“It took a long time to understand that the fire was my rage made manifest, that it could be tamed. I realized this magic was not something to be feared, but a gift to pass on.” Hannah
The family rushes Diana “Dee” Freeman (Jada Harris) into the house. Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors) opens the Book of Names and begins reading from it to save Dee, the pages flip to his birthmark, both he and Letitia “Leti” Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) faint. Atticus finds himself back in the burning lodge with his ancestor Hannah (Joaquina Kalukango). He is confused, she tells him, “The answer is in your blood.” Leti is frightened to find herself back in Tulsa, Hattie (Regina Taylor) tells her the baby brought her back. Leti has the responsibility to protect the book. They must teach the young a new way. She advises her not to cripple her son with her doubts. Atticus has unbound the book and they must learn what was lost. Hannah bound the book so no one else would suffer. Hannah: “It took a long time to understand that the fire was my rage made manifest, that it could be tamed. I realized this magic was not something to be feared, but a gift to pass on.” She hands Atticus the flame. Atticus finds himself in his father’s apartment, he hears Billie Holliday on the record player. His mother Dora (Erica Tazel) enters, he is ecstatic to see her, they hug. He lays his head on her lap. Hannah told him he would save them all, but he doesn’t want to die. Dora: “If we ain’t walking toward an altar to sacrifice ourselves for something important, what is our purpose?” She explains to him that we tell ourselves we had a choice, but we don’t. She didn’t have one with George and Montrose, but they formed a family. Dora: “You’ve got the best part of both of them. Montrose’s fierce heart and George’s integrity. You’re a hero, just like in those stories you used to cherish.” Once he does Hannah’s spell, everything will change, this isn’t the end but the beginning. Hattie is teaching Leti the language of Adam, Atticus and Dora join them. They concentrate on curing Dee. Hippolyta Freeman (Aunjanue Ellis) and Montrose Freeman (Michael K. Williams) are trying to wake up Leti and Atticus. While they are doing this, the curse is lifted out of Dee and dissipates in the ancestral space they are in. Hippolyta notices Dee is doing better, and Atticus and Leti wake up. Dee wakes up and screams in horror when she sees her withered arm.
Atticus tells Montrose they need a physical connection between Titus, Christina and himself. Montrose is against Atticus walking into Christina’s hands. Atticus explains that to gain the power they need to use Christina’s energy against her. Montrose would rather Atticus, Leti, and the baby hide, they have the birth mark to hide their presence. Atticus disagrees, after all they have been through, they can’t stop now. He is going to use the book to protect their family.
Leti and Atticus are back at the boarding house, they go down to the basement. Atticus’ pet Shoggoth is under the floorboard, he and Leti get in the elevator. They hold hands as they descend into the water. They are back in the tunnel and go to Titus’ tomb. They create a circle with salt and write symbols in it, Atticus cuts his hand with a knife for blood. The two recite the language of Adam and Titus Braithwhite (Michael Rose) appears. He asks who brought him and Hannah tells him his blood heir. They aren’t happy to see each other, Titus tried to sacrifice their child, he doesn’t understand why she is complaining, he treated her better than most niggers. [What a prince.] Atticus and Leti attack him, but he’s able to get them to break the circle and he momentarily escapes. Hannah tells them they must get him back now. Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee) and Ruby Baptiste (Wunmi Mosaku) are driving down the street when Titus pops up in front of Christina’s car. She swerves and hits a tree, flying out the front window. She recognizes him, he tells her the niggers have the book and he disappears back into the circle. With Hattie and Dora as backup, the women chant while Atticus fights Titus. He overpowers him and cuts off a piece of his chest. They continue chanting and Titus disappears. One by one his female ancestors disappear; it is hard for Atticus to let his mother go. Leti: “And that was supposed to be the easy part.”
Dee is in bed depressed; Hippolyta brings her favorite meal to cheer her up. Dee: “You left me.” Hippolyta: “I did, so I could become what you imagined me to be… so I could be Orithyia Blue.” Dee: “She’s not real.” Hippolyta: “I found a place…where I could bring her to life, where I could name myself anything, and I did. I went on adventures that not even your father’s beautiful mind could have imagined. And then I named myself mother, and it brought me back here to you.” Dee doesn’t care, she wasn’t there when she needed her. She was all alone. Dee pretends it’s all jake, there wasn’t anything Hippolyta could have done anyway.
