The Haunting of Leti Lewis

Lovecraft Country | HBO Max | Season 1 Episode 3: Holy Ghost

This week we start in church! Leti is watching her church service, remembering Ruby telling her to “fly.”

After the title card, there is another card that explains, well, this:

On “Day 1”, we cut to Leti dragging Ruby down a street on the North Side of Chicago. They talk about the money Ruby has given to Leti, and Leti asks her “what if she never had to pay rent again?” Leti stops in front of a huge Victorian house and tells her sister she bought it!

Ruby doesn’t believe her, but when they go in and see that it’s a major fixer-upper, Ruby understands. She asks Leti where she got the money for the house, and Leti sidesteps and says she’s going to open up a boarding house, a kind of safe haven. She says she wants to bond with Ruby, and Ruby says she’s taking the biggest room. The sisters laugh, but when Leti shows Ruby the elevator (!), she almost gets her head chopped off in the process. Spooky already!

George’s wife, Hippolyta, is looking at one of George’s books, then as if in a trance, starts ripping out pages. Tic and his cousin Diana are in the kitchen cooking and setting the table for breakfast; Hippolyta joins them, clearly adjusting to life without George. Tic has been staying with his family for weeks, but says he won’t be staying anymore because he has things he needs to take care of.

Tic goes home, where Montrose is drunk and passed out on the floor, muttering. Tic throws water in his face and asks his father if he can stay with him for a few nights. He agrees, and they discuss the past few weeks. They told Hippolyta that the sheriff shot George; they had a funeral and she saw George’s body. Tic wants to explain what really happened, but Montrose says there’s no point and gets angry when Tic brings up what his uncle would do if he was still there.

Leti has a ton of people in the new house, moving in, renovating, and carrying in furniture. Tic comes over and tells Leti he’s going back to Florida, since his aunt and cousin are doing okay. Leti tells him she has a spare room and he should stay for the housewarming party; Tic says he told his boss he’d only be gone for a few days – over a month ago. Some neighborhood racists show up, bricks tied to (and leaning on) their car horns in front of the house, while white cops drive by and watch. Tic decides to stay a little longer…

On “Day 5”, while the white neighbors are putting up signs to try to get Leti and company to leave, Leti is asleep in her bed. Her blanket is being taken off of her, and a ghastly woman with a bloody mouth watches her… Leti wakes (and jumps) up but the room is empty. She opens her very wet window and the car horns are still blaring. In the basement, the furnace is going at full blast so Leti uses a wrench to shut it down. She hears a banging sound and voices and goes to investigate, stepping over a bear trap; through some huge cobwebs she finds a trap door in the floor, which someone is trying to bust through… Tic and Leti open the door and go down into the room, but it’s empty. Tic says the room would make a good dark room; he tells Leti he’ll put reinforcements on the windows and keep watch, and Leti is grateful.

Hippolyta is intrigued…

On “Day 8”, Leti has her housewarming party. Hippolyta and Diana come too, and Diana and her friends use a Ouija board in the basement. #BadIdea. They ask the board who they’re talking too, and it spells out “George is dead.” Hippolyta goes looking for Diana, but a room’s door opens behind her. Inside there’s an apparatus, and she goes to touch it…

Ruby is singing at the party as Tic arrives, in his army uniform. He watches Leti dance with a man, while another asks him what her situation is. He continues watching and gets increasingly jealous. Leti goes into the bathroom (and neglects to see a ghost in the shower!). Tic comes in and the two quickly have sex. Tic reaches down and sees blood on his hands and Leti apologizes for not realizing she “started her monthly.” Tic says it’s no big deal and Leti says she’ll see him downstairs; he leaves, and Leti cries.

Back at the party, Ruby is playing poker with some guys when she sees a burning cross out on the lawn. Leti grabs a baseball bat and some men get shotguns. Leti breaks the cars’ windows and headlights and hits the bricks off the horns so they stop. Ruby quickly pulls up in a car, and the people throw the bats and guns in the trunk as she speeds away. The cops come and arrest Leti; she is put in the back of a paddy wagon with a cop named Lancaster. He berates her, and the cops driving swerve the car so she gets thrown around the back. Lancaster asks her how she was able to buy the house, and tells her they found the bodies of 8 black people in the basement; he says she won’t last if she stays there. Such a charmer!

