‘Holy Ghost’ felt like the start of a new season of Lovecraft Country, continuing the show’s quick pace and willingness to push forward.
If I had one critique of this show, it’s that it’s beginning to prioritize pushing the plot forward over letting characters have quiet moments. Don’t get me wrong, though. Like I said last week, I love these characters a lot and was heart-broken when Uncle George died, but I felt like ‘Holy Ghost’ was the start of an entirely new story arch separate from the first two episodes. I wish it’d slow down and show us ‘in-between’ moments just a bit more. Let us enjoy the characters having inconsequential interactions more frequently just so that we can appreciate who they are.
That said, Lovecraft Country is still one of the best shows on television right now. And yes, we’re in a bit of an entertainment drought due to the pandemic, but I feel like it’d still outshine a lot of shows that were supposed to be airing right now if the pandemic hadn’t thrown their filming schedules off. Its masterful blend of horror elements and heavy racial topics continues to astound me and I’m definitely in this for the long haul. It’s worth keeping my subscription to HBO Max for a bit longer just for this.
The standout character this week was Leti Lewis, and I’m fully prepared to declare her my absolute favorite character on Lovecraft Country. It was her choices in ‘Holy Ghost’ that allowed the plot to unfold this week. She was given an ‘inheritance’ (which we later find out wasn’t actually an inheritance) and decides to purchase an old house on Chicago’s north side. She wants to use this house as both an act of repayment and thanks for her sister’s assistance over the years, as well as a way to give back to the Black community by using it as a boarding house for those in need.
The house is, of course, haunted. Because of course it is. This is Lovecraft Country. We’re going to tangle with the supernatural everywhere we go. But, continuing with the artful blending of supernatural elements and racial themes, it’s also smack dab in the middle of an aggressively white neighborhood that immediately wants to terrorize the new Black residents.
Just like the Sundown Towns in the first episode, Lovecraft Country steps up to educate viewers on the parts of our country’s history that have been whitewashed and glossed over. We are told fairly blatantly that the north side isn’t a place where Black residents are welcome, which opens the door for us to learn about the concept of Redlining.
Redlining is a complex system, but it can be boiled down to being a system that kept neighborhoods segregated and restricted growth and opportunities in Black neighborhoods. This is simplified, of course, but that’s essentially what the system did at its core and cities, including Chicago, still reflect these policies today with their neighborhood racial make up.
So Leti Lewis managing to get approved for a home in a white neighborhood leads to immediate conflict. She defied the system and this doesn’t sit well for the white residents who have been benefiting from the segregation that the system upholds. We later learn she was able to buck the system with the help of Christina Braithwhite, but nobody – not even Leti herself – is aware of that until Tic confronts her about it at the end of the episode. All we know is that she managed to get this house and her neighbors are violently irate.
This conflict culminates in what is by far my favorite scene in the show so far. The neighbors erect a burning cross on their lawn, and Leti Lewis charges head first into the situation, refusing to let the blatant intimidation tactic go by without a response. She grabs a baseball bat and, under the light of the burning cross, begins smashing her neighbors cars, dislodging the bricks that’d been placed over their horns in an attempt to torment the new Black residents.
— jurnee smollett (@jurneesmollett) August 31, 2020
HI HELLO so i’m watching tonight’s #LovecraftCountry episode again and there’s a moment where #LetiLewis ADJUSTS the strap on that stunning green dress before she continues to BUST the windows outta those yt folks’ cars and it was at that moment that I caught the #HolyGhost omggg pic.twitter.com/KyAnpEHPtm
— shannon M houston (@shannonmhouston) August 31, 2020
The triumphant moment ends with the arrival of the cops, who then immediately take Leti and her party guests into custody while ignoring the crimes of the white residents. I’m once again reminded of Sarah Rodman’s quote from the SDCC panel on Lovecraft Country that we aren’t as far removed from these moments as we hoped to be. The police immediately treating the Black people as the criminals and letting the white people off the hook in this situation is a timely theme, despite the almost 70-year gap between when this show takes place and now. There are too many examples to pick from (violence trigger warning on all those videos).
If the parallels are familiar and uncomfortable, I think Lovecraft Country was successful in bringing these issues to the forefront in an effective way. While progress has been made in some areas, we still need to confront the problems that persist in the present day. The Civil Rights Act didn’t make racism go away, and we shouldn’t pretend that it did. But, for many, they’d rather pretend that racism is over.
Near the tail end of the episode, the plot unfolds incredibly fast. We learn that the house is haunted by a doctor who seemingly experimented on at least eight Black people. Those ghosts are also trapped in the home along with him, and Leti uses their collective power to defeat him. There’s something to be said that this power untapped in part by saying their names. This gives them back the identities that were denied them in their brutal deaths by their murderer and a society that didn’t see them as people.
So much plot was packed in here that I’m finding myself struggling to analyze the smaller moments that deserve to be discussed. For example, there’s a lot to consider about the focus on Leti losing her virginity to Tic, or Hippolyta processing her grief by ripping out the pages of Dracula. Each of these moments could easily have several paragraphs on their own and deserve analysis, but I’m finding myself having to pick and choose what to focus on. I’ve chosen to focus on Leti’s powerful moments this week as they were clearly my favorite parts, but there’s so much to explore in every episode that I feel like I’m not doing my due diligence with my reviews.
I hope future episodes slow down a bit so we can dive into every little moment like they deserve, but for now I’ll leave you with another tweet with a gif of Leti being an absolute badass. Because honestly, she’s amazing and I can’t get enough of her.
— jurnee smollett (@jurneesmollett) August 31, 2020
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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