“This isn’t generational hate. Our families are not at war, this has never been personal.” Christina Braithwhite
Back at the guide office, the gang discusses the next part of their plan. They need to get a piece of Christina, Leti says they can use Ruby for that, she is the only one of them close to Christina. Montrose stringently objects, Ruby is too close to her. Atticus says the three of them, Hippolyta walks in and says the four of them. Before he can continue, Leti spots Christina heading towards the office. She quickly hides the Book of Names. Christina: “This isn’t generational hate. Our families are not at war, this has never been personal.” Montrose disagrees, she plans on killing his son. Christina: “His death is a consequence of the spell I want to cast.” She tells Atticus she wants the book, if he gives it to her she’ll find a way to do the spell without him, she will leave him and his family alone. He says no, Christina is pissed off and takes the spell of invincibility from Leti on her way out.
The whole family goes back to Leti’s place, across the street a black family is moving in. White flight or Shoggoth flight, who knows. Atticus calls Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung) to meet him at the Drake Hotel. A white man bothers Ji-Ah and tries to pick her up. She finally asks him, “Would you be willing to die to fuck me?” The man thinks about it and moves on. Atticus joins her and apologizes for what he said at the boarding house. What they had was real, he denied it because if he denied it, he could deny that he was going to die. He knows she came here to help him. Ji-Ah tells him her mother died, she thought she’d never feel anything being a Kumiho but then she met Young-ja, Atticus, and then her mother finally started loving her as a daughter. Now that her mother’s gone, she doesn’t feel anything again. Atticus tells her that’s grieving, that’s part of being human. Because of their connection and their intertwined destiny, it makes them family and she isn’t alone. She is touched and they hold hands. Ji-Ah tells him what the shaman told her that she shouldn’t concern herself with human matters and that she was going to become one with the darkness and see countless deaths. Atticus is going to die. He doesn’t believe it, “You were the one who reminded me we have a choice. We can be monsters…or heroes.”
Ruby places flowers on her mother’s grave. Leti is there and she tells Ruby the real reason she missed their mother’s funeral, she was in jail. In a way it worked out for her because she didn’t want to attend the funeral anyway. Ruby didn’t want to go either, but she was their mother and they had an obligation to be there. Leti tells Ruby that she’s learned something about family, it is about acceptance and doing whatever you have to do to protect it. She asks Ruby to get a part of Christina’s body for a binding spell. She pulls out the Book of Names, Atticus didn’t want her telling Ruby about the book, but they are sisters. Ruby replies that Leti gets family wrong again. Ruby: “You only want to be my sister when you need something Leti.” Ruby is leaving but Leti tells her there is more.
Dee is reading the Chicago Defender about Emmett Till’s killers being acquitted by an all-white jury in Mississippi. She is angrily scratching their faces off the paper. Hippolyta slips a new comic of Orithyia Blue and Asteri, she and Dee are on the cover. Dee asks her how did she learn to draw. Someone named Afua [an artist who works on the show] taught her and Hippolyta will teach her. Dee says she’ll never be able to draw again. Hippolyta: “People think of time as a physical manifestation, but it really is, like so many things, in our minds. We get fixated on moments, stuck in them, but time… never stops.” Dee will get through it; she will help her. Hippolyta recognizes that Dee is rightfully angry at her and she will makeup for it. She tells Dee she has something for her and takes her to another room, we don’t see what it is, but Dee is delighted to see it.
Ruby goes down to the basement to see Christina. She’s fervently working on her immortality spell. Christina explains how spells work, “Intention, location, the body combined with an incantation – – those are the elements of magic.” She is worried that something could be off just a little and it won’t work. Ruby assures her it will work. She thinks about how Christina got the elements from her to make her potion work. The two kiss, Christina asks is this her first time with a woman? This will be the first time they’ve made love with each other as themselves.
“You know what I realized? All this time, I’ve been chasing faith, when I should have been discovering it in myself… because that’s where he is… in all of us.” Leti Lewis
Atticus and Leti are in church in white robes to be baptized. She believes God will protect them; Atticus wishes he could believe that. Leti: “You know what I realized? All this time, I’ve been chasing faith, when I should have been discovering it in myself… because that’s where he is… in all of us.” She sees it inside Atticus, and their baby. Back at the guide shop, Atticus looks at his family. Leti is talking to Ji-Ah, Montrose is putting up guide books, Dee and Hippolyta are together, he looks at all of them with love. He tells them it’s time to go. As they load up Woody, Ruby shows up and hands Leti a vial of Christina’s blood, they hug. On the road Dee begins singing along to the Chords, one by one, everyone joins her. Sh-boom.