Leti has had it

Leti comes back to the house, and in her new dark room, she turns on the red light to find her pictures have been marked up. When she arranges the pictures to line up the markings, it is a face. The face becomes real before her, and yells at her to get out of his house! A freaked out Leti goes looking through pictures, and while Ruby tells her people are moving out and they won’t be able to afford the house payment, Leti tells her she still has money from their mother. Leti says she got a call about an inheritance, and Ruby is incredulous, since their mother had no money, and Leti didn’t even go to her funeral. Leti and Ruby argue and Ruby calls her selfish.

Montrose goes to see Hippolyta; he sees she bought a book – George’s favorite – and Hippolyta lies and says she ‘spilled coffee’ on George’s copy. She tells Montrose that something isn’t right about the story of George’s death.

On “Day 10”, Leti is researching her new house; she tells Tic it’s haunted. It’s called The Winthrop House, and Leti says the realtor JJ (aka Jerome Jackson), was shady. It turns out the former owner was a scientist who was fired from his job for unethical practices. She tells Tic about the 8 bodies and how she thinks the doctor was experimenting on humans and Lancaster was supplying him with test subjects; now she says their souls are trapped in the house. She also lets Tic know when they had sex it was her first time. She says she died and it ‘feels like something’s missing’ from her since she came back.

Cut to Tic, Leti and a lady with a goat walking up to Leti’s house. The woman slits the goat’s throat (!) and collects its blood. The medium puts red blood X’s on all their foreheads, and they go down to the dark room. She does a ritual as 3 white male neighbors break into the house with baseball bats. Two go into one of the rooms and see a ghost of a basketball player with a head of a baby. They back up into a radiator bursting with steam… as another man opens the door to the elevator. He sticks his head in, and the car comes crashing down, cutting his head off, grossly. There seems to be a ghost in the car as it comes back to the floor. In the basement, after things stop swirling around the trio, a pipe bursts, and the water wipes the blood from their heads. The medium is possessed and attacks Leti and Tic; Leti calls out the victims’ names for help and as Tic subdues the medium, he is possessed. Leti sees the victims’ ghosts converge in the room and all together they chant, exposing the astrophysicist’s spirit and expelling it from the house.

Afterwards, people move back into the house, and the elevator is working again. Leti and a reporter use it, and the reporter asks her if she’s heard about the disappearance of 3 of her white neighbors. Leti says she didn’t know anyone went missing, and they get off the elevator… which closes by itself and goes down several levels to a hidden tunnel where the bodies of the 3 men are, along with the remains of the doctor’s 8 victims.

In town, Tic watches as a car pulls up in front of the office of Jerome Jackson; a white woman gets out and goes in, and he follows. Tic sees none other than Christina Braithwhite (!) talking to the realtor in an otherwise empty office. Jerome leaves and Tic says Leti’s inheritance came from Christina, not Leti’s mother. Tic says he recognized the name Winthrop – as in The Winthrop House – which was carved into the frame of Samuel Braithwhite’s favorite painting. Christina says Horatio Winthrop was a founding member of the Sons of Adam but was banished when he stole pages of a book needed to decipher ‘the language of Adam’ to read the Book of Names. Horatio didn’t want Titus Braithwhite to be the only one who could read the language.

Christina begins explaining things to Tic

Tic pulls a gun on Christina, but is not able to pull the trigger. She continues her ‘lesson’; she says her father created an invulnerability spell for himself but had to remove it when he tried to open his portal. She says that every spell created by the Sons has come from 1 deciphered chapter of the Book of Names, orally passed down; the book is now gone and Titus locked his pages in a booby trapped vault only he could access. Christina says if Horatio Winthrop’s stolen pages could be found, they could decode the language in its entirety. She tells Tic he needs to be smarter, because he obviously can’t go around killing white women…

So another episode with lots to unpack! This one was creepy all the way through, and brought the scary many times. In the preview for next week, we see a very much alive (?) William, and Tic, Montrose and Leti going exploring. Looks like the Braithwhites will be sticking around, but what about dear departed uncle George?! M

Searching for Paradise

Lovecraft Country | HBO Max | S1 E2: Whitey’s on the Moon

Inside the mansion, Leti and George enjoy themselves; Leti tries on a bunch of clothes, while George reads a bunch of books, but Tic can’t shake the monsters they just encountered. The trio hears an alarm bell, and are led to lunch by William (Jordan Patrick Smith), the man who first greeted them. William tells them Montrose left for Boston to see a lawyer with “Ms. Braithwhite” two days prior with no mention of when they would return. When George asks about them being expected, William says she left instructions to look after them and treat them like family while they wait.

