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[This story contains major spoilers for the season finale of HBO’s Lovecraft Country, “Full Circle.”]
Magic has been changed, forever. The season finale of Lovecraft Country brought the scythe down hard on its characters, leaving behind shocking casualties. But in the wake of that mortal destruction, something new has manifested. The world of Lovecraft Country has been changed dramatically with its finale, and with those changes come new meaning to the term black magic.
The finale, “Full Circle,” directed by Nelson McCormick and written by showrunner Misha Green, ends in tragedy. While Christina’s (Abbey Lee) plan went awry in the end, she did unfortunately, and shockingly, manage to succeed in sacrificing Tic (Jonathan Majors). It’s a heartbreaking loss, one that viewers will have to wait to see the full impact of, not only in terms of the grief and guilt of the survivors, but also the scope of the show.
Undoubtedly there will be comparisons made to Game of Thrones and season one’s shocking death of Ned Stark (Sean Bean), but Thrones always cast a much wider net in terms of its characters’ independent arcs, with Stark serving as a lead in a sprawling saga of characters. For Lovecraft Country, Tic was the lead, the crux of the show, both emotionally and narratively, and the character through which this new world of magic revolved around. As Majors said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “One of the things that I believe is that the arc of Atticus is from son to patriarch. He’s moving into the patriarchal position.” That move however was short-lived, and instead set the stage for matriarchs to seemingly come to the forefront.
Leti (Jurnee Smollett) fueled by Christina’s attack on her life, the murder of Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) and Tic, and emboldened by Tic’s ancestors, manages to cast a spell that bans all white people from being able to use magic. With The Books of Names in her possession, and backed by survivors Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis), Montrose (Michael K. Williams), Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung), and Dee (Jada Harris), informed a powerless Christina, crushed but alive, under the rubble of the Braithwhite Lodge’s remains, that the game has changed. Any theories that Christina would escape her fate and manage to walk away with new plans to steal magic back, are quickly dispatched in the finale’s final moments when Dee rips Christina’s throat out with her new robotic arm. In that act there seems to be the suggestion that there will be no power struggle between Blacks and white over the use of magic. That war is over. But, given Lovecraft Country‘s multi-season potential, that certainly doesn’t mean the end of threats for the Freeman family, or any person of color in America for that matter.
Tic’s death can be seen as both salvation and transformation. There is an obvious case of martyrdom at play with Tic’s body positioned like a cross during his final moments. This idea of Tic as a messiah or Christ-like figure, in hindsight, also becomes more powerful when once again considering that Jonathan Majors interview, and how he approved of the comparison made between Tic and King Arthur: “I love that analogy of Arthur pulling the sword from the stone.” In the most common and influential telling of the legend of King Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, Arthur and his incestuous son, Mordred, kill each other, ending their familial war for power, with Arthur’s loyal followers left to rebuild the Kingdom. Tic and Christina make for strong stand-ins for Arthur and Mordred, and Leti, Hippolyta, Montrose, and Dee make for fitting knights of a new age. But salvation and transformation do not inherently mean benevolence when it comes to spreading the word of a new age, as centuries of Holy wars, crusades, and Jihads in human history attest to.
Racism in America obviously isn’t going anywhere, and even backed by magic Tic’s family will still remain under threat. Given how closely Misha Green has woven together history with fiction, it seems like magic will still work around and move through defining events in the history of America in the 20th century. Martin Luther King Jr. has already been name-dropped in an early episode of Lovecraft Country, and the series’ 1955 setting rests on the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement. While the American education system often depicts the Civil Rights Movement as a unified front, that wasn’t the case. Martin Luther King Jr. was a figurehead, but did not speak for all Black people. Lovecraft Country‘s first season resides just before the emergence of the Black Panther Party, of Malcolm X’s rise and the idea of Black supremacy. It’s worth considering how black magic, or make that “Black magic,” could shift things and affect certain ideas held about the power of men and women, and which parts of America are worth saving.
In Tic’s vision of a possible future he said there were white people rioting in the streets, and he met a hooded woman with a metal arm. It seems safe to say that the woman with the metal arm is a future version of Dee. Given Dee’s journey this season, the death of her father, the death of her best friend, Emmett Till, the curse placed upon her, the loss of her arm, the transformation of her mother, and her murder of Christina, it’s worth considering what Tic’s sacrifice means in terms of Dee’s transformation and salvation. She’s a teenager on the edge of a movement that will change the state of America, but a movement that we know, in terms of where this country is now, that did not achieve enough in its time. Just as Lovecraft Country examined the fact that not all Black people are the same, there’s equal reason to believe that not all Black people will use magic the same. Tic’s surviving family members will surely have different thoughts about how to use magic, just as a magic, if dispersed into the community, will give rise to different thoughts and practices, some portably horrifying. Given Green’s seeming disinterest in clearly-defined villainy, the radicalization of Black magic and the sometimes uncomfortable moral complexities that could arise from it make Tic’s death the beginning of something rather than an ending.
The leading man is dead, and with his death is perhaps the death of the romantic, noble hero as defined by Joseph Campbell. In his stead are four women, Leti, Hippolyta, Dee, and Ji-Ah, and a man, Montrose, struggling with his own masculinity, sexuality, and anger. Whether they work together or not, they now each have the capability to shift the balance of power in America on the eve of the Civil Rights Movement, giving an expanded and literal meaning to the title Lovecraft Country.
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