After facing days of white people shouting racial slurs, chasing them out of sundown towns, and nearly being shot by monsters, and eaten by beasts, Tic, Leti and Uncle George are more than relieved to find respite at Ardham Lodge. But everything that glitters isn’t gold in this episode of Lovecraft Country.
Making like The Jeffersons, Leti and George are living it up in new their private rooms, while Tic sits, thoughts of their harrowing experience from the night before and suspicions of their new host William (Jordan Patrick Smith) occupying his mind. Hearing a bell that sounds way too close for comfort like the ones used on plantations, they emerge with different reactions. George is excited about the personal library that just happens to be stocked with all of his favorite books and writers, Leti is all smiles and swagger, showing off a brand new perfectly tailored riding outfit, and Tic is anxious.
William appears, looking like the living embodiment of Hitler’s ideal Aryan, with his perfectly coiffed platinum blonde hair, blue eyes, upright posture, and careful diction. He greets and informs his new guests their real host, Miss Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee Kershaw), has left them in his care while she attends to business in Boston with Montrose. The three are immediately become cautious, as they should be, for if there’s one thing they’ve learned it’s that white people are rarely that welcoming and their hospitality seldom comes without strings attached.
On their way to lunch, William walks them down a hallway lined with baroque style paintings depicting naked men and women cavorting. When Tic questions him about Christina, William is evasive and switches to give a brief history of the lodge. We learn the building is a replica of the original that was destroyed by fire in 1833, the owner, Titus Braithwhite, and all inhabitants were killed, save one. In his mini-lesson, William mentions that Titus built the lodge from the fortune he earned in “shipping” aka the slave trade, as Leti points out with a good serving of side-eye.
He makes it a point to mention that Titus was “notoriously kind to his workers”, as though he thought this would make his audience think better of Titus, and perhaps his descendants like Christina. But the reality is no man or woman could ever be truly kind if they were involved in the trading of people for profit. By referring to the people Titus enslaved as “workers”, William seemed to want Tic and the others to believe that Titus wasn’t like other slave masters, that he was benevolent.
However, it’s just a shallow attempt to separate him from the truth of what he was and rewrite the horrific history of Ardham house. They weren’t paid workers, they were human beings who were stolen from their homeland, held against their will, and forced to toil under the threat of violence for the profit of white people. This moment reminded me of the scene in episode one where the lady traveling with Tic told him there’s no “ex” that goes in front of confederate. Nothing done can erase what Titus Braithwhite did to those he enslaved and the consequences of his actions on their descendants.
As the trio begin to eat their lunch Tic mentions the attack the night before at The Cabin in The Woods, but strangely neither Uncle George nor Leti have any recollection of what happened. Tic leads them away from the lodge because they’re being watched. Away from the main house, he tries to get them to remember what happened, but they think he may be suffering from PTSD, but as he’s about to explain that’s not what’s happening, they encounter the groundskeeper (I really want to call her overseer) and her two dogs that seem to have been trained to be aggressive towards Black people. Kind of like the attack dogs used against Black people by police at civil rights protests.
Making their way through woods gone dark and misty, Uncle George suddenly recalls a conversation he had with Tic’s mother about her ancestor Hannah, who had escaped from a fire while pregnant. Just as they realize the connection between Tic and the Braithwhites, monsters burst from the ground, but are held back by the sound of the whistle. And here appears Christina on horseback, like her slave-owning ancestor commanding escaped slaves back to the fields. Do I sound bitter? Christina, unsurprisingly, is the same woman who created the force field the truck chasing Woody and the gang crashed into in the previous episode. The woods of Lovecraft Country are clearly no place for our heroes to be, for monsters of the human and non-human variety keep appearing.
Back indoors, Christina takes Tic to meet her father Samuel (Tony Goldwyn) who has just had a piece of his liver removed without anesthesia by a man in black robes. He gets up from the marble table rather easily and calls Tic’s attention to a painting that depicts animals of all kinds laying peacefully in a garden. It’s Eden as described in Genesis 2:19.
Like every typical white supremacist, Samuel believes himself to be Adam, the first and most perfect human being ever created. Christina rather sarcastically says that her father believes Eve – and by extension all women – to be the cause of man’s downfall and are sending the world towards its ultimate demise. And interestingly enough I agree with how she’s unimpressed with that particular line of thinking, as I myself don’t fully buy into it.
Growing up in church, we’re taught it’s because Eve listened to the serpent and convinced Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit, caused them to be cast out of Eden, and their descendants cursed to live difficult and painful lives. But I don’t see it that way exactly. To me, Adam is the one who’s truly to blame because he was the one that directly communicated with God and knew how dangerous and deceitful Lucifer was. Adam’s job was to protect Eve and the garden, and he failed.
Tic confronts Christina about her pet monsters and demands she returns Leti and Uncle George’s memories. He does this not only because they need to know just how dangerous the situation is, but I think he also didn’t want them to see him as being mentally unstable and suffering from PTSD. As a veteran, he knew the stigma attached to those suffering from mental illness back then (and now) and didn’t want them to worry and distrust him. Screams are heard as she puts up force field preventing him from leaving his room. What happens next was the most uncomfortable part of the episode for me, not because it was scary, but because of the sexual context and deception.
