7:00pm PT by Richard Newby
'Lovecraft Country': Nightmares Collide on the Way Toward the Finale
[This story contains spoilers for season one, episode eight of HBO's Lovecraft Country, "Jig-a-Bobo."]
As Lovecraft Country approaches the conclusion of its first season, the ties that bind its numerous plot threads are finally drawing closer together — but, keeping in line with the show's identity, never quite in the way viewers might expect.
The eighth episode of Lovecraft Country, "Jig-a-Bobo," directed by Misha Green and written by Green and Ihuoma Ofordire, deals with aftermath of Emmett Till's brutal murder in August 1955. The horror of this real world event looms large as Dee (Jada Harris), Tic (Jonathan Majors), Leti (Jurnee Smollett), Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) and Montrose (Michael K. Williams) processes their grief and are pushed further into a world of racism and magic, and left without an escape from either.
It's the hottest day of the year. Bananarama's "Cruel Summer" plays as the entirety of the South Side of Chicago is gathered outside a church to view Emmett Till's body. Viewers may remember that Till, nicknamed Bobo as he was in reality, appeared in the third episode of Lovecraft as one of Dee's friends. When asked if he would enjoy his trip to Mississippi that summer, the Ouija board responded "No," in one of the season's eeriest moments. Till's appearance was more than a cameo and he continued to be referenced by Dee in subsequent episodes, leading to his devastating off-screen death that's dealt with in this episode. Dee is overcome with anxiety about seeing the mutilated body of her best friend in the casket, and Ruby suggests that maybe she doesn't need to see it after all the death she's already experienced (Hippolyta is still missing, and unbeknownst to Dee, is presumed dead by her family). Montrose says seeing the crimes of what white people do to Black people is "every negro's right of a passage in this country."
Dee runs off before seeing the body. The streets are empty, and all the shops are closed in respect to Till, except for an ice cream shop, which might be the same white-owned one Ruby, as Hillary, visited in the fifth episode. Dee sees two black girls exit the ice cream parlor, laughing privately to themselves. Dee throws rocks at them and screams, "There ain't nothing to laugh about!" Her rage quickly turns to fear as Dee is approached by two cops, one of whom is Order of the Ancient Dawn wannabe leader Captain Lancaster (Mac Brandt). They have Dee's Orithyia Blue comic she gave to her mom before she left for her trip. The cops ask where Hippolyta is, and Dee says she doesn't know. Then Lancaster asks, "What do you know about magic?" The second cop draws symbols on the sidewalk next to Dee's feet and then Lancaster begins saying an incantation. Maggots sprout out of the ground, and Lancaster coughs up mucus and wipes it on Diana's forehead.
Meanwhile, Leti arrives back at her house looking for Dee. She doesn't find her, but she does find Ji-Ah, (Jamie Chung) who is looking for Atticus. Tic has his own concerns. He meets with Christina (Abbey Lee) at the Braithwhite family tomb. He's desperate for Christina to teach him a spell and offers her the key to Horatio's orrery in exchange. Christina accepts and shows him the protection symbol she uses to keep others with magic out of her home. Before she walks away, Tic says, "The autumnal equinox. What's going to happen?" Christina stops dead in her tracks, clearly surprised at Tic's knowledge of that part of her plans. "I'm going to achieve what no one in the Order, not even the all-powerful Titus Braithwhite could: immortality."
Dee, shaken by her encounter with Lancaster, goes to Montrose and says she knows he lied to her about her father's death and asks where her mother is. Montrose says she's on a guide trip. Dee accuses them all of lying to her. Montrose tries to console her, saying that when he was her age they took his best friend, too. "You know, your pop and I learned early on, no matter what you do or how well you do it, they always take it from us. Doesn't mean you have to give it to them easily." But Dee doesn't want to hear it. She hides in the bathroom, but notices that the cover of Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe has shifted into a horrific image of a demonic Black girl gripping the face of a white girl with talons. Just as Montrose breaks the door down, Dee escapes through the window.
Ruby comes back to William's/Christina's place after seeing Till's body. She's very shaken up. "He looked like a monster," she says. William consoles her. Ruby is clearly puzzled by her feelings for William, and Christina's feelings for her. Does Christina only care about her when she's a man? Ruby takes the potion and turns into Hillary. She and William have sex. Just as she climaxes she begins turning back into Ruby in what must be one of the goriest, most disturbing sex scenes in TV history, and yet neither Ruby nor William are fazed by the mess of flesh and blood. Is that love?
