Lovecraft Country Recap: Dee’s Cruel Summer

Lovecraft Country

Season 1 Episode 8
Editor’s Rating 3 stars

Lovecraft Country

Season 1 Episode 8
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: HBO

Thus far, the world in Lovecraft Country has been focused on its adults — the horrors and obstacles encountered over this stretch of summer have been reserved to be handled by its grown-ups. But what about kids and adolescents in times of terror? What about Diana?

Dee (Jada Harris), like her mother, has had to grieve the death of her father despite it being shrouded in mysterious circumstances. Since she’s a kid, she hasn’t been able to alter her situation or scenery like the adults have. Even worse, after the events of “I Am.,” Hippolyta is nowhere to be found. “Jig-A-Bobo” thrusts Dee directly into more horror and deeper into an already awful summer, and the remaining characters all fail to acknowledge just how much the world around them affects her too. Dee’s best friend Bobo is, in fact, Emmett Till, and he’s been lynched by two white men. The adults can’t decide what she needs to know or what she needs to see, hashing this out in the long line outside his funeral.

Of course, Diana isn’t ignorant. She is a young, smart girl privy to the world around her. She knows how the world treats Black boys; she’s watching the worst of it unfold right now. And she knows how the world treats Black girls; she’s lived it. Yet none of our adults think to ask her how she is feeling. Even in what should be her own episode, the occupations of the other characters threaten to leave her slipping through the cracks. The episode plays with that erasure of Dee as the adults are distracted by their own problems.

Ruby finds herself wanting affection in this time of grief. She goes to William’s house for comfort and takes the metamorphosis potion again, having sex with William as Hillary, shedding her white skin mid-coitus. William and his magic are a way for Ruby to escape, and Ruby is tired of the world she finds herself in not being for her. “I wanna create my own space,” she later tells Leti. Magic can give her the freedom to build that space, and she believes Christina can teach her how.

Meanwhile, Leti hasn’t yet told Atticus she’s pregnant. To complicate things, Ji-Ah shows up at her house after traveling from South Korea since she and Tic last spoke on the phone. Leti intuits that Ji-Ah’s return means that she must still “love” him, and this causes increased tension. Between the revelation that Ji-Ah is a kumiho and the news of Atticus’s impending death that Ji-Ah foresaw, Leti is desperate for defense against the danger that’s sure to come. She’s covering all her bases: Inside a church, Leti prays to God for protection but also has Christina meet her there — she offers up negatives of the photos of Titus’s pages from the Book of Names in exchange for Atticus’s invulnerability. Christina won’t give Atticus that power, but she will transfer it to Leti. Christina brands Leti with the scar we’ve seen on William; this “Mark of Cain” will protect her.

Christina, even, has received more interaction from our adult characters than Diana has. Atticus, Leti, and Ruby all come to her for help. This episode poses a lot of questions about her place within the world as a white woman who is magical and has questionable allegiance. Ruby, reminding her that “a 14-year-old boy was beat and shot to death,” asks Christina, “Do you care … at all?” Christina matter-of-factly says, “No,” and she means it. She continues, “I don’t care about Emmett Till … I don’t care that half this city’s on the brink because of it.” This speaks to her hubris and lack of empathy. Why would she care?

Still, it seems that Ruby’s provocations make her think. Later, Christina hires two men to beat and “kill” her in the same manner in which Bobo was killed. It’s brutal and horrific and prompts the viewer to sit with the violence acted against Emmett Till, yet inflicts it on a white body we know will survive. Christina is dragged into the river, but almost immediately after, jumps out. Her “invulnerability” was always going to allow her to survive. This brutality can’t affect her in the same way. We see her crying after, clutching at her Mark of Cain. Does she finally feel something? Does she realize that she never will?

Inside of a Braithwhite mausoleum, Atticus trades the key from the orrery for help from Christina about spellwork. Christina tells him that to properly cast a spell, one needs “energy, intention, and a body,” not just an incantation. She shows him the protection symbol he’ll need to trace near wherever he casts a spell. It’s here we finally get information about what the endgame might look like for the series. After going through the portal last week, Atticus brought back a book titled (of course) Lovecraft Country, written by a George Freeman. He believes the author to be his son and believes he was sent to the future. This book ends with Christina’s character sacrificing him on the autumnal equinox “to become immortal.” When Atticus asks Christina about the equinox, it stops her in her tracks.