In her room, Leti tries to get out by using a knife to jimmy the lock, when Tic walks in expressing concern. She tells him that she finally remembers what happened and they all need to leave. He guides her to the bed and begins reciting the Lords’s Prayer, which she did the night before to calm and encourage herself. Slowly the scene takes on an ominous tone as Leti dazedly starts to recall how lonely she felt as a child when her mother left her alone. Lulled into a state of calm, she and Tic begin to make love. He stands up and out of his pants a serpent emerges, lunging at Leti. This was a call back to the story of Adam, Eve, and the serpent, as depicted in the stained glass window behind Leti. It’s obvious that’s not Tic, but an illusion created by Christina to torment Leti.
To me this was a projection of how Christina saw all men. As deceitful snakes, ready to attack and bewitch women if they aren’t careful. How sick is it that Christina uses her powers to coerce Leti into revealing painful memories and turn what was a moment of comfort with a man she had romantic feelings for, into one of terror. Had Leti not had enough presence of mind to figure out what was happening, I shudder to think of what could’ve happened. What makes it even worse is that Christina has created portals into the rooms that allows the white male members of Samuel’s cabal to observe the trauma she’s also inflicting on Tic and Uncle George.
Later that night, at a special dinner where pieces of Samuel’s liver are served on fancy chinaware, Tic is doing his best to assert his dominance as a descendant of Titus over the men, telling them to get to stepping, and they do, but not Samuel. He tells Tic he’s only allowed to be there because he’s “useful” but somewhat “tainted” for his purposes. Which acts as an interesting reversal of what William told Tic while seating him, that “They may not want you here, but you belong here.” Learning that Montrose has been held captive in a dungeon all along, Tic and Uncle George rush to find him and using The Count of Monte Cristo as inspiration, they realize he’s tunneled his way out. Just then we see him rise up from the ground with his shackled hands raised high. I may have gotten a tad emotional there because the pose Montrose strikes reminded me of the Bussa Emancipation Statute back home in Barbados.
I would say the main theme of “Whitey’s on The Moon” (and the entire series) is the blessing and curses of family legacies. Last week the devastating effects of generational trauma were touched upon in a discussion between Tic and Uncle George, and this week, it comes up again with Uncle George and Montrose. The estranged brothers talk about the physical abuse Montrose suffered at the hands of their father, with George apologizing for not defending his little brother. Uncle George asks him to treat Tic better before he pushes him away forever, for he may soon be all Tic has left, as Uncle George is slowly losing strength due to a gunshot wound sustained during their attempt to escape.
Back at that infernal house, Christina has Tic bathed and dressed in preparation for a ritual Samuel intends to perform that will transport him back to Eden. Like a typical colonizer, he believes everything is his to conquer, even the garden of Eden and he’ll use the body of a Black man to do it.
Christina tries to turn Tic to her way of thinking when she explains how they both have complicated relationships with their fathers, saying they shouldn’t let their ancestry and bloodlines define who they are. She thinks that her being a white woman, who isn’t allowed into the same toxic spaces as white men, is somehow more tragic because at least Tic got a seat at the table by virtue of being a man. Now if she had been a Black woman saying this, she’d be right because Black women do have to struggle against both the patriarchy and racism, but what Christina fails to realize is that she’s no better than her father, and her slave-trading ancestors.
The way she exposed Leti, George, and Tic experiencing their worst fears to those men, and had Tic prepared before the ceremony was no different to how traders forced Black people to stand on auction blocks in town squares, with their clothes and dignities stripped away. Do I care that she feels like an outsider in the boy’s club? No.
What Christina also doesn’t realize is that though Tic’s family lineage is filled with pain and trauma, it also has triumph. Being African-American means that Tic is descended from Black people who survived slavery. His maternal ancestor was a woman of strength and courage who did all she could to get to freedom. In what I think is a beautiful homage to the horrors our ancestors lived through, Hannah appears to Tic surrounded by fire, guiding him out of the house as it, Samuel, and the lodge members turn to ash and crumble due to the ceremony failing. Sadly Uncle George dies in his brother’s arms just when they made it to freedom, and our group is left devastated.
For me, Lovecraft Country isn’t just an entertaining show about Black people going on a wild adventure facing all sorts of monsters and supernatural situations, it’s about Black people across the diaspora seeing others who look like us reclaiming our legacies. While we may face hate of all forms, we must remember that our ancestors, and their legacies matter. As Uncle George said, “We can’t let those who hate us make us question who we are, because that’s what they want,” so like Letitia Fucking Lewis, we have to fight and not show fear.
Loving Notes on the Craft:
- R.I.P to Uncle George. He shall be greatly missed.
- By deductive reasoning, I figure it was Samuel’s life as the kidneys are at the back, and the liver is the only organ that regenerates.
- I love the references to Black culture made throughout the episode, especially the song “I Shot The Sheriff” by Reggae icon, Bob Marley.
- Why did Uncle George think Tic’s mother was ashamed of Hannah? Was is that she thought Hannah started the fire, or something else. An ancestor running away to freedom seems a strange thing to be ashamed of, no?
Lovecraft Country airs Sundays at 9 on HBO.