“What do you know about magic?” Captain Lancaster
On a hot day, a huge crowd has gathered. The cops try to clear the streets. Diana “Dee” Freeman (Jada Harris) is in that crowd with Ruby Baptiste (Wunmi Mosaku). She asks Ruby what is that smell. A woman throws up. Members of the Nation of Islam state that our children aren’t safe and demand immediate action. A moderate Christian minister asks for everyone to work through the law. Letitia “Leti” Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) and Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors) are behind Ruby and Dee. Atticus is very attentive of Leti, asking if she needs to rest. Montrose Freeman (Michael K. Williams) is behind them, he offers some water to Atticus, but he ignores him. Dee is distressed because they are at her friend Emmett Till’s public viewing and funeral. It is open casket because his mother wanted the public to see what the racist in Mississippi had done to him. The people in Chicago’s South Side are shaken at the brutality. The adults argue whether Dee should see his body. She is already dealing with her father’s death, and the adults are afraid that her mother Hippolyta might be dead also. She has been missing for over a week. She hasn’t returned from her cosmic journey. Montrose: “Ain’t no getting around this, every negro’s right of passage in this country.” While they are debating, Dee slips away. Finally, Ruby notices that Dee is gone. They separate to look for her.
Dee is walking around in a daze; she stares through the Amusement Center window. Most of the shops are closed in honor of Emmett Till. She sees two black girls leave the ice cream shop, laughing and eating their ice cream. Dee picks up some rocks and throws the rocks at them, screaming, “There’s nothing to laugh about.” She walks down the street and hears a police siren. Two cops get out of their squad car, one of them is Captain Lancaster (Mac Brandt). They trap her in an alley, Lancaster pulls out the copy of Orithyia Blue that was under the dead cop and asks her is it hers. The other cop draws a symbol on both sides of Dee. Lancaster asks her where her mother is, she tells him on a trip. Then he asks, “What do you know about magic?” Dee is confused, she tries to run but the other cop trips her. He holds her while Lancaster chants in the language of Adam. Maggots appear, she spits in his hand and smears it on Dee’s forehead. She tells them she can’t breathe. They leave. Dee runs off and the billboard of the Cream of Wheat man’s eyes follow her.
Leti returns to the boarding house to look for Dee. Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung) is inside sitting in the parlor. Leti asks if she’s there for a room, she tells her she is looking for Atticus. He is at the cemetery to meet Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee) at her family mausoleum. He asks her to teach him to cast a spell. She asks why. Atticus tells her it’s his birthright. She chuckles and says he doesn’t have the whiteness to sell that privilege. For the lesson he’ll give her something she wants, the key from the orrery. Christina gets up and draws a protection symbol on the wall. Christina: “An incantation isn’t a spell. The words aren’t enough. To cast, you need energy, intention, and a body. That’s how you upset the balance of nature without a disaster. Perfect alignment.” As she’s about to leave Atticus asks her about the autumnal equinox. That stops her dead in her tracks. Christina: “I’m going to achieve what no one in the Order, not even the all-powerful Titus Braithwhite could: immortality.”
Dee goes home where Montrose is waiting for her, he asks where she has been, everyone is looking for her. She angrily tells him he isn’t her pop; her father is dead; she asks if her mother is dead too. Montrose is visibly shaken; he tells her she is on a guide trip. Dee calls him a liar, all of them have been lying to her. Hippolyta would have come back for Bobo’s funeral. She goes to the bathroom to wash her forehead, Montrose tells her he knows how she feels, they took his best friend from him. Montrose: “You know, your pop and I learned early on, no matter what you do or how well you do it, they always take it from us. Doesn’t mean you have to give it to them easily.” Dee looks at the cover of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, suddenly the faces of the two little girls on the cover distort. Dee grabs a baseball cap and goes out the bathroom window. Montrose comes in and sees she is gone.
Ruby goes to Christina’s house, a white man asks her if she’s the maid, she tells him she’s no damn maid. He menacingly walks towards her. William (Jordan Patrick Smith) drives up and tells the man she’s with him. Once inside, William helps Ruby undress and bathes her. They kiss. Ruby goes into the bedroom to drink the potion; she begins to change colors. She makes love to William as Hillary (Jamie Neumann). When she climaxes, her white skin molts off. She and William lay in the blood.
“We’re surrounded by monsters Leti. I don’t have a choice.” Atticus Freeman
Dee heads to the subway track. On the platform she sees two creatures Topsy (Kaelynn Harris) and Bopsy (Bianca Brewton) emerging up the stairs using awkward twisted dance movements. Topsy is a twisted version of the Topsy character in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. No one else can see them. They are stalking Dee; their fingernails grow into talons. Dee pushes through the crowd and escapes.
