“Name it, where do you want to be, who do you want to be? Name it, name it.” Seraphina AKA Beyond C’est
Hippolyta Freeman (Aunjanue Ellis) is in her bedroom frantically doing computations on the golden orrery. She thinks back to three days ago when she and Diana “Dee” Freeman (Jada Harris) were in Ardham at the burnt ruins of the lodge. Dee tells her mother that maybe they shouldn’t be here. Hippolyta looks through the ruble and finds a cover of Dee’s Orithyia Blue comic book and a symbol from the orrery on a burnt piece of wood. She has confirmation that George Freeman (Courtney B. Vance) was here. Back in her bedroom frustrated with her inability to get the orrery to work, she knocks it off the table. Laying on her bed she sees the orrery from a new angle and realizes the two suns need to tilt based on how they rotate on their axis. Hippolyta does it, rotating the planets so that the central sun unlocks. It opens and she finds a key and this inscription, Every Beginning Is In Time And Every Limit Of Extension In Space.
Ruby Baptiste (Wunmi Mosaku) is down in the basement with a still bloody Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee). The real bodies of William and Dell/Hillary are laying on tables. Ruby nervously asks if Christina killed them, she didn’t. She has their bodies to transform their blood into her metamorphosis potion. Christina explains that the story she gave Ruby about Captain Lancaster killing William to steal the lodge was true. She seduced William so that he could teach her magic, her father would not teach her because she was a girl. She eventually realized it was stupid to learn this magic just to impress her father. Ruby asks Christine is she doing all of this to avenge a lover, Christine says yes but, “I can be so much more. Do things most people couldn’t even imagine.” Ruby is still upset about Christina making love to her in William’s body. Christina assures her what she said as William came from her and she meant it. Ruby demands she tell her everything, and no more lies or half-truths.
Letitia “Leti” Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) dreams that she is in the burning lodge, Hannah (Joaquina Kalukango) is looking back at her holding the Book of Names. Leti grabs her pregnant belly and burns. After she gets out of bed, she finds Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) with his notes, he was up all night, he tells her he has translated half the pages. Leti mentions Hannah leaving by the front door, Atticus asks how she knows this, and she tells him about her dream, he tells her he also had a similar dream, maybe Hannah is trying to tell them something. Leti leaves out the part about being pregnant. She wonders why a pregnant slave running away from her master Titus Braithwhite would bother to grab a book, Atticus realizes Hannah had the Book of Names. If they can find the book, they would have the actual instructions on how to cast spells. He chuckles that while Christina is chasing after pages, they are going to get the whole damn book.
Montrose Freeman (Michael K. Williams) walks into his kitchen and finds Sammy (Jon Hudson Odom) cooking breakfast. Montrose teases that Sammy is making a big production out of breakfast because he let him spend the night there. He’s happy until Sammy mentions he saw one of Montrose’s neighbors at the bus stop. Sammy assures him she wouldn’t have known where he was going. Montrose gets tense and starts an argument about the breakfast, Sammy knows Montrose is afraid of getting caught and is trying to distance himself from him. He gets up and leaves, Montrose follows him and grabs his hand in the hallway. They look up and see Atticus and Leti in the hallway staring at them. Sammy excuses himself and slips away. Atticus says it is true and calls his father a faggot. Montrose becomes furious and takes off his shirt ready to fight. Atticus asks him if mama knew. He quietly says she did. Atticus storms out of there. Montrose asks Leti why they are there. Atticus is outside having a fit. Leti goes outside to calm him down. She informs him that his mother has a cousin in St. Louis. Atticus tearfully tells Leti, “He said he had to whoop my ass so I wouldn’t be soft. The fucked-up part is I told myself it was because he cared about me. He never cared about me.”
Hippolyta is in Woody preparing to go on a trip. Ruby is going to babysit Dee. Hippolyta asks her about the checklist, Dee is surly with her mother. The checklist was a thing between her and George. Naturally, she is taking it hard about her father’s death. Atticus and Leti catch Hippolyta and ask to borrow the car. She tells them she is going on a guide trip. Atticus remarks that the last print has already gone out and that George would not want her out on the road by herself. She asks Atticus did George put him in charge before he died, he admits he didn’t, she tells him her trip is important too and drives off. Atticus is going to St. Louis by bus, Leti decides to stay to reconcile with Ruby. She joins Ruby and asks where she has been staying, Ruby doesn’t answer. Leti apologizes for not telling her about the money. She was hustling Ruby; their mother was a hustler and she never knew she would act like her. Ruby: “I never heard momma apologize in all her life. So maybe y’all aren’t exactly the same.” Leti smiles.
