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'Lovecraft Country' 1.02 Review: Whitey's on the Moon

So help me if [redacted] isn't ok...

Atticus (Jonathan Majors), George (Courtney B. Vance) and Leti (Jurnee Smollett) in the woods in Lovecraft Country.
(Image: © HBO)

Our Verdict

A less creature focused, but more intimate second episode.

For

  • 🍎 Witches!
  • 🍎 Dives deep into character emotions.
  • 🍎 Beautifully acted all around, but I remain in awe of Jurnee Smollett every week.

Against

  • 🍎 The witches (and wizards) suck.
  • 🍎 So help me if [redacted] isn't ok...

This post contains spoilers for Lovecraft Country.
Check out our last review here.

There are certain things that happen in shows that make you immediately shut down with denial. Lovecraft Country’s second episode, “Whitey's on the Moon,” delivered one such moment. But we’ll get to that a little further down in the post to save people who clicked in and just saw the spoiler warning a little bit more space.

We kick things off with Leti (Jurnee Smollett), George (Courtney B. Vance) and Tic (Jonathan Majors) all waking up safely in their rooms at Braithwhite Lodge. Uncle George finds himself in a room full of his favorite books, while Leti finds herself with a wardrobe of her ideal clothes all her size. Tic? Well, Tic broods.

It’s not long before we learn that Leti and Uncle George have both had their memories fixed by the little white witch, Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee). An act that is quickly undone in an attempt to gain Tic’s trust. Her motivations remain hazy despite her insistence that she’s a friend, but her witchiness isn’t the weirdest part of the episode.

As it happens, Tic is the great (great, great...) grandson of Titus Braithwhite, the founder of The Lodge and a group called The Order of the Ancient Dawn. The Order gives off major Klan vibes, but Christina’s quick to dismiss the idea. “My father and his friends would never fraternize with the Klan. They’re too poor,” she insists. We get it, creepy lady. Y’all are loaded. Turns out being a member of Titus’ bloodline grants Tic certain rights within their little club (like ordering lesser members around). Regrettably, it also comes with a few disadvantages – like being the key to a spell that will open the portal to Eden so Titus Braithwhite Jr. (Tony Goldwyn) can enter Eden and achieve immortality.

We haven’t known Atticus Freeman very long, but we know him well enough to have a good idea that he’s going to take his friends and get the hell out of Dodge. But there’s still that pesky business about finding his father. The conspicuous dungeon in the middle of the sleepy racist town seems like as good a place as any to hide your bait, and there are too many other things going on in “Whitey on the Moon” to pretend like that’s not exactly where the find him.

Though it is worth mentioning that Montrose Freeman (Michael Kenneth Williams) is less than happy to see his son. He’s less than kind to him, too.

With no time to snipe over pleasantries, the group quickly make their way to their stolen car and drive happily into the sunset. Or they would if they’d accounted for the fact that their adversaries included a questionable witch and a murder-y wizard-type. Titus and Christina stop them before they can escape. Leti is murdered on the spot, while Uncle George is mortally wounded, and Titus gets what he wants: Tic’s agreement to participate in the ritual willingly.

Titus really should have considered the dangers of his hubris, though. As we discover that they resurrected Leti and will heal Uncle George upon the completion of the ritual, Tic is ushered into a chamber where he’s to act as a conduit to open the aforementioned portal to Eden. It’s then that he sees the matriarch of his family, the slave the original Titus raped and impregnated, and proceeds to turn everyone around him to dust and subsequently demolish the mansion they all occupied.

That might seem abrupt, but we’re not given any answers so far as “how” in the episode, either. What we are given is confirmation that the rest of Tic’s party made it out of the mansion. And the confirmation that George Freeman died upon their escape.

This is where the denial I talked about in the opening paragraph comes in, because I absolutely refuse to believe that George is dead. Leti came out the other side ok, so I choose to cling to hope that this was solely used for frustrating cliffhanger purposes.

While “Whitey's on the Moon” isn’t as creature driven as the series pilot, Lovecraft Country continues to build its narrative in a thoughtful and intricate way. Our three protagonists were forced to bear their souls in this week’s episode, with Tic confronting a wrong from his past as a soldier, Leti opening up and feeling emotions in ways that we’ve never seen, and George revealing the love he once felt for Atticus’ mom.

Oh, and the casual tidbit that he could be Tic’s real father. Let’s not forget that bomb.

It might be expected from HBO, but it would be a disservice to the series to not acknowledge how gorgeous it is. It’s beautifully shot, the set pieces are stunning, and the costumes are just perfect. I would pay real human dollars to subscribe to a blog telling me where to get all of Leti’s clothes. Bonus: this week’s episode had our first book-enabled hidden door!

Along with the discussions of racism that will rightfully be a season theme, we also take a look at destiny this week. Christina and Tic have a brief heart-to-heart before he heads off to help her father achieve is goal. In it they discuss the access they're excluded from, whether it be by gender or race, and that the decisions of their fathers do not dictate who they become as people. It's a good scene, even if Christina is likely just as evil as the rest of her family.

Though some may begrudge the lack of cryptids this week, the intimacy more than makes up for the lack of creatures. We saw into these characters souls this week, and that’s both a testament to the writing and the presence of the performers on screen.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go set up a prayer circle for Uncle George.