Lovecraft Country: Pioneering is Dangerous

Lovecraft Country | Season 1 | Episode 3 : “Holy Ghost”
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For a quick read, go to Review. For a complete summary, go to Recap.


KBear Recap [Read  time: 5-7 min]

“You want us to tell’em that wizards exist? Huh? That white folks have magic on their side too.” Montrose Freeman

Letitia “Leti” Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) is at church, the church is rocking with one woman in the aisles full of the holy spirit. Leti sits quietly showing little emotion. Precious Angel Ramirez narrates the following during the service: “Hey Lei, what did you do to make a mark on this world? What mountains did you climb? Which angels gave you their wings? Which skies have you flown? When you reached the heavens, who was there to catch you when you fell? And did they tell you that you saved them too, like you saved me? That they are mending their wings and holding them up to the sun, just to step back and watch…you fly.”

A message scrolls on the screen. “In the Summer of 1955, a group of Negro men and women moved into a house on the North Side of Chicago. Ten days later, three people went missing inside the House, never to be seen again. Pioneering is dangerous.”

Day 1.  Leti shows her sister Ruby Baptiste (Wunmi Mosaku) a large ramshackle Victorian house on the North Side. She informs Ruby she just bought it and wants to turn it into a boarding house for black people who need a place to stay. Ruby is understandably skeptical. She reminds her of the trouble at Trumball Park and asks where Leti got the money to buy a house. Leti deftly avoids answering her. She tells Ruby that she knows Ruby feels like she has taken advantage of her in the past, but this is their chance to bond as sisters. After some silent pleading, Ruby tells her she is taking the biggest room. Leti shows her inside the house, it has an elevator, but the elevator nearly decapitates Leti.

While Fats Domino plays, Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors) with assistance from Diana “Dee” Freeman (Jada Harris) prepares breakfast. Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) is in her bedroom solemnly getting prepared. She looks at a copy of George’s favorite book, Dracula and begins tearing pages out of it. She joins her family. Atticus has been there about a month after George’s death, helping Hippolyta and Dee out. Dee is happy to have him there, but her mother doesn’t share the same sentiment. The harder Atticus tries to help, the more it gets on Hippolyta’s nerves. Atticus can sense it. He goes over to his father Montrose Freeman’s (Michael K. Williams) apartment. His father is on the floor drunk. Atticus throws some water in his face to wake him up. He isn’t pleased about it. He was mumbling the story about the time a man with a bat rescued him and George from a race riot. Atticus has heard it so many times he can recite it, the image of the story has seeped into his dreams. [Jackie Robinson rescuing him with his bat during his dream in the first episode.] Atticus tells him it’s time for him to move out of Hippolyta’s place, and can he crash there a few days. Montrose gets himself something to drink from the refrigerator. Atticus wonders aloud if they should tell Hippolyta what actually happened to George. They had concocted a cover story that a racist sheriff shot George. Montrose doesn’t see what good it will do to tell Hippolyta the truth, it isn’t like she or they can do anything about it. Atticus says that George would want to get more answers but Montrose angrily tells him to leave it alone.

Day 2.  People are moving into the boarding house. It seems that the residents will be the type of artistic people that Leti likes. Atticus shows up on the front porch, he had gone by Ruby’s old place and found out that Leti won the lottery and bought a house. Leti is surprised to see him, this is the first time she’s seen him since the funeral. He informs her he is heading back to Florida, he has to get back to his job, even though he told his boss he’d only be gone a few days. Leti asks him to stay at the boarding house at least until they’ve had their housewarming party. He hesitates until the car horns start blaring. It’s their hostile white neighbors tying brinks to their car horns to maintain sustained honking. The cops drive by and smile to themselves. Atticus knows there will be trouble so he tells Leti he’ll stick around.

Day 5. Signs go up on their white neighbors’ lawns, “We are a white community. Undesirables must go.” Leti is in bed when a ghost with half a face pulls her sheets off. Leti doesn’t see her but gets up because her room is hot. She opens the window but the car horns are blowing so she goes to the basement to fix the boiler. It looks like your typical haunted house basement. It looks like someone has sabotaged the boiler. She gets a big wrench and fixes it. The pipes are groaning and she hears banging. She begins hearing voices and sees there is a door on the floor. Smartly, she gets Atticus who brings a baseball bat. He opens the door, there is a subbasement below the basement. The room is empty. Leti tells him what happened, he believes her. He thinks the neighbors might be behind it. Also, they have been through a lot with what happened at Ardham. It’s understandable she’s shaken. They tenderly hold hands for a moment before Atticus quickly moves his hands, telling her this would be a great dark room.

