'Lovecraft Country': The 8 Wildest Moments From Season 1

10:30 AM 1/13/2021

by Richard Newby

The Hollywood Reporter looks back on the most memorable scenes that defined HBO’s hit series, which subverts the horror and sci-fi genres by placing them in the context of post-World War II America.

Lovecraft Country’s First Season - Strange Case Split
Courtesy of HBO

 

 

  • The Shoggoths Arrive

    Lovecraft Country got off to a running start with Atticus (Jonathan Majors), Leti (Jurnee Smollett) and George (Courtney B. Vance) encountering the horrors of racism and the supernatural on their trip to Ardham, Massachusetts. But no moment in the premiere better set the stage for the series than the Shoggoths, creatures taken from H.P. Lovecraft's lore and blended with the concept of the vampire. Their arrival marked a shift for the characters' understanding of their world, forcing them to confront cops, monsters, and cops that become monsters. For showrunner Misha Green, blending racial history and the supernatural wasn't difficult. "For me, being such a big horror fan and genre fan, that stuff is always the metaphor and the layer on top of the truth and the real thing we're exploring."

  • Ruby Sheds Her Skin

    Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) undergoes quite a transformation over the course of the season as she distances herself from her sister, Leti, and comes to understand the freedom of getting what she wants. A significant part of that freedom comes in the form of a potion that allows her to transform into a white woman, Hillary (Jamie Neumann, pictured) and experience all the privileges that come with that identity. "The transformation was … uncomfortable. There is a lot of blood and gunk everywhere, from head to toe," Mosaku (inset) said to THR. While the transformation back to Ruby in Matt Ruff's novel, on which the series is based, offered a bit of blood, Misha Green takes that transformation to a whole other level with Cronenbergian body horror. And she doesn't just leave it at that. She upped the ante again later in the season with Ruby and Christina (Abbey Lee) transforming in the midst of a sex scene. It's messy business.

  • Leti Exorcises Ghosts From Her House

    Despite an overarching narrative, Lovecraft Country took an anthology approach when it came to exploring subgenres related to horror and science fiction. And no exploration into horror would be complete without entering a haunted house. Leti further cemented herself as one of the series' most memorable characters in this episode's climax, in which she confronts the spirits of Black victims inhabiting her new home, healing them, and herself, in the process. Speaking to THR early in the season, Smollett said, "She can't move forward without freeing the ancestors of the past, and that's a confrontation that we have to do. No one can do it for us. We all have to heal from that memory, from that trauma, from that lineage we've inherited … we are engaging in a spiritual warfare through our characters."

  • A Tale of Nine Tails

    One of the most surprising episodes of Lovecraft Country took a detour from the United States. In South Korea, 1949, a young nursing student, Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung), who later falls in love with Atticus, has a terrible secret. The South Korean folklore of the kumiho is reimagined with startling effect as a sexual encounter turns deadly when nine hairy appendages emerge from Ji-Ah, sinking into her partner and tearing him apart in an explosion of blood. Yet as monstrous as this act is — as is her mission to collect 100 souls to become human again — Ji-Ah is one of the series' most empathetic characters and provides the show with the opportunity to explore genre conventions and racial relations outside the boundaries of America. Chung, speaking to THR, recognized how important the opportunity was to portray Ji-Ah and widen the focus of American television. "Asian Americans only account for 1 percent of anyone nominated for Emmys, and that just goes to show that there are not enough stories being told that represent us. I give Misha so much credit because she shared that platform with Korean Americans."

  • Hippolyta Names Herself


    Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) comes into her own in the seventh episode of Lovecraft Country, distinguishing herself as someone who’s more than George’s widow and Dee’s (Jada Harris) mother. In an odyssey through time and space, Hippolyta rediscovers who she is — her sexuality, her passion and her anger — and in the end redefines herself. It’s the respect paid to that last attribute that becomes so monumental for the character and scope of the show. "Black women have been mocked for being angry. They get demeaned for being angry. They get violence for being angry. They get stereotyped for being angry," Ellis told THR. "Meanwhile, the anger that’s expressed, and the rage of Black women, has contributed to the survival of Black people, and to a larger degree the survival of this country."

  • Topsy and Bopsy 


    The murder of Emmett Till is one of the most horrific moments in America’s history, and Lovecraft Country doesn’t shy away from that fact, folding the historical into the fictional. The trauma that Dee experiences over the death of her friend has lasting repercussions that change her physically and emotionally. This trauma is manifested in the form of Topsy and Bopsy, a pair of girls based on the offensive caricature of the “pickaninny,” their images borrowed from minstrel shows and the cover of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but with sharp teeth and razor fingernails. Their arrival out of the shadows of a crowded train station makes for the series’ most haunting moment, and their eerily choreographed movements are reminiscent of the work of producer Jordan Peele. Green says she thought a lot about the horror films A Nightmare on Elm Street and It Follows while directing this episode. Like those films, its images are hard to shake.

  • Atticus’ Sacrifice 


    Much of Lovecraft Country centers on Atticus (right) looking for magical means to save his family and himself — the last thing audiences could have expected was that he would meet his demise in the season finale. In a shocking moment, Atticus succumbs to injuries from Christina’s spell, but manages to save his family and reconcile with his father, Montrose (Michael K. Williams), in the process. "One of the things that I believe is that the arc of Atticus is from son to patriarch," Majors told THR. Given that horror is a genre so innately centered on women as victims, Atticus' position as the patriarch and his subsequent demise pave the way for something else to fill that void.

  • Dee Teaches Christina a Painful Lesson


    "You still haven’t learned," Dee tells Christina (pictured) when one of the first season’s Big Bads is found trapped under rubble and begging for mercy. Not only does Dee offer no sympathy for the witch who tried to play both sides, but she also ends her life by ripping the woman’s throat out with her new robotic arm, while a Shoggoth of her own howls at the moon in the background. It’s a powerful moment to conclude on, and positions Dee as one of the series’ central heroes going forward.

    This story first appeared in a January stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.