William, being welcoming

William explains a man named Titus Braithwhite built the house and founded Ardham, Massachusetts; he says Titus was notoriously kind to his employees, and made his money in “shipping.” William also explains the current lodge is a replica of the house that burned down in 1833. He says it was an unfortunate accident that killed Titus and ‘almost’ everyone else inside.

William lets them know Mr. Braithwhite has called a gathering of lodge members for a celebratory dinner, and until then they have the run of the lodge. Tic says he wants to go into town, and William says it’s fine as long as he’s back by dinner. He tells them if they need anything, the butler will get it for them; when Leti says she thought he was the butler, William says he’s just a close friend of Christina Braithwhite.

Tic is suspicious of everything, and George says they want to keep them there. Leti sits down to eat, ringing the butler for some salt, and Tic asks her how she can eat after what happened. She looks confused and says she doesn’t remember what happened; she doesn’t remember being attacked by monsters, and George doesn’t either. They go to find George’s car, which is seemingly restored from its night of ramming into the cabin in the woods. William appears and gives George the keys; he says he found it and drove it up to the lodge. He says there was quite a bit of blood in the front seat but he had the butler wash it out.

Tic, George and Leti head out, and while Tic goes on ahead, Leti and George discuss Tic and Leti wonders if he’s delusional from coming back from the war. Tic says it makes no sense that they came to a mansion that has clothes that perfectly fit Leti and a bookshelf of George’s favorite books. A whistle sounds, and Tic says it’s the same whistle that called off the monsters the previous night. He runs towards it and sees a woman blowing the whistle; she’s also holding 2 ferocious dogs in front of a huge stone silo. She makes a not-so-thinly-veiled racist comment and shows them the inside of the silo, where they keep pig parts to protect them from bears. George says the silo is most definitely a prison…

The group makes their way through the woods when George remembers something Tic’s mother told him. She had an ancestor named Hannah who escaped her master’s house after a fire. They realize Titus must have gotten her pregnant, and that’s Tic’s ‘birthright’. As they are discussing things, they see burrowing in the ground towards them, and one of the vampire monsters pops out in front of them and another behind them. They hear the whistle, and a woman on horseback comes riding up, blowing on the instrument around her neck; the monsters retreat. The woman with the dogs is with her, and the woman on horseback instructs her to escort Tic to her father’s lab and make sure the guests stay in their rooms. George and Leti instantly forget what they’ve just seen, as they make their way back to the house.

George does some light reading

George paces back and forth in his room, trying to remember what happened; he then finds a secret passage when he pulls a book from the bookshelf. He ends up in a big library and on a table finds a book: Bylaws & Precepts of the Order of the Ancient Dawn.

In the lab, Tic finds a hooded man performing surgery on another man – removing something internal from him while he screams in pain – while the woman who was on horseback has a drink. The man on the table gets up after being stitched, and we learn the woman is Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee) and the man is her father, Samuel (Tony Goldwin). As they discuss the Biblical book of Genesis and how Adam named all the animals, Tic asks Samuel if he’s God in this scenario; Samuel says he is Adam, and he’s worked a very long time trying to get back to paradise. He says Christina thinks Tic can help him, but that he doesn’t want to see him until “the ceremony” at dawn.

Christina tries to be “friendly”

Christina tells Tic her father and his friends can be very dangerous and they should become friends; she also mentions there is a sort of spell that affects those who come in contact with their “guard dogs” and live to tell the tale. Tic says if they are friends she’ll remove the spell from Leti and George; as Christina says “done”, Tic tries to walk through his open door but is prevented by a barrier; he hears Leti screaming she can’t get out, either. Just then a young boy runs up to Christina and tells her “it’s time”; she runs to where a cow is giving birth, and helps deliver one of the vampire monsters. She tells the farmhands it’s her first time doing so.

Leti is trying to escape, and Tic comes into her room; she apologizes, and tells him she remembers everything and they need to escape but Tic says they’re trapped. They sit and Tic recites part of Psalms 23; Leti remembers the verse from Sunday School and recalls how she said the verse like a prayer when her mother abandoned her. Tic tells her he’ll never abandon her, and they kiss.