Day 8. The housewarming party is in full swing. The house is packed, Leti is pouring punch for her thirsty guests. Some folks are talking about that preacher down south, whose birthday we now celebrate. Ruby and her band are heating things up further. Hippolyta brings food, she had plenty left over from the food people keep dropping off to her because of her loss. She complains a little bit about Atticus trying to help. While she and Leti are in the kitchen, Dee and her friends are in the attic playing with a Ouija board. One of the kids asks who are they talking too, with ominous music in the background, the board spells out GEORGE IS DEAD. Dee becomes upset and calls them all assholes as they promise her, they didn’t do this. Downstairs Hippolyta passes by a room whose door opens mysteriously and she touches a golden orrery [a mechanical model of the solar system]. Atticus had been on the porch in uniform, to let the neighbors know a man in the military was there. Tree (Deron J. Powell) asks Atticus about Leti. She is dancing seductively with another man. Tree would like to tap that, but he heard Tic was living there free. Atticus’ response makes it clear to Tree that Atticus is interested in her. He advises Atticus that if she is yours, you might wanna tell her. Atticus continues looking intensely at Leti. She leaves to go upstairs to the bathroom, a bloody ghost is in the mirror for a second, Leti doesn’t see it. When she looks up, she sees Atticus’ reflection. He grabs her and puts her on top of the sink and they go at it hard while Dinah Washington sings, I Don’t Hurt Anymore. When they are through, there is some blood on his finger, Leti says her period is early, Atticus is cool about it. She tells him she’ll meet him back downstairs; he says yeah and leaves. Leti begins to softly sob.

Downstairs Ruby is telling someone about applying to Marshall Field again. They tell her they haven’t hired her because she’s black. She knows but thinks if she is willing to work harder than anyone else, it will be alright. If the rest of the race thought like her, we’d be further along. She looks out the window and sees a cross burning in the lawn. Everyone looks out and Hippolyta asks where the kids are. Leti grabs a baseball bat, Atticus and some of the other men grab shotguns, Leti begins smashing the cars honking their horns on the street, while Dorinda Clark Cole sings Take It Back. Before the cops arrive, the men empty their shotguns and Leti’s bat in the trunk of a car which Ruby drives off in. They get on their knees and put their hands up waiting for the men in blue. Leti is in the back of a paddy wagon with Captain Lancaster (Mac Brandt) who surprise, surprise is a racist cop. Leti has a lengthy rap sheet, for arrests due to being involved in the movement. He asks her which organization she works for, and uses racist terms for each civil rights organization he names. To interrogate her he uses a method called rough ride where a prisoner in a police van without a seatbelt is thrown violently about as the vehicle is driven erratically. While he holds on and she bounces around violently, he asks her about any strange things happening in the house, did somebody tell her to buy it, who gave her the money to buy it. Lancaster realizes she doesn’t know anything and tells her they found body parts for eight ‘niggers’ in her subbasement. He’s gleefully sure she and her boarders won’t survive.

“I thought the world was one way, and I found out it isn’t. And it terrifies me. But I can’t live in fear. I won’t. I gotta fact this new world head on, and stake my claim in it.” Letitia Lewis

Day 9. A bruised Leti is in the subbasement looking at pictures she’s taken at the house. The pictures have scratches or marks on them. She lines the scratches up and a face forms out of the pictures screaming at her, “Get out of my house!” Leti runs upstairs and takes pictures from the walls. Ruby informs her that because of the incident last night, boarders are leaving the house. Leti thinks they’ll be safe, but Ruby is worried about the loan note. Without thinking Leti tells her she thinks they’ll be okay; she still has some of their mama’s money left. The shit hits the fan, as Leti has to confess that their mother left her an inheritance, and didn’t leave Ruby and their brother anything. She tells Ruby she didn’t tell her because she knew she’d be hurt, but Ruby isn’t having any of it. She tells Leti how selfish she is, she could have divided the money with her and their brother. Ruby: “You looked down on mama, but you’re worse. At least mama didn’t pretend to be anything but selfish.” Leti always looks out for herself. Saying she wanted Ruby to stay with her so they could bond as sisters was just her covering up her guilt. All of the times she and their brother sent money to Leti, they thought she was a fuck up, but really, she’s just fucked up. I think that hurt Leti more than the rough ride.