Atticus sees Ji-Ah’s shoes on the porch. He becomes anxious for good reasons; his two loves wait for him. At the dining room table, he looks at Ji-Ah, looking at him with love and apprehension, he looks at Leti, looking uncomfortable and furious. Atticus: “You’re a succubus.” Ji-Ah: “In Korea we call it a Kumiho, a fox with nine tails.” He tells her she’s killed 100 men; she tells him it’s in her nature, what is his excuse. She explains when she has sex with men and climax her tails come out and she can see the man’s past before he dies, but when she had sex with Atticus and he didn’t die she could see his future. He asks when he’ll die, she doesn’t know, what are the details, she doesn’t know that either. Exasperated, he asks Ji-Ah why she is there. Leti: “Because she loves you.” Leti sadly walks away from the table. Atticus angrily turns to Ji-Ah, “Our shit wasn’t real. And I’m not dying, so get the fuck out.” Her heart is broken again. Atticus catches up with Leti, she is pissed off that he didn’t tell her about what happened in South Korea and she had to hear it from Ji-Ah. She wants Ji-Ah gone, and Atticus too. He tells her he didn’t know what was happening and he didn’t believe it himself. Leti responds that he believed some of it. Atticus says he hasn’t died, she points out plenty of people have died around him. He tells her he’s going to fix it by casting a spell, Christina told him how. Leti tells him he can’t trust Christina. He’s going to do it anyway to protect everyone. Leti: “You don’t get to make those damn decisions by yourself anymore.” Atticus: “We’re surrounded by monsters Leti. I don’t have a choice.” He leaves.
Ruby comes downstairs, but instead of William it is Christina. Ruby tells her what happened to Emmitt Till and wants to know if Christina even cares. Ruby: “I want you to feel what I feel right now: heartbroken, scared, furious, tired, so fucking tired of feeling this way over and over. And I want you to feel alone and shameful because I’m here feeling this because you’ll never understand. I want you to feel guilty for feeling safe. I’m next to you and your privilege feeling safe. You want to know why I took that potion? Because today of all days I didn’t want to be a Black woman fucking a white man.” Ruby anxiously awaits Christina’s answer. Christina: “No, I don’t care about Emmett Till. I don’t care about Roy Bryant, or T.W. Milan who will never receive justice for what they did. I don’t care that half the city is on the brink because of it. And I don’t think you really do either. Pain. ‘It’s like being unmade.’ That’s what you said about the transformation, but that’s not what I saw when I was fucking you. I saw someone being reborn. You took that potion because you wanted to hide from the fact that even on today of all days you are a woman who wanted what she wanted.” Ruby looks stunned, she wasn’t expecting that.
Dee sees some white girls jumping rope. She has made it to Leti’s place looking for Atticus. Leti is too preoccupied to pay Dee any attention. Dee tries to tell her something is behind her, it’s Topsy and Bopsy. She begins coughing and gasping for air, Leti tells her to get some water. Dee finds Woody behind the house. One of the creatures put their bloody hand on the car window. Dee grabs a bike and rides away.
Montrose sits on the curb drinking; he sees Atticus and tells him he found Dee, but she took off again. Atticus asks him if he cheated on his mother. Montrose tells him he had desires, but he didn’t act on them while she was alive. When he was a boy his pastor was caught with a man. The police arrested him Sunday morning at his pulpit. They put him in an asylum and chopped off half his brain. Montrose: “I chose my life over a damn asylum. Or a jail cell. Or being found dead in the bathroom of some public park.” Dora lost all her family during the Tulsa massacre; they both wanted a family. They didn’t share a romantic love but a familial love, which is better. Atticus will understand one day when he has kids. Atticus informs Montrose that Leti is pregnant, but she didn’t tell him. Hippolyta wasn’t the only one to go through the portal, he went to the future. He gives him a copy of Lovecraft Country written by George Freeman. The author is Atticus and Leti’s son.
Leti is at an empty church praying. Leti: “Magic is haunting us. Testing us. It’s like the devil. That part you left out.” She asks God to protect Atticus and to extend his grace to Emmett Till’s family, especially his mother Mamie. While Leti is praying, Christina is walking down the aisle towards her. She tells Leti that she didn’t figure Leti a woman of faith. Leti tells her she wasn’t until she died and was resurrected. Christina points out her resurrection wasn’t a miracle, it was magic. Leti thinks they are similar enough. Christina’s father would have liked that, thinking he might be a god. Christina: “Most men with God complexes want to live in heaven and not hell. Failing to understand that God is both.” Leti summoned her to give her the negatives of the pages if she makes Atticus invulnerable. Christina says she won’t do it for Atticus, but she will make Leti invulnerable. After Leti thinks about it for a minute, she consents. Christina gives her the Mark of Cain, it is painful, but Leti now has invulnerability.
