Review: Lovecraft Country Episode 1

Based on the book of the same name by Matt Ruff, HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ is a suspenseful, dramatic, action-fuelled, and compelling series you never knew you wanted. It grips you from the very first scene and leaves you with a cliffhanger that will make the wait of a week unbearable.

How weird and adventurous and exciting ‘Lovecraft Country’ is going to be is foreshadowed with the opening scene of the series. In a black-and-white reel of a war sequence, we find a black man in the middle of the action. As bullets fly and bombs explode, the first touch of color comes with the bright orange flame in the background, and as Atticus emerges out of the trenches to fight the enemy, we discover that he is up against tentacled monsters and flying saucers with a red alien girl floating out of them. And in the midst of it, Jackie Robinson with his baseball bat.

As Atticus breaks out of his dream, we realize that this was just the work of his overactive imagination after reading sci-fi novels. However, his dream is not even the most dangerous or thrilling or edge-of-the-seat moment of the episode. It is just a peek into all the weird turns that this show is going to take and you should probably fasten your seat-belts because it is going to be a bumpy ride, with a lot of twists and turns waiting for you.

Lovecraft Country Episode 1 Recap

Atticus Freeman returns home to Chicago after receiving a mysterious letter from his father. It says something about his birthright and leads him to a place named Arkham, which exists only in Lovecraft Country. It is after his uncle George points it out that Atticus realizes that the town is actually Ardham and has nothing to do with the sci-fi books that he loves to devour. But that doesn’t mean it is any less dangerous or weirder than a world only imagination can conjure.

He embarks on the journey to locate his father, joined in his quest by George and Letitia, Atticus’ childhood friend and the only female member of the Southside Future of Science Fiction club. As they dig into the history of Ardham, some surprising facts come to their attention, and things get all the stranger as they get closer to it.

Lovecraft Country Episode 1 Review

Taking us back to the 50s, where segregation is still a norm and a wrong entry in the Safe Negro Travel Guide can cost someone their life, ‘Lovecraft Country’ shows us that our protagonists are already fighting against the devilish ways of the world. For those already running for their lives after sitting in a wrong dinette and barely escaping a sundown town with a white sheriff on their heels, what could be more dangerous? What could possibly be worse than the systematic racism in the country where you can join the army to die for it but aren’t accepted enough to live in it? It is amidst these dangers that we find Atticus, Letitia, and George traversing their path across America, looking for Atticus’ father, Ambrose.

What makes the first episode of ‘Lovecraft Country’ so great is that it never wastes a moment. It gets you in the passenger seat with the protagonists, so when they relax, you can catch your breath too. But when they are in danger, your pulse races as well. The show ebbs and flows between these moments, which excites you while also making you look at racism then and wonder how it compares to the racism now. In fact, it relies more on the monsters that are not made-up to show how terrifying the world can be for the heroes of the story.

You feel more dread when you find cops approaching Atticus and Co., rather than when the shoggoth attacks them in the woods. You are more worried about the car breaking down in the middle of the road, just when the trio is to make it out of the sundown county with barely seconds of sun left in the sky, rather than when Letitia has to make a run for the car through the woods without any light to save her from the many-eyed monster chasing her. It is through these chase sequences, and other subtler things thrown here and there, that the show commands your attention. It flips the narrative for black characters, who are not in this horror story to be sacrificed first, by underlining their survival skills and the way they have to be constantly vigilant about their surroundings. It only makes sense that they should be the ones to survive any monster attack.

Another reworking of the genre comes with how skin tones are used to perceive danger. The more white people there are, the more guarded the protagonists have to be. Getting chased out of town and being led into the woods to get shot doesn’t spark confidence when a couple of other characters with even paler complexions cross your path. The mysterious woman in the silver car and the man who opens the door of the grand mansion, which appears in the middle of nowhere, only makes you wonder what danger lies in waiting for Atticus and his friends. A similar feeling had rattled us while watching ‘Get Out’, and if the first episode is any indication, ‘Lovecraft Country’ is going to use this discomfort and perpetual sense of panic to make its story all the better.

Considering all of this, ‘Lovecraft Country’ offers to be one of the most exciting shows of the year. It already has our attention and, for those who haven’t read Ruff’s novel yet, it is going to be an exhilarating experience where every turn offers new insight into the America of the 50s. In between all of this, the show also remains true to the sci-fi action it offers in its opening scene. This interesting balance of culturally relevant issues with the element of science fiction is what the show is all about.

Read More: Where is Lovecraft Country Filmed?