“Me, I feel like the stars in the black of space: magnificent, ancient and already extinguished.” Josephine Baker
Hippolyta’s on the road to Kansas, she listens to Josephine Baker on the radio. She waves at a black woman on a motorcycle. [The motorcyclist is Bessie Stringfield, the first African American woman to ride her motorcycle solo across the continental U.S.] Atticus arrives in St. Louis by bus. He is having dinner with his late cousin Ethel’s best friend, Mrs. Osberta (Carol Sutton). He asks her if Cousin Ethel ever mentioned The Book of Names. She thinks she might have, thinking it was a family bible or photo album. She is afraid it might have been destroyed during the Tulsa massacre. Hippolyta arrives at an observatory in Mayfield, Kansas. Leti is playing cards with Dee and her friends. She goes into the kitchen to find out when dinner will be ready. Leti asks where Ruby has been staying, she replies the North Side. She changes the subject and asks what Atticus has been up to since he’s the only black man on the South Side not working. Leti says he’s been helping around the house. Ruby jokes she can believe Mr. Fix-It has been helping around the house. She asks Leti to taste what she’s cooking, Leti gets nauseous from smelling the garlic in the sauce. Ruby jokes that Leti must be pregnant with Mr. Fix-It Jr. She goes to Hippolyta’s room to get some air and finds the golden orrery. She calls Atticus in St. Louis. Mrs. Osberta had shown Atticus a picture of Ethel, he and her have the same birthmark. Leti tells him Hippolyta has the missing orrery, she thinks Hippolyta knows they lied about George’s death. She sees some coordinates and thinks Hippolyta is heading there. She is afraid Hippolyta is heading towards danger. Ruby is outside the door listening.
Hippolyta is in the observatory and uses her key in a machine that has the same inscription the orrery has. She begins doing advanced mathematics to get the machine to work. Once she gets it started, some cops working for Lancaster walk in. They find her and ask what she is doing there. Hippolyta tries to pretend that she’s lost. They point their guns at her, suddenly Atticus appears. [How did he get from St. Louis to Mayfield, Kansas that fast?] He jumps the cops, while they are scuffling, a portal begins opening. Atticus tosses one of the cops through it, Hippolyta picks up his gun and shoots the other one. The portal sucks both Hippolyta and Atticus through it. Hippolyta lands on an alien planet, we don’t see Atticus again until the end of the episode.
Hippolyta is standing on an alien terrain looking at an alien structure when two robots appear. She wakes up naked in a room that has a forcefield to keep her in. The aliens have put devices in her arms. She puts on a grey jumpsuit. A tall alien lady (Karen LeBlanc) with a huge afro appears. Hippolyta asks her who she is, the alien answers “I Am”. She tells Hippolyta she isn’t in a prison. Hippolyta begins working the problem like the Doctor, asking herself questions about gravity and her surroundings. She takes apart a table and tosses the panels in the air where they float, she takes an object out of the table to open a panel to the door and figures out how to open it. The alien who IMDB calls Seraphina AKA Beyond C’est stops her from leaving. She states, “You are not in prison, where do you want to be? Name yourself.” Hippolyta is confused and asks, “What the fuck are you talking about?” Seraphina: “Name it, where do you want to be, who do you want to be? Name it, name it.” In frustration Hippolyta tells her she wants to be in Paris on stage dancing with Josephine Baker. The next thing she knows, she is in a burlesque theatre in 1920 Paris, part of a chorus line performing with Josephine Baker (Carra Patterson).
“I feel like they just found a smart way to lynch me without me noticing the noose. Sometimes I just…I wanna kill white folks. And it’s not just them. I hate me. Hate me for letting them make me small.” Hippolyta Freeman
Hippolyta doesn’t know the dance routine and keeps bumping into the other dancers. They aren’t happy with her. Finally, Josephine Baker shows up, Hippolyta is too busy gawking at her to do anything right. When everyone on stage takes off their tops, Hippolyta breasts remain covered. Back in the dressing room, the other chorus members complain about the new American. Josephine kindly shows her the dance routine and says, “You’re not in America anymore. You’ve got to loosen up.” Hippolyta takes her advice and loosens up. Over time she knows the dance routines, and is partying with the rest of the chorus, flirting with both men and women. She and Josephine have become friends. Hippolyta lights Josephine’s cigarette and looks at her. Hippolyta: “You got that look again.” Josephine: “Nights like this I burn so bright, I feel like a star.” Hippolyta reminds her she is a star; Josephine tells her anyone can be like a movie star. Josephine: “Me, I feel like the stars in the black of space: magnificent, ancient and already extinguished.” She remarks that only Hippolyta notices when she’s like that, she believes Hippolyta feels that way too. Hippolyta: “Being here has only shined a light on that old dead feeling. Now that tasting it, freedom, like I’ve never known before. I see what I was robbed of back then. All those years I thought I had everything I ever wanted only to come here and discover that all I ever was was the exact kind of Negro woman white folks wanted me to be. I feel like they just found a smart way to lynch me without me noticing the noose. Sometimes I just…I wanna kill white folks. And it’s not just them. I hate me. Hate me for letting them make me small.” Josephine: “So Miss Hippolyta, what are you going to do with all that anger?” Hippolyta shouts, “I am Hippolyta, I am Hippolyta!” She is transported to Africa.
