The show mainly follows Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Johnathan Majors), his love interest Letitia “Letti” Lewis (Jurnee Smollett), and his father Montrose Freeman (Michael K Williams). These three characters are surrounded by a world of side characters including Letti’s sister, Tic’s relatives, and many villains and monsters throughout the show’s ten episode runtime. Though Tic, Letti, and Montrose are the focus of the show overall, often smaller characters will get moments or even whole episodes to shine.
Lovecraft Country is based on a popular book of the same name by Matt Ruff. The storyline of the show is not as linear and continuous as I had imagined it would. Instead, the episodes tend to follow a kind of “monster of the week” formula with overarching plot points connecting them. For example, one episode involves shape shifting as its main premise, then another involves Tic’s time in Korea during the war. The first couple of episodes set up a premise that was very interesting and when the episodes started to become more individual, I started to become less engaged with the show overall.
The most surprising aspect of this show is its graphic portrayal of violence. When dealing with monsters and magic, violence is to be expected, however some of the ways in which characters are killed are brutal. Monsters with giant, toothy mouths devour victims,shapeshifting via magic is a bloody and grotesque process, and many people are just killed in normal ways like bullets or fire. It can be a little hard to watch at points.
The show can also be hard to watch because of the real-world issues it discusses. The show is set in the 1950’s and follows a group of black protagonists who encounter racism at every turn. The first episode sees the group travelling to a little-known town to scope out how safe it is for black travelers to stop. They discover that it is not safe at all and encounter a group of police officers who tell them the town is a “sundown town.” This means that black people are not allowed to be within the town limits after sundown. A tense drive to the town limits with mere moments before sundown ends with the first monster attack of the show. It is scary and bloody, but throughout the show we understand that the real monsters are not the literal Lovecraftian horrors that stalk our heroes, but the racism they endure from real people.
Lovecraft Country is a clear reference to H.P. Lovecraft, a famous sci-fi/horror author who is known for his racist ideas. The show, and the book it is based on, aim to reclaim the enjoyable science fiction monsters and ideas that Lovecraft wrote about, but in a way that promotes equality rather than division. It is an important reclamation of enjoyable content, especially in a day and age where division seems to be the norm. The show can delve into some pretty deep ideas while using the sci-fi imagery.
Lovecraft Country may have been lacking in the visual effects and plot, but what it says about society and American history are important. The show tackles issues that are evil, but also real. By reclaiming the Lovecraftian subgenre of sci-fi and horror, this series is able to put an enjoyable twist on the works of a racist, even if influential, writer. I can recommend the show if you are able to stomach some brutal and grotesque violence, especially if the social commentary will make up for the otherwise horrific violence.