“Magic is so much more jazz.” Montrose Freeman
Dee arrives outside the police station. She waits for Lancaster to appear. Topsy and Bopsy are down the alley dancing towards her. Lancaster appears and gets in his car. Dee follows him on her bike. Topsy and Bopsy follow her.
Atticus and Montrose discuss the book George wrote. Montrose: “It’s our family story. Some of the details are different, Christina is a man, Uncle George survived Ardham and Dee’s a boy named ‘Horace’.” He informs his father that Christina is going to sacrifice him on the autumnal equinox to achieve immortality. Atticus: “I know casting a spell can kill me. But I’ve got to take every chance I can to live for my son.” He asks Montrose what should he do. Montrose: “You know son, I always thought my death would come at the end of a white man’s bullet or a rope. Magic is so much more jazz.” Montrose remembers Atticus said magic works through intention. Montrose: “Well it’s my intention to do whatever I can to save my son and grandson. Even if it kills me.”
Captain Lancaster is talking to one of his subordinates about Leti and the house. Dee bursts in and asks if her mother is dead. He replies probably. She asks him why he smeared his spit on her, he says it was to keep her from telling anyone about their chat. Lancaster tells her he can remove the curse off her if she brings him the orrery. Dee spits on him and shouts, “Fuck you pig!” [A spoken word section about African-American girls begin.] Dee runs out, Lancaster’s subordinate wants to chase her but he tells him to forget it, she’s dead anyway. They should go and get the orrery.
Montrose and Atticus are working on the spell drawing a circle of Atticus’ blood for him to stand in. Montrose has to read the incantation. He reads a few words out of order, he tells Atticus he’s dyslexic. This surprises Atticus, he humorously asks, “Any other secrets you keeping from me.” Montrose eyes shift but he doesn’t say anything. He reads the son of Adam language. It appears that nothing happened.
Christina is at the pier with two white men she hired. They have some barbwire and a fan blade. They ask has she done this before. After Christina recites something in the Son of Adam language, they begin beating her badly. One of them shoots her and wraps the barbwire around her neck. She is attached to the fan blade and thrown off the pier. After they leave, Christina comes back up, she crawls back on the pier and checks for any wounds, laughing and sobbing.
“I want to create my own space. I can do that with magic.” Ruby Baptiste
Leti is downstairs in the dark room developing photos. Ruby joins her and asks are those photos from Emmett Till’s funeral. They aren’t, they are photos of Atticus and Leti together. Leti admits she couldn’t take those pictures; it was too much for her. She should have shown the same bravery Mamie Till displayed in having an open casket funeral for the world to see what happened. Ruby assures her there was nothing wrong in taking care of herself. Leti informs Ruby that she is pregnant. Ruby is taken aback, especially with all that is going on with Atticus and magic. She informs Leti that she knows about magic and what she and Atticus have been up to. The white man she’s been staying with on the North Side is Christina. She tells her about the potion, getting the job at Marshall Field, but finding out she doesn’t want to be white. It’s Leti’s turn to be taken aback. Leti warns her she can’t trust Christina; she is using her. Ruby is aware of that but, “I want to create my own space. I can do that with magic. Christina’s gonna teach me.” Before they can continue the discussion, a man shouts that Leti needs to come upstairs right now. Dee is at the guide office locking all the doors except for one. She is setting a trap for Topsy and Bopsy. Outside it looks like Captain Lancaster brought most of his precinct. They scream through the door that they have a warrant to search the premises. Ruby answers the door so Leti won’t get herself thrown in jail with the baby. The cops say the Nation of Islam is organizing there about Emmett Till. One cop pushes his way in but when Lancaster tries to enter the protection symbol Leti has on the door stops him. He calls his men back out. Ruby asks what happened, Leti tells him she has a protection spell, it keeps magic users out. This means Lancaster knows she has magic. The cops begin shooting up the house. The bullets bounce off of Leti.