Hippolyta is training with the Dahomey Amazons [Who the Dora Milaje from Black Panther are modeled on.] A warrior named Nawi (Sufe Bradshaw) is training her. She is telling Hippolyta and the other women that they are there because they rejected “The freedom a well-kept slave can ask for.” Hippolyta eventually becomes good enough to best Nawi and become the warriors’ leader. She leads them into battle against white troops. [I think they are confederate soldiers, but they could also just be generic white invaders of Africa.] In a bloody battle, Hippolyta’s warriors win. She addresses her fellow warriors, “We are here because we did not believe them when they told us our rage was not lady-like. We did not believe them when they said our violence goes too far. We did not believe them when they said the hatred that we feel for our enemies is not god like. They say that to women like us because they know what will happen when we are free.” When a new wave of white troops come charging Hippolyta says, “I am Hippolyta, George’s wife.” She is in bed with George.
“I see you now, Hippolyta Freeman, and I want you to be as big as you can be.” George Freeman
Hippolyta is explaining to George what has happened to her. It would appear she is on a parallel earth where George is still alive. She thinks the multiple world theory has been proved. She tells him she was in a world where she could name herself and be who she wanted to be. George is glad that she named herself George’s wife. Hippolyta realizes that something has always been bothering her and she can name it now. She has been shrinking. She started after they took away the honor of her naming the comet while she was still a girl. Hippolyta: “By the time I met you, I’d already gotten so small. And I thought you knew how big I wanted to be. I thought you saw me, but you just stood by and let me shrink myself more for you.” He wants to deny it, but he realizes it is true. George: “You’re right. I let you…helped you…shrink, so that we could have a family; so that I could do what I had to do and know that you were safe at home waiting for me. I’m so sorry. I see now what that cost you. I see you now, Hippolyta Freeman, and I want you to be as big as you can be.” Hippolyta says, “I am Hippolyta, the explorer.” She and George are in spacesuits and a rocket ship, the type that Dee would imagine. Hippolyta’s hair is blue, she is Orithyia Blue. She and George explore an alien planet, meet friendly aliens and enjoy themselves. Soon Seraphina AKA Beyond C’est appears looking like a space goddess. She tells Hippolyta that she can join their civilization. Hippolyta decides to go back to Earth. Even though she has grown so much and wonders, “How can I fit in everything that I am,” she must get back to Dee who needs her.
Back at the observatory, Atticus emerges from the portal holding a copy of Lovecraft Country written by George Freeman. He calls for Hippolyta. He hears police sirens and tries to grab everything they might have brought. In his haste he doesn’t notice the Orithyia Blue comic book by Diana Freeman laying under the dead cop.
Hippolyta has been trying to decipher the orrery since she took it from Leti’s home. After knocking it over, she figures out how to open the globe and get the key. She gets coordinates from the orrery to an observatory in Kansas. She finds a machine that has the same inscription the orrery has and uses her key to start it. Two cops working for Captain Lancaster catch her and begin to interrogate her, guns drawn. Atticus shows up and fights the cops. The machine begins to open portals to other dimensions, Atticus pushes one cop through one and Hippolyta shoots the other one. Both she and Atticus are pulled through the portal. We only follow Hippolyta’s journey of discovery. She ends up on an alien world, after two robots grab her, she wakes up naked in an alien structure. An alien name Seraphina AKA Beyond C’est comes to her apparent cell. Hippolyta asks who the alien is, she replies I Am. She has some questions for Hippolyta, where do you want to be, who do you want to be, name yourself, name it. Hippolyta says she wants to dance on stage with Josephine Baker in Paris, she is transported to a burlesque theatre to dance in the chorus line. After freeing herself in Paris and realizing her anger at being made an acceptable Negro woman for white people, Hippolyta screams I am Hippolyta and transports to Africa to train with African women warriors. After significant training, she becomes their leader and defeats an army of white men. Now she declares herself George’s wife and is in bed with him. This is an alternative reality George. She is able to express her anger and hurt of shrinking throughout her life, and George allowing her to become small in their marriage. He apologizes and they go on a space adventure with Hippolyta being Orithyia Blue. Seraphina AKA Beyond C’est tells Hippolyta she can join their society, but even though she has grown into her true self, she decides to go back to Earth because her daughter Dee needs her.