Meanwhile, Dee is still wandering around the south side of Chicago. While waiting for the train, two demonic Black girls who look exactly like the one from the cover of the Stowe novel come up the train station steps and look at Dee. It's terrifying imagery, and Green seems to have clearly taken a page from producer Jordan Peele's Us (2019) when it comes to the dance-inspired physicality of the girls. Only Dee can see the girls, and she causes a bit of a commotion when she pushes her way through the station crowd to flee the girls. One of the girl's finger nails grow into talons and reach out towards Dee, but she escapes through the station gates just in time.
Tic returns to Leti's house and finds Ji-Ah at the dining room table, sitting across from Leti. Ji-Ah smiles at him hesitantly and Tic looks sick and afraid. "You're a succubus," he says to her. "In Korea we call it a Kumiho," she responds. When Tic comments on her killing 99 men she says it's in her nature and asks Tic what his excuse is. "When am I supposed to die?" Tic asks her. She doesn't know when and doesn't know how, saying this has never happened before. Tic, angry, says if she doesn't have any answers then why is she here. "Because she loved you," Leti says. Leti leaves the table in tears. Tic tells Ji-Ah, "Our shit wasn't real. And I'm not dying, so get the fuck out." She does, but it's doubtful she returns to Korea, with Tic's fate still in question.
Leti packs up Tic's stuff and tells him to get out. She's angry that he kept the truth from her, and that she had to learn from Ji-Ah about their relationship and Tic knowing about the supernatural beforehand. Tic tells her he's going to make it right. He's going to cast a spell. "You don't get to make those damn decisions by yourself anymore." But Tic, stubborn as ever, says, "We're surrounded by monsters, Leti. I don't have a choice."
Elsewhere, Ruby asks Christina, now back in her own skin, if she cares about Emmett Till's death and the horrific way he died: "I want you to feel what I feel right now: heartbroken, scared, furious, tired, so fucking tired of feeling this way over and over. And I want you to feel alone and shameful because I'm here feeling this because you'll never understand. I want you to feel guilty for feeling safe. I'm next to you and your privilege feeling safe. " Ruby says. "You want to know why I took that potion? Because today of all days I didn't want to be a Black woman fucking a white man."
Christina lets the words hang for a beat, before responding, "No, I don't care about Emmet Till. I don't care about Roy Bryant, or J.W. Milam who will never receive justice for what they did. I don't care that half the city is on the brink because of it. And I don't think that you really do either." Christina tells her she didn't see Ruby being unmade while she was fucking her as William but someone being reborn. "You took that potion because you wanted to hide from the fact that even on today of all days you are a woman who wanted what she wanted," Christina says walking away, leaving Ruby unnerved.
Tic walks through the streets of the South Side and sees Montrose drinking on a street corner. He asks if he ever cheated on his mother. Montrose says he had desires but never acted on them until after she was gone. Tic sits down next to his father and Montrose tells him a story of a pastor he knew growing up who was caught with another man. He was put in an asylum and they cut out half his brain. "I chose my life over a damn asylum. Or a jail cell. Or being found dead in the bathroom of some public park." He says that his love for Tic's mother wasn't romantic but it was built on wanting to have a family after losing everyone in Tulsa. Tic reveals that he knows Leti is pregnant. When he went through the portal he went to the future. He shows Montrose the book Lovecraft Country. The author, George Freeman, is Tic and Leti's future son.
Meanwhile at a church, Leti talks to God. "Magic is haunting us. Testing us. It's like the devil. That part you left out." She begs God to protect the man that she loves and put his shield around him. And she prays for Emmet Till's family. Christina approaches her pew and sits down next to her. Leti asks if miracles and magic are really so different. Christina says that God is both heaven and hell. Leti gives her the negatives of Titus' pages on the condition she makes Atticus invulnerable. Christina says no, "not for Atticus, for you." Christina casts the Mark of Cain, her father's invulnerability spell, on Leti.
Back at Montrose's apartment Tic tells his father that the future he visited was "chaotic." He wasn't there for long, but there were white people rioting and a woman in a hood with a robotic arm shoved the Lovecraft Country book into his hands. Tic says he's read it and it tells their family story but with some of the details being different such as Christina being a man, Uncle George surviving Ardham, and Dee being a boy named Horace. All of these changes are details from Matt Ruff's actual novel on which Lovecraft Country is based, details that were changed for the show. But the ending of George Freeman's book is something else entirely: Christina, Caleb in Freeman's story, sacrifices Tic on the autumnal equinox to become immortal. Montrose realizes that the equinox is in five days.
