Lovecraft Country Episode 5, Explained

With every episode, ‘Lovecraft Country’ gets crazier. In its fifth episode, which is perhaps the most shocking episode of the season yet, it pushes the boundaries of its storytelling and resorts to the kind of body horror that makes your skin crawl. It delves deeper into the study of race relations and how different your life can be should the color of your skin be a different shade. Along with this, it also diverges significantly from its source material and creates its own mythology, which only makes things more intriguing. SPOILERS AHEAD

Plot Summary

After spending the night with William, Ruby wakes up to find herself a white woman. In horror, she walks down the street when the cops find her. Instead of treating her like they always did, they are politer and more concerned about her well-being. They take her back to William’s mansion, where he tells her about the potion that changed her into a different person. Ruby slips into the skin of the white woman, named Hillary, once again, to find out how greener the grass is on the other side. But she also knows that this deal with William will cost her something. Meanwhile, Atticus and Letitia discover what Montrose has done and, in his anger, Atticus beats him senseless. The pages from the Book of Names are gone too, but luckily, Letitia took pictures of them, which is enough for Atticus to decipher their meaning.

The Strange Case of Christina and William

This episode of ‘Lovecraft Country’ delivers a lot of shocking moments to the viewers, one of which is the fact that Christina and William are the same person. This leads us back to all the moments in the show where we had seen Christina and William and we realize that they had never been in the same scene together. In the previous episode as well, when Christina walks into her mansion, William comes out a little bit later, to beat up the cops following her. But never do they ever appear in the same frame.

To make sense of this, we have to rearrange the pieces given to us and see the full picture. To begin with, Christina Braithwhite and William Davenport had been different people. In the beginning, Atticus had asked Christina if he is her boyfriend and that might as well have been true, at some point. William was the successor of the Chicago lodge of the Sons of Adam. He had also been in touch with Hiram Epstein where both of them were conducting their experiments. But then Captain Lancaster came into the picture. His association with Epstein and the immense power that magic would bring him made him greedy. He decided that the Chicago lodge was his to head. So, he followed William, put a bullet in his back, and threw him down a bridge.

Lancaster believes that he has killed the rightful heir to the lodge, but somehow William didn’t die. Christina found him, but she couldn’t bring him back to his original state. His injuries were too far gone to get him up and walking again. Knowing what had happened, Christina wanted revenge, but she couldn’t get it because despite being the child of Samuel Braithwhite. She was a woman and that meant that she had no say whatsoever in what happened in the Sons of Adam. She knew that she’d have had her say if she were a man, and that’s how she decides to go about it. She creates the potion, that most likely she and William had been working on together, and changes herself into William whenever the need arises. The things that she can do as Christina, like intimidating Atticus and Letitia, she does. And the ones for which she needs to be a man, like seducing Ruby, she does it as William.

What’s in the basement?

While Episode 5 solves some mysteries, it also leaves behind others to bring us back for the next episode. The basement door in Christina/William’s mansion is one of the things that leave us befuddled. Now that we know about the potion, it is clear that the basement secret has something to do with it. One of the things we notice about the potion is that it is blood red, and considering the crazy things that have been happening in the show, it wouldn’t be a surprise if it turns out to be blood itself. Whose blood is what we ask ourselves: the blood of the people whose form is being taken with the help of the potion?

When Ruby wakes up white, it is not some random white woman. Hillary first appeared in the second episode, ‘Whitey’s on the Moon’. Her name is Dell, and she had been guarding the tower where Montrose was being held in Ardham. The last time we saw her, Letitia had hit her in the head and she had fallen down the stairs. We don’t see her die, but that doesn’t mean she is fully functional after that injury. This means that her condition is pretty much like William’s. Both of them are not dead, but they can’t go about their normal lives either. This begs the question: where are they now? Because it is their form that’s being taken by Christina and Ruby, it would make sense that the potion requires something of theirs.

For an analogy, refer to the Harry Potter universe, where making Polyjuice Potion requires a strand of hair of the person whose form you want to take. In the same vein, the potion that Christina has concocted would need something similar too, and because ‘Lovecraft Country’ is gorier than Harry Potter, it would make sense that much more than hair is required as an ingredient. In a way, the real William and Dell are being harvested for their essence (reminds of Gore Verbinski’s ‘A Cure for Wellness’), and so, they must be in the basement. In what condition? We’ll find out in the next episode.

What’s wrong with Captain Lancaster?

Of all the “what the hell” moments in ‘Lovecraft Country’, another one is delivered in the party scene where Ruby hides inside the closet in the office of Captain Lancaster. She sees a man whose tongue is cut off and who looks as good as dead. She hides inside the closet when Lancaster and his colleagues arrive in the office. From their conversation and the state of the poor man, it looks like the man might be dead after all and that Lancaster still plans to make him talk! But that’s not even the most surprising part of this scene. It is when Lancaster takes off his shirt and we see that he has the torso of a black man!

While the whole story will surely be revealed in the coming episode, we can take some clues from the previous episodes to find out what happened there. Refer to the third episode, where Letitia gets the keys to the Winthrop House. She discovers that Hiram Epstein had been conducting some experiments there and the guinea pigs had been black people. Lancaster was also involved in this as he would bring in these innocent people to be slaughtered for whatever he and Hiram were trying to do. From the state of Lancaster, it looks like he had been a part of these experiments too. Perhaps, the captain was injured in some accident or in the attempt of killing William Davenport. To save him, Epstein employed his methods to save his life and replaced his torso with a person he was experimenting on.

Another explanation could be that after they killed William, they tried to use his potion. While telling Ruby about it, William mentions that he had worked with Hiram Epstein on it. After getting him out of the way, Hiram and Lancaster would have tried to create the potion on their own and would have needed to test it on someone. They would have used a black person for the ingredients of their potion and Lancaster would have consumed it. But something went wrong, and as a side-effect, the change could neither be completed nor reversed.

The Ending

After staring at the pictures of the pages from the Book of Names for too long, Atticus finally cracks the code and deciphers the meaning. What he discovers shocks him and he quickly makes a call. He talks to Ji-Ah and asks her how she knew. It turns out that the symbols spell out “DIE” in English, and Ji-ah must have warned Atticus about something back when he was in Korea. What exactly it was, we will find out in the next episode, but it also shows us that Ji-Ah is more than what she seems. Her romance with Atticus was much more complicated, and when he asks her “what are you”, it means that he has finally started to accept the fact that trouble had been brewing around him long before Montrose was kidnapped by the Braithwhites.

In another turn of events, Ruby teaches her boss a brutal lesson and it looks like Letitia worrying about the magic changing all of them for the worse is not misplaced. Atticus is increasingly suffering from anger issues, Montrose killed Yahima in the name of protecting his son, and Ruby, justified as her anger was, took it a tad too far in exacting revenge and letting out her anger. This change also poses the question: will we see Hillary again? In the end, Ruby discovers that Christina and William are the same person. And from how much we know Christina by now, it is clear that she is not done with Ruby yet. She could offer more to Ruby, but the question is, what more does she want in return?

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