The other storylines: Leti has the same dream Atticus had about seeing Hannah holding a book while a pregnant Leti is engulfed in flames in the burning lodge. A small fact she leaves out when she tells Atticus her dream. Later Leti becomes nauseous from smelling the garlic in Ruby’s sauce. It appears she might be pregnant. Ruby finally gets some answers from Christina. She is using the blood of the real William and Dell to create her potion. She was in a relationship with William to learn magic, Lancaster had him killed, she wants revenge, but she also wants to use her magic for much more. Everything William told Ruby came from her, and it wasn’t a lie. Sammy spent the night with Montrose, they get into a fight when Montrose tries to push him away. Atticus and Leti see them in the hallway and realize that Montrose is gay. Atticus calls his father a homophobic slur and finds out his mother knew he was gay. Atticus is actually upset because his father used to beat him to make sure he didn’t become soft. Atticus believed his father beat him because he loved him, now he doesn’t believe that. Leti finds out Atticus had a deceased cousin who lived in St. Louis. The best friend of the deceased cousin thinks she had mentioned the book to her, but it would have been destroyed in the Tulsa massacre. Leti calls and tells him Hippolyta has the orrery and she gives him the coordinates to the observatory in Kansas.
When we met Hippolyta, she was a loving wife and mother, a stalwart member of the black community in Chicago. While George was away on his guide trips, Hippolyta stayed home and wrote up his reports, helped run the business and took care of their home. She wanted to go on some of the trips herself, but George wouldn’t let her because of how dangerous the road was for a black woman back in the 1950s. We got a taste of that during the first episode. We had a few hints that Hippolyta could be more than just a stay at home mom. When she was a child, she named a comet. Because she was black, the honor was taken away from her. Society had taken this woman with an extraordinary mind and shrunk her to make her feel small. In this episode Hippolyta has a cosmic journey to discover herself and play with different aspects of her personality. In Paris she meets Josephine Baker and loosens up, tasting real freedom for the first time. She also realizes the box she was put in and feels hatred for whites. In Africa she trains with African women warriors and confronts this anger, and decides it’s not bad to express one’s rage. She gets to see George again and express her anger and hurt at George for helping her to shrink. George sees that she is right, he didn’t do it to be malicious, he wanted to keep her safe. Still he had selfish reasons for wanting her home while he was on his adventures. He confirms that he sees how big she is, and they finally become equal partners who are able to go on fantastical adventures together. Hippolyta is like a lot of women, especially black women, who aren’t allowed to express their true potential, who are kept from expressing full personhood. With all the horrible things society throws at them, women aren’t allowed to express their justified anger, society tells them it isn’t ladylike. Black women are made into the caricature of the angry black woman. It turns out that society is afraid of the immense power and passion of black women. You see this with Trump, who freaks out anytime he has to deal with powerful black women leaders. He sees how limited he is as a person and lashes out. It would be nice if every black woman met their Seraphina AKA Beyond C’est.
I enjoyed the first part of the episode, even though it was busy playing catchup to every storyline in the show. With Leti possibly being pregnant with Atticus’ child, all sorts of storylines could open up. There is the question of whether Ruby is aligned with Christina and keeping an eye on Leti and Atticus. Dee’s comic book is under the dead white cop, with her name on it. Now she’ll be dragged into this. It really sets up the rest of the season. The episode became special when we went on Hippolyta’s journey. Aunjanue Ellis gave a stellar and powerful performance in this episode. From the annoyed and simmering anger Hippolyta displayed at the beginning of the episode, to the awesome explorer she became at the end. She got to do things black actresses don’t usually get to do, and she took advantage of the opportunity to do it. Her monologues were soaring, painful but truthful, the writers of the episode Misha Green and Shannon Houston deserve immense credit. I also enjoyed guest stars Carra Patterson as Josephine Baker and Karen LeBlanc as Seraphina AKA Beyond C’est. They fully embodied their characters and impressively shared the screen with Ms. Ellis. The costumes which are always on point on this show, were allowed to be more imaginative with the costumes in Paris and the space outfits. The retro feel of the spacesuits and spaceship was cute. The music was its usual fascinating eclectic blend. Some songs I’m highlighting.
Piel Canela by the legendary Josephine Baker. Hippolyta is listening to it on her drive to Kansas.
Hippolyta and her new Parisian friend’s grove to Lady Marmelade by Labelle.
Hippolyta leads her Dahomey Amazons against the confederate army to Mother’s Finest hit Fire.
Here’s a clip from Sun Ra’s movie Space is the Place. His oral recitation played during Hippolyta and George’s space exploration.