Ruby to provide them with a piece of Christina’s body so they can defeat her. Ruby points out that Leti only considers her “family” when she needs something. As she turns to leave, Leti tells her sister that there’s more she needs to know.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to hear what that is. Instead, the scene cuts to Diana scratching out the faces of her best friend’s killers on a newspaper article about their acquittal. She’s interrupted when Hippolyta slides a beautifully drawn comic featuring Orinthia Blue (the hero she created) under her door.
While Diana marvels at the work, Hippolyta reveals that she was the one who drew it. During her travels through time, another artist named Afua (who is actually the very real and extremely talented Afua Richardson) trained her. Now she plans to pass those skills on to her daughter. Diana responds by pointing out that she’ll never draw again now that her drawing arm is a mangled, useless mess.
As Hippolyta leads her daughter down the hallway, she explains that people often get stuck on moments in time when things are difficult instead of looking at it as just a small part of the tapestry of their experiences. This moment of hardship in Diana’s life will pass…and she is going to make sure of it.
After apologizing to her daughter for letting her down, Hippolyta promises to make things right before opening the door to her study/laboratory. We don’t get to see what Hippolyta made, but based on Diana’s reaction, it appears to be something substantially awesome.
*Spoiler Alert: It is.
Back at Christina’s place, Ruby returns and asks her to explain the process behind her upcoming spell. Christina goes through the elements we already know about (intention, location, body, and incantation) before revealing a glass vial containing her blood, hair, and nails.
By the look on Ruby’s face, we can tell that she’s at least considering taking it to help Leti and Atticus. Christina can tell something’s up, but doesn’t seem to suspect Ruby’s inner conflict. Instead, she expresses her concern that if her spell doesn’t work, she will have killed the last living member of her family for nothing.
Ruby responds by assuring Christina that her spell is going to work–and that she does have family because she has her now. This leads to the pair sharing their first kiss together in their respective “prime” forms.
Meanwhile, Atticus is baptized in church at Leti’s request. The poor guy is clearly freaked out, both at how this lines up with the visions he had of his future and the thought of dying before his child is born. Leti assures him that God will take care of them, but Atticus doesn’t believe that.
Leti then tells him how she finally realized that instead of chasing faith outside of herself, she learned to look within–which is where God/Christ is anyway. She sees the beauty of Him in Atticus and their baby. By believing in Him, Atticus also has faith in them.
Fox in the Family Room
The next day, Atticus looks at his family (both blood and chosen) with wistful pride as they prepare to leave for Ardham. Just as they’re about to depart, Ruby shows up and reveals that she managed to snag a vial of Christina’s flesh for them to use.
After the sisters share a warm embrace, they get in the car along with Atticus, Montrose, Ji-Ah, Hippolyta, and Diana for a date with destiny. On the way there, “Sh Boom (Life Could Be a Dream)” by The Coasters begins to play on the radio. Diana starts singing along, which eventually gets all the other passengers to momentarily forget their fears and sing too–even Montrose.
This wonderful-yet-all-too-brief moment of joy makes nightfall in Ardham feel even more dreadful when our group arrives. While Montrose lays a protective circle of salt around the car where Diana will be staying, Atticus forces down the piece of Titus Braithwhite he cut off and swallows the vial Ruby brought. He then hikes to the ruins of the Sons of Adam Lodge, where Ardham citizens immediately surround and tie him to an altar Christina has constructed for the ceremony.
Meanwhile, Montrose, Hippolyta, and Ji-Ah get to work drawing protection glyphs around the bridge leading into town while Leti and Ruby head to the stone tower from Episode 2 and do the same. When Leti attempts to leave and meet the others at the bridge, Ruby stays put and recalls how their trip here was the first time she finally understood the pull of family.
Leti responds to this odd statement by basically pulling the same trick Arnold used in T2 to figure out that John Conner’s parents were dead. When Ruby lies and says she totally remembers agreeing to help them back in the cemetery, Leti realizes that her sister is dead…and that the woman standing in front of her is actually Christina.
Christina then reveals that she caught Ruby trying to take a vial of her flesh, which left her no choice but to kill her. This leads the two women to engage in an epic brawl. Leti temporarily gains the upper hand, but is still outmatched by the magically enhanced Christina, who tosses her from the tower to her death.
Back on the bridge, Hippolyta, Ji-Ah, and Montrose are attacked by a mob of townspeople who look like extras from an Amish horror movie. They put up a hell of a fight, but are eventually overpowered, captured, and brought to the altar where Christina plans to sacrifice Atticus.
As if all that weren’t exciting enough, Diana is back in the car reading George Freeman’s future copy of Lovecraft Country when she’s attacked by a shoggoth. Just as the monster is about to get to her, SPRINKLES JUMPS IN AND STARTS KICKING ITS ASS BACK TO KINGDOM COME!
*Side Note: I really hope they summoned Sprinkles there or he was able to burrow his way from Chicago to Ardham. The thought of the poor little guy being forced to run behind the car the whole way would make me all types of sad. That being said, what a fantastic time for the reappearance by everyone’s favorite pet monster.