Hippolyta drives up to her travel guide shop, and Montrose is waiting for her. He had just gotten through helping Dee with her swing of the bat. He helps bring in the packages Hippolyta has. One of the bags drop off the table and there is a new copy of Dracula. She lies and says she spilt coffee on the old one. She tells Montrose she thinks something is wrong with his and Atticus story. She feels like there is more to it, she could tell by the way Atticus was acting while he stayed with her and Dee. Montrose denies it, but she knows he is lying.

Day 10. Leti is sitting in a restaurant with the research she has been doing. She looks at her wits end. Atticus walks in and she tells him the house is haunted. He believes her immediately. She shows him her research. In some of the pictures she took of the house, you could see the faces of the eight victims, she was able to go through the newspapers and find the eight people. They were people from the South Side who had gone missing. The house was originally called the Winthrop House, but she couldn’t find much information on Winthrop. The last owner was Dr. Hiram Epstein, who was an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago who was fired for unknown reasons. Leti believes he was doing illegal experiments on people, and the people he was experimenting on were the eight people whose body parts were found in his subbasement. She found a picture of Epstein and Captain Lancaster together, he is linked to the eight-missing people as the lead detective in their cases, she believes he supplied them to Epstein. With there being eight unsettled souls in her house, he advises her to move. Leti tells him their encounter at the housewarming party was her first time. He’s confused until he realizes what she’s talking about. He apologizes but she assures him she has no regrets. Since they left Ardham and she was brought back to life, she has felt like a ghost. She has been grasping at everything to feel something, pioneering, church, her sister, and even Atticus. Everything she thought of the world was wrong and it frightens her, but she has to face it head on and stake her claim in it. Atticus understands, he’s with her.

They end up on the front porch with a medium (Andrene Ward-Hammond) and her goat. After slashing its throat, she uses its blood as a seal of protection and marks their foreheads with it. They go inside to the subbasement. While they are downstairs, three neighborhood toughs break into the house with their baseball bats. [Baseball bats again!] Instead of baseball bats, they should have brought their own medium. The spirits in the form of a grown basketball player with a baby head [Freaky!!]  chases them until two of the toughs gets burned by the hot steam of the radiator while the third gets decapitated by the elevator. Can’t say I feel sorry for them. In the subbasement, the three hold hands and form a circle while the medium speaks creole. Everything starts shaking and strange noises are heard, but eventually the room settles down. Atticus and Leti thinks its over until a pipe burst, spewing water on them and washing off their seal of protections, plus they had quit holding hands and broke the circle, all hell breaks loose. The medium is possessed and she strangles Atticus, Leti calls for the eight victims to help her. The medium is tossed across the room, and the spirit of Hiram Epstein possesses Atticus and he screams at Leti to leave his house, Leti calls the eight victims by their names, “Grover, Jasper, Olivia, Betsey, Phillip, Lucy, Rufus, and Anarcha.” They join her and regain their true forms before Epstein mutilated them. They chant while Leti screams, “Get the fuck out of my house!”. He disintegrates and disappears. The eight ghosts who joined her are free and can rest in peace.

There seems to be a time jump because everything is normal. The House looks good and low-income families are moving in; a reporter (Cyrah Hill) is there to interview Leti. She doesn’t take all of the credit for it; Ruby inspired it. When they get in the working elevator, the reporter asks about the three white neighbors who are missing. Leti says she doesn’t know anything about it. When the women get off the elevator, it keeps going down, beyond the subbasement into some tunnel under the house. It has the three white neighbors’ bodies and bones of other people. I wouldn’t want to buy that house from Leti.