They are back in Ardham. In the woods, Montrose spreads salt around in a circle. Atticus has to swallow Titus’ shoulder part. Montrose helpfully suggests, “Pinch and swallow.” He does, then downs Christina’s blood, Montrose hands him a flask of whiskey to wash it down. Montrose: “See you on the other side.” Atticus enters the ruins of the lodge; it is lighted up by torches. He takes off his dog tags and the citizens of Ardham surround him. They take him to the contraption that Christina will strap him in for the ceremony. In the tower, Leti and Ruby draw symbols with blood, so do Hippolyta and Ji-Ah on the bridge. Ruby stops for a moment and says, “Despite everything, the trip here was nice. I feel like I understand the pull of family for the first time.” Leti becomes suspicious and says she’s glad that Ruby agreed to help us in the cemetery. Ruby says she said yes because they are sisters. Ruby never agreed to help them in the cemetery, Leti knows this is Christina. Christina/Ruby realizes it and says, “She made me promise not to harm you and it’s your fault that she’s dead.” She caught Ruby trying to steal her vial of blood. The two women begin to fight. On the bridge, Ji-Ah, Hippolyta, and Montrose are surrounded by the villagers. They try to fight off the attacking horde. It’s a vicious fight in the tower, Leti has the upper hand for a moment, but Christina/Ruby tosses her out the tower window. It appears that Leti is dead. The villagers overwhelm the trio.
Dee is inside Woody, reading Lovecraft Country, she reads aloud, “He knew telling a story was a kind of power, but he also knew it wasn’t enough. If they were ever truly gonna disrupt the hierarchy of warlocks… They would have to spill blood other than their own.” She hears noises. They have Atticus strapped on the contraption. Christina appears dressed in a white dress. She taunts him by saying it would have been a good plan turning her spell against her if they had left Ruby out of it. The villagers walk in Ji-Ah, Hippolyta, and carry Montrose on a stretcher. Atticus fearfully asks Christina where is Leti. A Shoggoth attacks Dee, but Atticus’ Shoggoth which is bigger attacks it, protecting Dee. Christina slashes Atticus’ arms and baths in his blood. The mark of Cain reappears on Leti and she wakes up. She runs to the ceremony, Atticus sees her and she mouths, “I love you.” Atticus Freeman takes his last breath. Leti begins chanting the language of Adam and runs a sword through Christina. She laughs, “It’s too late. I’m immortal now.” Hippolyta says out loud that the spell won’t work if Christina and Atticus aren’t connected. Black smoke has risen, and Ji-Ah thinks about what the shaman told her. She walks up the steps and using her Kumiho powers, her tentacles grab both Christina and Atticus, connecting both of them. She sees from both their memories: Atticus baptism, Christina catching Ruby trying to steal the vial of blood, Atticus introducing his Shoggoth to Dee, Ruby’s body (comatose?) in the basement, Atticus handing a letter to Hippolyta, Christina/Ruby reciting the language of Adam over Leti, Atticus hugging Montrose. There is an explosion. Christina is laying in ruble reciting the language of Adam. Leti: “It’s not gonna work.” Christina: “You bound me from magic.” Leti: “Not just you… but every white person in the world. Magic is ours now.” Hannah’s spell works, her family is safe now. Montrose gets up and tries to wake up Atticus, pleading for his son to get up. Hippolyta hands him the letter that Atticus gave her to give to him.
“He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. Recognize that? Dumas’s wise words are my wish for you. Supreme happiness.” Atticus Freeman
I hope you will forgive me for this one last secret. I know you wouldn’t accept it, but it had to be done to protect our family. To protect us all. There is neither happiness nor misery in the world. There is only the comparison of one state with another… nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. Recognize that? Dumas’s wise words are my wish for you. Supreme happiness. Teach my son new ways of living instead of repeating what we’ve been through. As little George’s grandfather, you have a second chance to be the father you always wanted. Don’t waste it.
Montrose, Leti, Ji-Ah, and Hippolyta carry his body away from the lodge. Dee walks into the ruins of the lodge with Atticus’ Shoggoth being hers now. Christina begs Dee to help her. Dee: “They still haven’t learned.” She takes off her coat revealing her new mechanical arm, she uses it to break Christina’s neck. The Shoggoth roars into the moonlight.
Atticus uses the Book of Names to cure Dee, but it takes his and Leti’s consciousness to the fiery ancestral plane to talk to Hannah, Hattie, and Dora. They teach them Hannah’s spell and lift the curse off Dee, but one of her arms is withered and dead.
He and Leti begin to implement Hannah’s plan, bringing back Titus Braithwhite, with the help of Hannah, Hattie, and Dora, Atticus is able to beat him and take a piece of his shoulder. They need a piece of Christina, and Leti asks Ruby. Ruby brings them a vial of Christina’s blood.
