HBO’s latest horror drama has proved to be a hit for the network, blending elements of H.P. Lovecraft’s horror with Jim Crow-era racism.
Originally based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country is centered around Atticus Freeman, a Korean War veteran who has just arrived home to Chicago. Once there, he sets off to find his missing father, accompanied by his uncle George and Atticus’ old friend Letitia.
The series takes its cast on a dizzying journey filled with magic, monsters, ghosts, gore, and even some travel between time and space. At the same time, they are followed by the terrors of racism, including some key moments in Black history.
Now that the first season is over, it’s time to talk about its successes — and its failures.
One thing Lovecraft Country succeeds at is classic horror, with each episode bringing different themes to life. The eeriness from a twig snapping in a dark forest, suspense from supernatural occurrences in an old house, and genre-typical gore make it a fitting watch for the Halloween season.
Note: The following contains spoilers.
Another accomplishment comes in episode seven, “Meet Me In Daegu”, where we meet Ji-Ah, Atticus’ lover from his time in Korea. This episode in particular does an astonishing job of depicting American imperialism in Southeast Asia. It also addresses Atticus’ experience putting his life on the line for a country that would not do the same for him.
The series’ failures, however, are a bit more nuanced. The show tends to fall into a revenge-fantasy narrative and, at times, can perpetuate harmful stereotypes in its attempt to address more modern issues.
Atticus’ father, Montrose, is one example of this. The two characters have a rocky relationship, with Atticus having been on the receiving end of many beatings during his childhood. Montrose, a bitter, angry drunk, refuses to assist Atticus at almost every turn, going so far as to murder an indigenous intersex character. We later find out that Montrose’s issues stem from being a closeted gay man his entire life, but the show presents it as an excuse for his actions.
Leti’s sister, Ruby, is another character done wrong. While Leti, far lighter-skinned, is the show’s heroine, Ruby is the one who makes all the wrong decisions. She falls for a white man later revealed to be the series’ main antagonist, Christina Braithwhite. Their romance leaves much to be desired, as well as another set of unanswered questions.
While Lovecraft Country will do its job at getting you in the Halloween spirit, its lasting impression is not as stellar. Should the series be renewed for a second season, executive producer Jordan Peele has some improvement to do.