"I know casting a spell can kill me. But I've got to take every chance I can to live for my son," Tic says. He asks Montrose what he should do. Montrose says, "You know son, I always thought my death would come at the end of a white man's bullet or a rope. Magic is so much more jazz." Montrose and Tic have certainly had their ups and downs during the season, but in Tic's hour of need, Montrose makes his intentions clear: he will save his son and his grandson, even if it kills him.
Dee, still being hunted by the demonic girls, storms into Captain Lancaster's office. She asks if her mom is dead. Lancaster says, "probably." She then asks what he did to her with his spit. Lancaster says he couldn't have her talking but he could remove it if she does something for him. Lancaster tells Dee to bring him the orrery from the Winthrop house and he'll remove the spell. Dee chooses to spit on him instead, and says, "fuck you pig" before walking out. "To hell with the girl, she's already dead," Lancaster says, stopping the other cop from going after her. He decides he'll get the orrery himself. Of course, he doesn't know that it's not at the Winthrop house and hasn't been for some time. It's in Hippolyta's bedroom, and the key is with Christina.
Montrose and Tic are working together on casting the spell. Tic learns that Montrose is dyslexic. "Any other secrets you keeping from me," Tic says with good-humor, in one of the few light-hearted moments between the two men this season. Montrose realizes that there is, and looks away. There's still the fact he may not be Tic's real father hanging between them. Montrose begins reciting the words to the spell, while Tic stands in the center of the symbol they've drawn. When he's done, nothing happens. Tic believes it didn't work.
Christina is waiting on a pier. Two white men she's hired approach her and ask her if she's sure she wants to do this. Of course she is. The men beat her, shoot her, and wrap barb wire around her neck before tying her to a cotton gin fan and tossing her in the water. This is the exact same way that Emmett Till was murdered. Christina survives thanks to her invulnerability spell, which she was testing the strength of and begins laughing and crying, seemingly overcome with emotion. The fact that she survived the same torture Emmett Till went through and can laugh and cry about it is white privilege in its most extreme and literal form.
Ruby visits Leti in her darkroom, and finds out that her sister is pregnant. Ruby tells her she never should've followed Tic to Ardham, letting Leti in on the fact that she knows all about magic and that the white man she's been seeing is actually Christina Braithwhite. Leti tells Ruby she's being played. "I want to create my own space," says Ruby. "I can do that with magic. Christina's gonna teach me." Before she can go any further the police show up at Leti's with a warrant to search the premises. It's an army of cops. Lancaster says they got a tip that Nation of Islam radicals were being housed at Leti's place. When he tries to cross the doorway, he can't enter. Leti realizes that Lancaster knows magic, but now Lancaster knows that she does too. The cops begin shooting at the house. Leti and Ruby hit the ground for cover. Leti remembers she's protected by the Mark of Cain and stands up amidst the gunfire, bullets bouncing away from the invisible shield around her.
Meanwhile, Dee runs into the guide book shop. The demonic girls quickly show up and Dee beats one with a pipe, but she's invulnerable. Montrose comes in and finds Dee swinging at nothing. He grabs her to hold her still, believing she's having some kind of fit, but then her arm begins bleeding and black veins spread as one of the demonic girls grabs her and dig her talons into Dee's arm. Dee passes out in Montrose's arms as the demonic girls laugh next to her.
Tic runs to Leti's house hearing the gunfire. The cops turn their guns on Tic. Leti runs outside just as Tic is fired at. The bullet makes its way to Tic in slow motion, but before it hits him one of the vampire creatures from Ardham bursts out of the ground and slaughters the cops. Leti and Tic run though the chaos, getting soaked in the blood of cops, or pigs' blood for those looking to catch a Carrie reference. The vampire creature tears into Lancaster, ripping him limb from limb. Guess he didn't have Christina's invulnerability spell. The monster then charges towards Tic and Leti and stops when it comes to Tic, bowing and letting him place his hand on its head. Tic has his very own monster at his disposal now. "The spell worked," Leti says and then the credits roll.
"Jig-a-Bobo" certainly has a lot going on, but it does manage to get everyone on the same page in terms of the fact that yes, magic does exist. And it also clears the air in terms of repairing a few fractured relationships. But with two episodes left to go, questions still remain. Where in the multiverse is Hippolyta? What will happen to Dee now that Lancaster is dead and can't remove his curse? Was the future Tic visited the true future or just a possible one given the multiverse theory Hippolyta raised? Why would Christina help Tic and Leti if she plans to sacrifice Tic? How will Ji-Ah play into what happens next? And now that Tic has a monster of his own, what will he do with it?
There are a lot of balls in the air, and Lovecraft Country's greatest magical feat may be successfully juggling them all across the next two episodes.