Atticus reconciles with Ji-Ah and tells her she is part of their family now. Dee is mad at her mother for not being there for her, but Hippolyta understands her anger and promises to make up for her absence, starting with a mechanical arm.
They go to Ardham, but it turns out that Christina killed Ruby for trying to steal a vial of her blood, so she used her metamorphosis potion to be Ruby. She sets a trap for Atticus and his family. She and Leti fight in the tower and she throws Leti off the tower killing her.
I guess to keep her promise of not harming Leti, she reinstates the invulnerability spell on Leti after earlier taking it way from her in spite when Atticus wouldn’t give her the Book of Names. She kills Atticus and uses his blood to attain immortality, but Ji-Ah connects Atticus and Christina’s bodies together, allowing Hannah’s spell to work.
Hannah’s spell bounds every white person from magic. Only people of color can use it now. With her new mechanical arm, Dee snaps Christina’s neck.
Power to the People!
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. Magic is ours now. To make that happen, Atticus Freeman had to sacrifice his life. Like any normal person he didn’t want to die. But his love for his family and his people gave him the strength to lay down his life for all of us.
Atticus became the hero he read about in his books. He took some detours from his destiny in Korea, the resentments he harbored over Montrose, and his treatment of Ji-Ah. He found his way though, apologizing to Ji-Ah and inviting her into his family, where she finds acceptance, and forgiving his father. Becoming a father himself, and his love for Leti and his child gives him this strength. It was sad seeing him die, but he won in the end.
Magic is ours now.
Season finales [and I hope not series finale] are hard to do. I’ve seen great ones either save a season or amplify it; a terrible one leaves a season on a down note or destroys the series all together. Fortunately, this was a terrific season finale, it tied up most of the storylines while leaving new stories for season two if [when] HBO green lights it.
The ending was satisfying, Atticus dies a heroic death saving his family, Christina is defeated, along with any white person who would want to follow in her footsteps. Dee gets a mechanical arm and a pet Shoggoth, she is a force to be reckoned with. Racism isn’t solved, but at least white folks don’t have magic over us.
Though Atticus is dead, we see that the women, Leti, Hippolyta, Ji-Ah, and Dee will be able run the new order. The matriarchs of the Freeman family held things together in the ancestral plane and helped the new generation attain this victory. Even though Atticus was the protagonist, the women of this show were always equally important. Their stories mattered as much as his story did. Even if he doesn’t come back for a second season, [being dead and all] the show can carry on without him.
Everyone was great this episode, if this is Jonathan Majors last episode, he went out strongly. We got to see his character grow into a man, who could express love, making sure that everyone was loved and protected. The love that he showed when he glanced at his family in the guide shop was touching.
Michael K. Williams broke my heart when he tried to get his deceased son to wake up. If he’s not at least nominated for his role on this show, it proves the Emmys are worthless. Honestly all awards shows are to be truthful.
I will miss Wunmi Mosaku and Abbey Lee, Ruby and Christina were the most twisted but interesting couple on the show. This episode was Abbey Lee’s best performance on the show, her scene in the guide shop explaining killing Atticus wasn’t personal, was white privilege at it’s worst. Christina really couldn’t understand or care why they would be angry at her. Oh Karen! Or Becky!
Jurnee Smollett was perfection as always, and is the season MVP. She brought it every scene, every episode. She was good with whomever her scene partner was. She brought to life a flawed woman who found herself and a family.
The production value for the season was top notch, none of the monsters or special effects ever looked cheesy. Some of them scared me, shook me up, but never took me out of the scene.
The writing was excellent, it developed all of the major characters, they grounded the fantastical with real world problems like racism, generational curses, sexism, internal homophobia brought about by external homophobia. They dealt with real historical incidents and people in a respectful way, but kept the series entertaining and crazy along the way. Even though it could be heavy, it was always fun. The musical choices along with the written word portions were great.
There wasn’t a written word section this week, but the music fit the mood in every scene. The musical selections were:
When Atticus is in Montrose’s apartment in the ancestral plane, he hears Easy Living from Billie Holiday.
Ready or Not by Highland Park Collective when Atticus and Leti head to the elevator to head back into the tunnels.
When the family arrives back to Leti’s boardinghouse and Atticus calls Ji-Ah, Solange’s Weary plays.
As Atticus looks lovingly at his family, I Am Blessed by Nina Simone plays.
In their last happy moment together before Ardham, the family listens and sings along with Sh-Boom from the Chords.
When the full moon rose, and Atticus is strapped to Christina’s contraption, Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning by Mississippi Fred McDowell plays.
As a bonus here’s Issa Rae explaining Lovecraft Country on Saturday Night Live. If HBO greenlights a second season, see you next season, Mississippi Anthony Nichols.