Atticus is watching the real estate office that Leti got the house from when a familiar silver Bentley pulls up. Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee) walks into the office, Atticus quickly follows. She dismisses the real estate agent. Atticus tells her he figured out that it was her who sent Leti the money, not an inheritance from her mother. He remembered the name Winthrop from one of Samuel’s pictures. Christina had set all of this up. Atticus closes the window shades and pulls a gun on Christina and tells her to leave his family alone. She doesn’t look concerned. Atticus quickly realizes he is frozen in place. Christina drops some knowledge on him. Horatio Winthrop was one of the founding members of the Sons of Adam. Hiram Epstein was one of his followers. Winthrop was banished for stealing pages from The Book of Names. It contains powerful spells and can help translate the book, unleashing great power. Titus had hidden his pages of the book in a booby-trapped vault. She slips a card in his front pocket and says, “Call me when you’re ready to learn more about our family legacy.” She chides him for being so careless, “You just can’t go around killing white women.”

KBear Review [Read time: 1-3 minutes]

Leti buys a house in the North Side and turns it into a boarding house for black people who need affordable housing. Her white neighbors aren’t happy to see her and begin a harassment campaign. Leti has more problems than that, the house is haunted. A mad scientist was the previous owner and he used missing black people as test subjects, brutally killing them. Eventually with a medium and Atticus help, Leti is able to free the tortured souls and exercise the evil spirit of the mad scientist. Hippolyta isn’t doing well; she suspects that there is more to George’s death than Atticus and Montrose told her. She’s right, they left out the part of powerful wizards and monsters.

Leti came back from the dead in the last week’s episode. She doesn’t feel fully back. She tries to feel alive by going to church, buying a house in a white neighborhood (pioneering), repairing her relationship with Ruby, and sexing up Atticus. She must have forgotten about faux Atticus’ snake penis. Buying the house creates more problems than she could have counted on, the hostile white neighbors wasn’t surprising, they had a race riot in Trumball Park when a black family moved into a public housing project in 1953. It got more explosive when 10 more black families moved there in 1954. Black people weren’t welcomed in white neighborhoods. These white neighborhoods were created by redlining. Banks would deny mortgages or loans to Black and other people of color to keep them from buying homes in white neighborhoods. Minority neighborhoods were assigned a lower grade than white neighborhoods, and banks could reject loans because you lived in the lower grade minority neighborhood. Homes in the minority neighborhoods were grossly undervalued, so white people’s homes had more value and they could accumulate greater wealth from it. We still suffer from this huge wealth gap and it isn’t closing. Lovecraft Country keeps showing who and what the real monsters are. Leti was able to hold on to her home in this white neighborhood providing housing for low income black families and free the spirits trapped there. She is truly Leticia “Fucking” Lewis.

This was a showcase for Jurnee Smollett. As strong as this cast is, she has been the standout in the first three episodes. This episode makes her the MVP of the series unless someone takes it from her. Her range was outstanding, and she displayed all of these different emotions without showing the seams. As outstanding as she was, she didn’t totally overshadow her fellow castmates, Wunmi Mosaku and Aunjanue Ellis were fantastic, and were powerful in their limited scenes. I hope both actresses get an episode which spotlights them. Jonathan Majors continues to prove himself to being a great leading man, and though I miss Courtney B. Vance, it’s good to have Michael k. Williams to pick up the slack. I really like Abbey Lee’s Christina, she’s evil but you still wouldn’t mind hanging out with her.

The makeup department gets a gold star for the ghost makeup. Those ghosts gave me the creeps, but the winner was the basketball player with the baby head. That had to be special effects along with the makeup, however they did it, kudos to everyone involved. I liked the story structure and the way they counted down the 10 days. They said three people went missing, I didn’t realize it would be three racist white neighbors instead of the Negroes. It was a nice switch. The music was outstanding, they have the second half of the 20th century and the 21st century to work with, and their choices haven’t failed. The songs that stood out to me were:

“Ain’t That a Shame” Fats Domino [Breakfast scene]

“I Don’t Hurt Anymore” Dinah Washington [Tic and Leti lovemaking scene]

“Take It Back” Dorinda Clark-Cole [Leti going Jackie Robinson on the racist cars]

“Satan, We’re Gonna tear Your Kingdom Down” Shirley Caesar [When Leti and the eight black souls defeat Hiram Epstein and free themselves, a powerful and beautiful scene]

Anthony (Kbear!) Nichols | Editor-in-Chief
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