Atticus finally has some calmer, more tender moments with his father. Montrose tells Atticus about how his pastor was caught having sex with another man and was taken away in front of the church congregation when Montrose was 8 years old. The pastor was sent to an asylum and lobotomized, and Montrose didn’t want that to be his future. Montrose decided to have a family instead, telling Atticus that he had “desires” but “never acted on them.” After their vulnerable conversation, Montrose helps Atticus with the spell, saying the words aloud, acknowledging that his intentions are to protect his son and future grandson. After the spell is said aloud, nothing seems to happen.

While all of our adult characters deal with their respective stories, Dee has a horrific day of her own. In the aftermath of Bobo’s killing, the South Side shuts down for his funeral — we know that, historically, Mamie Till insisted on an open casket so that people would see the violence inflicted upon her son. Overwhelmed, Dee flees when no one is looking. Outside of some closed storefronts, she is stopped by Captain Lancaster and another police officer. They’ve found her comic next to the dead officer in Kansas and want to know where her mother is. Heartbreakingly, when asked what she knows about magic, she responds, “Fantasy books?” — she’s been left in the dark the most out of our protagonists about the secret world bubbling beneath the surface. The officers put a spell on her, using Captain Lancaster’s spit. It’s gross and it prevents her from speaking to anyone else about what they discussed. She’s been silenced by the adults around her yet again.

With the spell comes a set of ghouls to haunt her. Two figures (named Topsy and Bopsy in the credits) come to life, inspired by the cover of Uncle Tom’s Cabin she sees in their apartment (and, likely, Topsy-Turvy dolls). It’s an unsettling introduction to the magic for her. These characters represent a distorted caricature of Black youth, embodying the hate of the world around her, an extension of anti-Blackness that had her best friend killed. “What happens if it gets me?” she asks the captain after biking to the police precinct.

Thankfully, we finally get to see Dee take control of her own narrative, and she puts up a fight against these monstrosities on par with the adults. She waits for Topsy and Bopsy to come for her, brandishing a metal pipe as a weapon. Before they arrive, she begins to draw them, pages and pages of their imagery. She can’t speak about them, but she can use her comic skills to let people know what’s happening. Montrose walks in on her screaming and fighting what looks to him like nothing. We see blood spatter onto her white dress, and her arm starts to gash and bleed. What happens if they get her?

The episode ends quite gloriously once Captain Lancaster and a legion of cops show up at Leti’s house wanting to obtain the orrery. Leti, now invulnerable, realizes that their bullets can’t hurt her; they bounce off an invisible force-field around her. When Tic shows up outside, she runs out the door and toward him knowing that the police officers might try to shoot him. She isn’t quick enough to beat the bullet, but before the bullet can strike him, a shoggoth (one we haven’t seen before) erupts from the road below. This black shoggoth proceeds to maim and kill all of the officers. It’s bloody carnage of the police that have been tailing our characters the entire season. When it’s finished, it looks as if the creature might try to kill Atticus and Leti too, but it stops at Atticus’s raised hand — it wants to be pet. The spell did work. Atticus has finally used some magic of his own.

Leftover Country

• Christina: “Good luck, cousin.”

• This is the first episode that holds all of our characters’ story threads together at once. It’s busy but it works in that it highlights how Dee has fallen through the cracks and is ignored (and it takes pressure off the Bobo story line). I’m hoping Dee’s okay after all this.

• Hippolyta, despite hinting that she’d be returning last episode, isn’t back in Chicago. Not only did she not go through the portal with Atticus at the end of last week’s episode, but she didn’t rematerialize in Chicago either. Did she decide to stay after all? Is she stuck there, due to a broken machine?

• We see Ruby transform into Hillary for the first time, rather than just out of her. It’s an interesting visual!

• Dee: “Yeah, I know what an orrery is.”

• Also Dee: “Fuck you, pig!”

• Still Dee: “… And it fucking stinks in here!”

• Atticus on the copy of Lovecraft Country he received inside the portal: “Some of the details are different … Christina’s a man, Uncle George survives Ardham, and Dee’s a boy named Horace.” This is a nod to the IRL novel. Notably, Atticus says a hooded woman gave the book to him amid white people rioting.

• The audio played after Dee leaves the precinct is from Naomi Wadler’s speech at the March for Our Lives rally in 2018.

• Leti’s wince after Ji-Ah talking about her lovers, and thus Tic, climaxing … lololol

• The FLYING cop flung by the shoggoth at the end made me laugh.

• Gaywatch: Christina to Ruby: “But that’s not what I saw when I was fucking you.”

Lovecraft Country Recap: Dee’s Cruel Summer