Changing the Terms
Christina appears and commends Atticus for his plan to highjack her spell, explaining that it likely would’ve worked if Ruby hadn’t been involved. When Atticus sees that Montrose, Hippolyta, and Ji-Ah are there, he angrily asks where Leti is. Christina responds with an apologetic stare, causing him to become even more broken and furious.
She then begins the spell, slicing Atticus’ arms open and bathing in his blood. As the moon reaches its highest point in the sky, Atticus’ life and power begin transferring from him into her.
While this is happening, we see Leti awakening with a start and the Mark of Cain reformed on her stomach. Turns out that Christina did keep her promise to Ruby not to hurt her sister, recasting the spell just in time to make sure she remained unharmed.
Leti takes off toward the alter. When she gets there, a dying Atticus looks up and smiles at the sight of his lover and unborn child still being alive. His body then goes limp as the life goes out of him and Christina’s white dress transforms into crimson.
*Side Note: The color red has been used a lot during this series to indicate power. If there was ever an episode where this was made abundantly clear, it’s this one.
Before she can bask in the glory of her newfound immortality, Leti sneaks up behind Christina and runs her through with an enchanted sword while chanting Hannah’s spell. Christina simply laughs and tells Leti she’s too late. Since the potion didn’t have her blood in it, there’s no way it can be countered.
As dark shadows from Leti’s spell block out the moon, Hippolyta deduces that the only way for the spell to still work is if Christina and Atticus’ bodies are connected. Ji-Ah realizes what she has to do and steps into the shadows–the same darkness the shaman warned her about back in Episode 6.
Two of her tails unleash, impaling Christina and wrapping around Atticus. As their bodies are connected, Ji-Ah (and the audience) is shown visions of Atticus’ and Christina’s final day.
On Christina’s side of things, we see her finding Ruby attempting to steal the vial followed by her lifeless body being used to make a metamorphosis potion. We also get a confirming flashback of her casting the invulnerability spell on Leti after throwing her from the tower.
Atticus’ memories are significantly less bleak. We see him being baptized, introducing Diana to Sprinkles, hugging his father goodbye, and (most importantly) giving a letter to Hippolyta to give to Montrose.
As Ji-Ah screams and Leti continues to chant, the shadows surrounding them explode.
Taking the Power Back
Christina awakens to find herself trapped under a pile of rubble. When she attempts a spell to free herself, she discovers something even worse: She’s unable to use magic.
Leti saunters over and explains that she isn’t the only one eternally bound from wielding that power. Hannah’s spell has made it so that no white person can ever use it again. Magic belongs to them now.
Leti’s victorious moment is cut short when Montrose walks over and attempts to awaken his deceased son. As tears begin to fill his eyes, Hippolyta hands him the letter Atticus gave her to give him. In it, he asks Montrose to forgive him, both for knowingly sacrificing himself and hiding the fact that his fate was unavoidable. It had to be done–not just to protect their family, but all of their people.
He then asks Montrose to teach George new ways of experiencing life and happiness. Don’t cut the soft parts out of himself in a misguided attempt at being someone he’s not. Embrace and show love. This is a second chance to be the father he always wanted to be.
Atticus’ words settle deep into Montrose’s heart as he, Leti, Ji-Ah, and Hippolyta carry his heroic son’s body out of Ardham.
Back at the lodge ruins, Diana and Sprinkles walk over to Christina, who is still trapped beneath the rubble. When Christina begs her for help, Diana responds by declaring that she still “hasn’t learned” before revealing the robotic arm Hippolyta made for her.
*Side Note: This confirms that Diana was the woman from the future with the robotic arm who gave Atticus the ‘Lovecraft Country’ book his son wrote.
As far as what Christina “hadn’t learned,” that is likely of two things (or maybe both):
- Science triumphs over magic.
- You don’t get to ask for help from people who’s family members you helped kill.
Either way, Diana provides a permanent lesson by wrapping her robotic fingers around the last living Braithwhite’s throat and crushing it. Having vanquished her family’s lethal nemesis, she looks over at her guardian hell hound, who climbs the nearby steps and roars triumphantly into the night.
Good lord! How about that last shot?! I’m going to need a second season, new show, or at least comic series featuring Diana and Sprinkles fighting mystical and scientific forces of evil as soon as possible. In the meantime, I humbly request we get some fan art…like, immediately.
When you combine that scene/visual with Raphael Saadiq and Laura Karpman’s soaring musical score, it all but begs for this wonderful narrative to continue in some way, shape, or form. For now, though, let’s focus on what made the season (series?) finale of Lovecraft Country so great in spite of its flaws.
Did it have a bit too much season finale speechifying? Yes.
Did it have a couple annoying/convenient plot contrivances (like not being able to summon the ancestors again)? Yes.
Did it pull the trick where you cut away the moment before important information is revealed one too many times? Yes.