Things are not as they seem though, as we learn at the other side of the lodge, Tic is still in his room; he uses Morse Code to tap out the word “Wizards” to George, when suddenly Tic gets shot at; we see an Asian woman in an army uniform jump out of a wardrobe, and they struggle. George hears this and tries to the use secret passage in his room, but turns to see a woman he calls “Dora”, and says it can’t be possible because she’s dead. Tic is stabbed by the woman as George dances with Dora and Leti and Not-Tic begin to undress. Dora tells George of a memory of him and Montrose, but he pulls away and says she’s not real. As Not-Tic undoes his pants, a snake appears and they struggle; Tic subdues and kills the Asian woman. In the hallway, we see Christina and the lodge members watching Tic, Leti and George deal with their situations, which are clearly just illusions.

A dinner bell sounds, and Tic, George and Leti each open their room doors. William appears and tells them dinner is black-tie and men only, so Leti will dine on the veranda. George tells Tic and Leti to be strong and not let these people get to them.

Samuel, getting ready for dinner

William leads Tic and George to the dining room; he tells them to not mind the others, and just because they don’t want them there, doesn’t mean they’re not supposed to be [there]. Samuel comes in and gives a speech about giving (and giving of himself). Waiters come in and serve the rest of the men; on the plates is clearly pieces of the thing that was removed from Samuel earlier.

From reading the book earlier, George tells the group he knows that any direct descendants of Titus Braithwhite (a “Son Among Sons”) hold special powers and can order the other lodge members around; Tic orders all the men except Samuel to get out of the dining room. After they leave, Tic orders Samuel to return his father to him; Samuel says while Tic may be useful, he’s not indispensable, and leaves.

Tic and George run to the silo looking for Montrose, and find Mostrose’s flask in the basement. The woman with the dogs catches them, but Leti knocks her unconscious. George mentions Montrose’s favorite book and examines the wall; he removes a stone from the wall and they see a tunnel…

We see Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams) stick his head up out of the ground and when he’s fully out, the trio find him. Montrose isn’t happy to see them, but they take a car and George explains the group is called the “Sons of Adam” and they’re obsessed with figuring out immortality; the first attempt is what burned down the house years earlier. As they try to escape, they cross a covered bridge but hit an invisible barrier at the end.

Samuel and Christina arrive and as Tic, Montrose, and Leti stumble out of the car, Samuel shoots Leti; Tic yells for Christina to help him, but Leti dies in front of him. Samuel says because Tic is a Son Among Sons, he’ll give him a choice of who lives, but turns and shoots George.

Back at the lodge, Tic is naked and being hand washed, while Christina tells him Samuel will attempt to open a door to the garden of Eden to gain immortality. Tic gets a robe, and he and Christina watch a doorway; in another room, they see Montrose tend to George while Leti, lying on a sofa, wakes up! Christina tells him her father will heal his uncle too, if Tic cooperates in the ceremony.

Leti goes to the bathroom and looks at where the bullet wound should be but there is nothing there; she tries to wash her clothes and starts crying. Meanwhile George and Montrose speak, and we learn George may actually be Tic’s father.

A second failed experiment

Tic goes to the ceremony, and as Samuel starts some machinery, electricity goes through Tic, and a portal opens in front of him. As Tic screams, a garden seemingly comes through the portal. Tic sees a pregnant woman inside the portal as the lodge begins to shake. Tic screams and releases a burst of energy, turning the lodge members to stone, as the pregnant woman turns and leaves; she leads Tic out of the lodge as the entire place crumbles behind him.

Leti calls out to him, and in the back of George’s car, Montrose is holding a dead George. Tic cries and says he’s sorry to his uncle.

Stray Thoughts

  • Lots going on in this episode! Will this mythology come back later? Probably not, since all the members are seemingly dead?
  • Are they dead? Where are Christina and William?
  • Seems as if Dora was Tic’s mother? (Have they mentioned her by name?)
  • I didn’t see the father twist coming, because there was seemingly no setup at all – until the dancing with a not-really-there Dora – or I just missed this completely.
  • I liked the Hannah bit coming back at the end, showing the parallels in the story as well as guiding Tic to safety.
  • Is this the last of Uncle George? Say it ain’t so! M

Strange Country

Lovecraft Country S1 E1: Sundown

Our heroes have been through it. And it’s only episode 1!

Is Lovecraft Country HBO’s answer to Stranger Things? After watching Sunday’s premiere, a case could be made: both have a story set in the past, other-wordly monsters, and a larger over-arching mystery/conspiracy. But where Stranger Things is an homage to 80’s sci-fi, Lovecraft will most likely directly borrow from the eponymous author for its stories, monsters and themes.