Dee is drawing pictures of the creatures. Dee grabs a pipe and begins beating one of them with it. Montrose hears the commotion and walks in; it looks like Dee is swinging at air. He grabs Dee thinking she’s having a psychotic break. When Montrose grabs her, it allows Topsy and Bopsy to use their talons on her. Dee begins to bleed. Atticus shows up and hears the gunshots. He sees the cops and they notice him. They tell him to put up his hands, he does but they try to shoot him anyway. Leti runs out to protect him, but a Shoggoth emerges from under the street and blocks the bullet. It proceeds to attack the cops. Cars and bodies are flying everywhere, there is blood and gore everywhere. Atticus runs to Leti. After the Shoggoth has killed all the cops it runs towards Atticus and Leti, but heals like an obedient dog in front of Atticus. Leti says the spell worked.
Dee is attending her friend Emmett Till’s public viewing and funeral with her family. Hippolyta has been missing for a week and the adults are afraid she’s dead. Dee slips off for some alone time, but Captain Lancaster picks her up and asks her about her Orithyia Blue comic book and where her mother is. He puts a curse on her, two creatures who look like the twisted cover of Uncle Tom’s Cabin pursue her the entire episode. No one can see them but Dee, so Dee is on her own, in more ways than one. Atticus isn’t having a great day either, Ji-Ah comes to Chicago, and his new girlfriend isn’t happy. Ji-Ah doesn’t have any new information to give him, but she’s in play. Atticus gives Christina the key from the orrery to teach him a protection spell. It seems like he’ll need it against her since she plans to sacrifice him on the autumnal equinox to attain immortality. Leti is mad with him about Ji-Ah but she wants to protect him, so she makes her own deal with Christina to get an invulnerability spell for Atticus. Christina won’t do it for him, [the whole sacrifice thing] but she makes Leti invulnerable.
Atticus reconciles with Montrose over his impending fatherhood. When he went through the portal he went into the future and brought back Lovecraft Country by George Freeman, but this George Freeman isn’t his uncle, but his son. He knows that Leti is pregnant. He needs to protect himself for his son. Montrose will help him, because he wants to protect his son and grandson, and is willing to sacrifice his own life to do it. They do the spell but they think it didn’t work, be patient guys.
Ruby is upset with what happened to Emmett Till and goes to William’s house for some comfort. Before they make love, she takes the potion to become white Hillary. She later tells Christina she took it because on that day, as a black woman she didn’t want to be fucking a white man. She wants to know if Christina even cares about what happened to Emmett Till. She doesn’t and believes Ruby doesn’t care as much as she cares to believe she does. Later Christina reenacts his death, I guess to feel something about it.
At the end of the episode Dee confronts Captain Lancaster and later the creatures Topsy and Bopsy. They get her because Montrose sees her fighting air and holds her thinking she’s having a breakdown. This allows them to get Dee.
Leti and Atticus come out better, Captain Lancaster and half the Chicago police force come to her boarding house to get the orrery. They shoot up the house, but their bullets bounce off of Leti. The cops try to shoot Atticus, but his spell actually works, because a Shoggoth emerges from underground and destroys the cops. Atticus has his own pet Shoggoth. Baby George will have someone to play with.
I wasn’t sure about them using Emmett Till in this episode. They had introduced him in episode three and off-handily remarked about his summer vacation, and later mentioned him being missing. They paid it off, and I’m relieved to say they did a good job. They didn’t trivialize his death in putting it in a horror show, but his death added poignancy to what was happening to the characters. The show has done a great job in having supernatural horror blend in with the horror black Americans experienced in the 50s, and what we are experiencing now. When Atticus went to the future I wouldn’t be surprised if he visited 2020.
The show spotlights different members of the cast, and this week it was Jada Harris’ turn. This episode demanded a lot from her, and she carried it off like a seasoned veteran. She really showed the trauma Dee is going through, because Dee is basically alone in this episode. Her father is dead, mother missing, and all of the adults in her life too busy dealing with their own traumas. Like a lot of black kids, she has to face a cruel world on her own and find the strength to fight the injustices thrown in her path. Dee displayed the type of bravery and resilience we hope all our kids will show. Her twisted twin adversaries were especially creepy, I read they hired two dancers to portray them, and their physicality sold it.
The special effects were fantastic this episode, especially at the end with the Shoggoth attack on the Chicago police. This action set piece was fantastic, movie quality. The show’s creator Misha Green directed this episode, and she did a great job. It had nearly the whole cast interacting with each other, and finally all of the storylines are blending together. Ms. Green was able to make a busy episode run smoothly.
At first, I thought Cruel Summer by Bananarama was a strange choice to begin the episode, but it actually did fit.
During Ruby/Hillary-William/Christina gross sex scene, Alice Smith’s I Put A Spell on You enchants.
The spoken word section this episode was then 11-year-old Naomi Wadler’s March for Our Lives speech at the 2018 rally in Washington DC. It fits with Dee’s theme.