Was it still a thrilling hour of television that provided an extremely satisfying conclusion to its primary narrative and character arcs? Absolutely.
My favorite thing about that “satisfying” aspect is that Misha Green & Co. didn’t shy away from continuing to take risks. It would have been very easy and comforting to have Atticus defy fate and live. I admittedly would have cheered seeing that happen. But the narrative (and the time travel/future vision rules the show laid out) always led to him sacrificing himself. It was an absolute gut punch watching him come to terms with his death and the way it would affect the one he loved, but it was also brilliant.
The same can be said about with Ruby’s fate, albeit from a completely different angle. Once again, deciding against her own judgement and helping her sister came with a price. This time, however, it was her life.
From the overarching mystical war to the intimate relationship and familial conflicts, everything organically concluded in a way that just felt right.
Even the Ji-Ah subplot (which I wasn’t a huge fan of) ended up being good. While it certainly helps having a great actress like Jamie Chung involved, it was the way her destiny perfectly aligned with Atticus’ fate that finally made her story feel less like an odd diversion and much more integral to the narrative.
It also helped seeing Atticus apologize for the way he treated her and the great chemistry the pair had to make a small return…although I am still firmly in the #Leticus camp. Their relationship certainly isn’t perfect, but the passion and courage both characters possess fed off each other so well, especially when the stakes were raised after Leti became pregnant with George.
Atticus’ scenes with Leti have always been good, but they were especially powerful at the best possible time for this episode. I know I’ve praised the acting in this show ad nauseam, but the way Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett carried this show was a true joy to watch.
For me, Lovecraft Country officially catapulted Smollett from an exceptional actress and into one of my all time favorites. In addition to owning every scene she’s in, Leti was a character who often required near perfect comedic and dramatic timing, which Smollett absolutely nailed.
She’s also one of the few actors I’ve seen who runs the way you’d expect someone to in desperate/terrifying situations. I know that’s a weird thing to compliment, but we’ve covered all the other ways her amazing talents have been on display during this series. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if she actually could wield magic, as well.
As far as Jonathan Majors is concerned, this was the first thing I’ve seen him in and I honestly can’t believe he isn’t a bigger star yet. I know I’ve said it before, but he carried this series like someone who’s been doing it for years. I’ll be seeking out more of his work from now on.
Wunmi Mosaku (Ruby) and Abbey Lee (Christina) were also fantastic. In Mosaku’s case, she gave her usual/wonderful emotionally charged performance, but that moment where she switched into being Christina turned my blood cold.
Speaking of Christina, I love how the series refused to let her be completely one-dimensional. Even at her absolute worst, she kept her promise to Ruby not to harm Leti, which (fortunately) ended up costing her everything. When she expressed her anguish over potentially getting the spell wrong and killing Atticus for nothing, we genuinely believe her, which is a major credit to Lee’s work on the character.
I could once again state the obvious and talk about how great Michael K. Williams is, but anyone who’s watched good television over the last couple decades already knows this. Let’s just hope the Emmy voters can see how incredible he was along with the rest of the cast.
There’s still a lot to hate about Montrose, especially how he murdered Yahima (something even Misha Green admits she wishes had been handled better). But his character’s exploration and growth over the back half of the season makes it almost impossible not to feel drawn to him.
Despite my love for Aunjanue Ellis, I was prepared not to like Hippolyta anymore. Diana nailed it when she explained that an amazing journey of self discovery doesn’t negate abandoning your grieving and terrified daughter.
To Lovecraft Country‘s credit, they didn’t let Hippolyta off the hook. Instead, she admitted her mistake and sincerely apologized…oh, and built her daughter a freaking robotic arm. Perhaps more family conflicts would resolve themselves if parents simply provided their children with badass cybernetic attachments.
Seriously though, I love the way Lovecraft Country tied all of its time traveling into a closed loop with a meta twist that utilized the actual Lovecraft Country novel by Matt Ruff.
I also loved that Misha Green & Co. teased a bigger story featuring Diana and Sprinkles going forward. Even if it only gets to happen in our heads, it was a brilliant way to conclude the primary narrative while also leaving door open for–and us wanting–even more.
I really hope we get to see Diana’s further adventures with Sprinkles, though. Jada Harris already proved that she’s a great young actress who can carry a show back in Episode 8. Watching the future Oscar/Emmy winner battle the forces of evil with a loyal shoggoth at her side would be more than enough to get me to tune in on Sunday nights.
For now, though, we’ll have to be content with the joyful emptiness that follows the conclusion of a truly great show. Even when it stumbled, Lovecraft Country was a beautifully produced show that pushed boundaries and took risks. When it did hit the target–which it often did–we were treated to a journey unlike any other story being told on television. A tale of painful histories, imperfect love, and heroes taking on evil, both worldly and mystical. There were tragic sacrifices along the way, but in the end, love prevailed, the right people won, and the unjust were punished.
In a year where hope is in short supply, it’s enough to make you want to triumphantly roar at the moon, too.
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