The story opens in a black and white film reel in which our hero Atticus ‘Tic’ Freeman (Jonathan Majors) is a soldier at war; he runs around a battlefield until the camera pans out and we see flying saucers, War of the Worlds-type alien machines with lasers, and all sorts of creatures running around attacking everything in sight. As the picture is colorized, we see a beautiful alien woman with red skin come down from a UFO and hug our hero – until Lovecraft big bad Cthulu appears behind him. As he’s about to be devoured by the winged, many-toothed, tentacled monstrocity, the beast is torn in two by a baseball bat-wielding Jackie Robinson. Still with me? Cthulu re-forms, and as #42 goes in for another whack, Tic wakes up; he was just dreaming.

In reality, veteran soldier Tic is on a bus from Kentucky to Chicago in 1950’s America. The racism is palpable from the start; when the bus breaks down, Tic and another black woman are forced to walk to the next town, while the white people are driven by a local in a truck. While walking he tells the woman about his love of pulp-fiction novels and why he’s on his way to Chicago – his father, Montrose, is missing.

In Chicago, Tic meets up with his uncle George Freeman (Courtney B. Vance), who tells him Montrose has been missing for 2 weeks. Tic tells him his father sent him a letter about his late mother’s family, and a ‘sacred, secret birthright’ that’s been kept from him. Montrose writes that his wife’s family is from “Ardham”, Massachusetts, and that he wants Tic to go with him to check them out.

At a neighborhood block party, we meet Ruby Baptiste (Wunmi Mosaku), who is singing and entertaining the crowd. Her sister, Letitia “Leti” Lewis (Jurnee Smollett), a childhood friend of Tic’s, shows up and joins her on stage; Leti tells Ruby she needs a place to stay and Ruby agrees to 2 days. When Tic tells his uncle he’s going to find Ardham, George says he’ll join him; George is writing a guide for safe travel for black people, and he says the trip will make a good addition. That night, Tic calls South Korea, and a voice on the other end says “You went home; you shouldn’t have.” Spooky! Leti joins George and and Tic – she’s hitching a ride to her brother’s house – and after George says his goodbyes to his wife and daughter, the trio sets out.

Along the way, they encounter racism at every turn, using George’s guide to navigate the Midwest. For trying to eat lunch at a diner, they are chased out of a town in their car and are followed and shot at while trying to escape. They do narrowly escape, thanks to another car that cuts off the racists and ends up flipping their truck. We see a white woman get out of the car and look at Tic as they race off to continue to Ardham. They stop off at Leti’s brother’s house, and he ends up kicking her out for not attending their mother’s funeral (a fact Ruby also brought up); it seems Leti isn’t exactly the most responsible person… our heroes then continue on their way.

As they get closer to their destination, they come across a racist sheriff, who asks them if they know what ‘sundown laws’ are; basically black people can be arrested for being out after sundown. Tic and crew manage to make it across the county line before sundown, but are ambushed by the local cops and the racist sheriff on the other side. They bring Tic, Leti and George to the middle of the woods and are trying to pin a series of recent crimes on them, when one of the cops is attacked and his arm chopped off – flashlight still in hand.

Creatures that look like giant rats with a bunch of teeth and eyes on the outside of their skin are all around them, running through the woods. The sheriff gets a chunk of his shoulder bitten off as the sheriff, another cop, Tic and Leti manage to find a cabin in the woods. George makes his way to the cabin with the fallen cop’s flashlight, and they figure out the creatures attacking them don’t like light. Leti goes back to the car to grab flares for extra light while the guys in the cabin realize the sheriff is turning into one of the monsters, like a vampire. The sheriff kills the other cop and is about to attack Tic and George when Leti rams the car into the cabin, killing him.

Leti and Tic take the flares and set them in front of the cabin; as a dozen creatures are moving in on them, they hear a whistling sound and the creatures scatter. Tic, Leti and George start walking and as the sun comes up, they arrive at a mansion; bloodied and tired, Tic goes to knock on the door, but it is opened by a man who welcomes them and says they’ve been expecting Tic…

So after a somewhat slow start, the first episode ratcheted up the horror, ended with a bang, and left us with plenty of questions. Where is Montrose? What is Tic’s ‘secret birthright’? What happened to Tic’s mother? Where did those nightmarish creatures come from, and where did they go? Lovecraft Country seems like it can go literally anywhere, and I’m on board for the ride! It definitely fills the mystery/horror void left by Stranger Things, and from the season trailer it looks like it will only get weirder – which is the only way a sci-fi show should be. M