Visually impressive and tightly written, Lovecraft Country storms into 2020 with one of the best pilot episodes of the year. From the beautiful juxtaposing imagery depicting racial segregation to the beautiful tonal shifts from drama to horror, HBO’s latest drama gets off to an excellent start.
Of course, the topics discussed here are important and certainly relevant but they feel naturally included into the premise of the show. Instead of heavy-handed exposition, there’s a lot of show-don’t-tell segments and it really helps give the series a unique voice. The ending will almost certainly get people talking too but so far Lovecraft Country is looking like a promising prospect for the future.
We begin with a surrealist dream about baseball, monsters and the war. Atticus Freeman awakens with a start as the bus he’s on breaks down in the middle of an empty road. It’s 1950 and with alternate transport prepped for most of the passengers, Atticus is forced to walk. Along with a fellow passenger, Atticus admits he’s back in Chicago after the war to find his Father, whose gone missing.
It’s been two weeks since he disappeared and a lot of this stems from the landlord sniffing around asking for rent. Before we dive into this though, Atticus makes himself at home. He greets Uncle George and Hippolyta, along with the incredibly talented drawer Diana.
The only clue Atticus has to work with is a letter from his Father. Within that includes details of a family legacy and something hidden deep in Lovecraft Country. Arkham to be precise. Although, as Uncle George takes a closer look it turns out the K is actually a D. It’s in Ardham.
With Atticus back in town, he heads to Denmark Bar and speaks to Sammy, the owner. Given his Father was a drinker, he learns that his Father left 2 weeks back. This time though he has some clues to go on. When his Father disappeared from the bar, he left with a white man whom Sammy believes is a lawyer.
Atticus isn’t the only one back in town. Letitia returns up on stage with her sister Ruby. She’s quite the singer too and eventually takes a fancy to Atticus, who happens to have shown up to dance along. For now though, she has bigger problems to deal with. Ruby agrees to take her up for 2 nights but after that, she’s on her own.
Atticus phones someone in South Korea later that night. After a brief pause, the woman on the phone tells him he shouldn’t have returned and hangs up. It’s a foreshadowed glimpse of a storyline going forward but for now, it’s kept to the back-burner this week. Heading out, Atticus eventually runs into Leti who joins him and George on the road.
In the Midwest, the group ride through various racially segregated areas. It’s a visually impressive montage, with monologue narration over striking images of white and black areas.
Eventually the group make it to Simmonsville but they receive a less than pleasant welcome. This eventually sees them chased out of town by angry police officers firing at them. However, the police car flips over when it hits a silver car (well, it actually flips before it even hits thanks to some poor camera choices, but the idea is nice.)
After a difficult evening of arguments, the trio hit the road and make it up to Devon County. There, they receive a less-than-pleasant welcome from another Sheriff who tells them Sundown is coming. If they’re caught outside after dark he promises to hang them. Unless they turn around and make a U-Turn of course.
Not willing to push their luck, Atticus turns back the way he came. With 4 minutes until sun-down, the group make their way toward the county lane while the Sheriff follows in hot pursuit, ramming their car constantly. Thankfully they make it just in time to cross the line. Only, they drive straight into a police blockade.
As they’re taken out into the middle of the woods, a snarling beast suddenly jumps out and chases them down. Our trio bolt, charging through the trees and desperate to find cover. Eventually the group do find refuge in a wooden shed.
Realizing the creatures are afraid of lights, Leti charges up to the cars, intent on turning the headlights on and scaring the beast away. Unfortunately, the Sheriff starts to turn into a snarling beast after being bitten.
Leti races up to the shed and picks up Atticus and Uncle George after ploughing into this beast. With flares acting as a shield, they manage to hold out for the night and thwart the threat.
In the morning, the three walk up a dry, choked road. Exhausted and desperate for refuge they make it to Ardham. There, they find the familiar silver car parked outside. As Atticus knocks on the door, a smiling man answers and tells him they’ve been expecting him “Welcome home.”
The Episode Review
As far as pilot episodes go, Lovecraft Country does a wonderful job setting the scene. The tonal shift from drama to horror is absolutely fantastic while the themes underlying a lot of this work well in the context of the show. The imagery and cinematography though are absolutely fantastic. The awkward flipping car aside, every shot is meticulous and some of the visual motifs of segregation are masterfully conducted.
One such example sees a billboard depicting a bright future for America with numerous blacks at a bus stop. It’s a simple static shot but it speaks volumes about inequality plaguing America in the 1950’s. The racial tensions are of course high but it’s well written which really helps.
The acting is fantastic all round too and the manic and tense final act of this episode works so well to contrast the slow-build and drive up a similar road at the start of the episode.
The entire pilot is held together by this quest to find Atticus’ Father and the ending certainly offers enough of a mystery to keep you sticking around for more. While there are negatives to be found, it’s easy to overlook some of this with such a strong foundation setter.
Whether Lovecraft Country can keep this up moving forward however, remains to be seen.
|Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!|