Lovecraft Country: I Am

Posted on September 28, 2020

Hippolyta gets her moment in the spotlight and more than lives up to her name in our favorite episode of Lovecraft Country so far. But as much fun as it was to see the Freeman family matriarch come into her own, this episode revealed some of the structural problems with the series; problems that are coming pretty close to engulfing it and bringing it down. But first, let’s celebrate the warrior queen who found her voice this episode.

Hippolyta’s journey was foreshadowed in her very name, but it was still a joy to see her learn how to be large and take up space by taking inspiration from Black women who refused to let the world make them small. From riding alongside the legendary Bessie Stringfield on the highways of middle America to dancing onstage with Josephine Baker in Paris to fighting alongside the N’Nonmiton, the Fon warrior women known as the Dahomey Amazons, who gave her the opportunity to realize her most fervently expressed wish to kill white people upon the realization that they had found a way to slowly lynch her by forcing her into a small box of respectability and “good” behavior; Hippolyta traveled a road that led her to the best version of herself and we can’t wait to see what that means for the rest of the story.

Every part of her story was an utter joy to watch, even if it occasionally showed strain from the series’ increasingly poor pacing and plotting. The entire episode hinged on an understanding of Hippolyta that the creators of the show clearly have, but failed to fully convey to the audience up till this point. It’s been three episodes since she and Dee decided to visit Ardham. We have only seen hints of her character to this point and she’s largely been defined by her anger over her husband’s death. Her interest in astrology was established, but the sudden reveal that she appears to be some sort of genius-level savant – far outstripping any of the other characters in terms of intelligence and knowledge – feels like a bit of a cheat. The show didn’t seem to set up a deep enough understanding of just how brilliant she is before the story needed her to be.

In addition, there are so many subplots and competing agendas that we’re honestly starting to have trouble keeping track of them. We had to pause Leti and Tic’s first scene and go back through our reviews to remind ourselves where we left off with them. The scene with Tic and Leti stumbling in on Montrose and his lover just doesn’t make a lot of emotional sense. In order for it to work, you kind of have to put aside the fact that the last time they saw each other (literally a few days ago in story time), Tic almost beat his father to death because he murdered someone – a fact that isn’t even alluded to in any of the dialogue or interactions. This may be a consequence of trying to marry classic adventure story tropes to a multi-generational family drama to examinations of Black and African-American culture and history. We wouldn’t say the show is trying to do too much, but given its ambitions, we think the plotting could use some tightening up. Right now, it suffers from too many plots and far too many characters not revealing information that would clear up a good deal of confusion.

Is there a reason why Leti is keeping Ruby consistently in the dark about all the crazy stuff that’s happened? Did it make sense for them to lie to Hippolyta about what happened to George? Did anyone ever check in on her and Dee after they abandoned them on their road trip? Shouldn’t Tic have mentioned to someone by now that he met a demon-woman during his time in Korea? Why is Ruby not being forthcoming about her own trip through magic and body horror? In order to accept the story, you have to accept that literally every character in it is having insane supernatural experiences and not telling anyone else about them. After a while, they start piling up and the story starts groaning under the weight of them.

Still, structural issues aside, there was no denying the joy of seeing a mature Black woman not only come into her own power, but to do so by going on the kinds of adventures that absolutely never center mature Black women; an adventure that spanned dimensions; that had her facing off against mysterious alien gods (also, not coincidentally represented as a large Black woman), leading an army of Amazons, and exploring the far reaches of space and time, relying on her vast intelligence and her admirable ability to assess any situation instantly and react appropriately to it. All this time we’ve been looking at Tic and Leti as our heroes when right under our noses a legend was biding her time and waiting for the opportunity to become something greater than all of them. It tickles us to think that, after her dimension-hopping and all the lessons she’s learned, Hippolyta is clearly the smartest and most dangerous person in the story. We just hope we don’t have to wait too long before the various strands of this story come together. That would require all of the characters to stop ignoring or lying to each other and unfortunately, we don’t see much evidence that change is going to come any time soon.

 

 

 

[Photo Credit: Eli Joshua Ade/HBO]

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