Episodes Watched: 1-5
Based on Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel, Lovecraft Country is HBO’s (Sky Atlantic in the UK) latest must-watch series following Lindelof’s spiritual successor of the Watchmen mythos. The gripping take on Lovecraftian lore comes from an outstanding creative team, comprising of writer Misha Green and executive producers JJ Abrams and Jordan Peele. Cleverly combing exhilarating action-adventure with sci-fi fantasy and horror elements, the epic and incredibly timely series could be the best television of the year.
Based in 1950s segregated America, Lovecraft Country follows Korean war veteran Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Da 5 Bloods Jonathan Majors) as he returns to his family home of South Side Chicago. Tic teams up with his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) and sets out on a road trip in search of his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams). Last seen in the Massachusetts area known as Lovecraft Country, the trio journey through the dangerous rural midwest, discovering the racist locals aren’t the only threat that they’ll have to overcome.
Lovecraft Country is hugely unique, creative and genre-defying; the fusion of the many genres and storytelling explored in each self contained story is enviable. Somehow creator Misha Green manages to deftly weave together the ongoing central narrative exploring the Freeman bloodline, through a different thrilling theme each week. The characters find themselves hopping from an Indiana Jones action-adventure in one episode, to a haunted house outing in another. The series opens with a gripping road trip, but the occult and body horror are also delved into; and somehow it genuinely works!
Much like Damon Lindelof’s extraordinary series Watchmen, the themes, social commentary and historical insight in Lovecraft Country highlight and explore race; demonstrating how people can be scarier than HP Lovecraft’s monsters. As Watchmen shone a light on the Tulsa race massacre of 1921, Green highlights the astoundingly shocking sundown towns of the Jim Crow era. And it’s here where executive producer, Get Out’s Jordan Peele, horror influences can be felt most. Whether that’s in the tense Lydia’s diner scene, the gripping car chase to get to the Mason-Dixon Line in time or a group of racist young men demonstrating outside Letita’s house. Even though it’s based in 50s America, it still shockingly resonates today. Green also explores the black experience, along with gender fluidity and sexuality in a particularly impressive fifth episode.
The success of the series is anchored by the tremendous central performances of Jonathan Major, Courtney B Vance and particularly Jurnee Smollett-Bell. The Birds of Prey star steals most scenes with her exceptionally impassioned turn full of tenacity, with the third episode most notably highlighting her talent. The chemistry she shares with Majors is exceptional, quickly imploring you to root for the two. The supporting cast are also excellent, with Michael Kenneth Williams’ mysterious take on Montrose and Wunmi Mosaku’s turn as Letitia’s sister Ruby, particular highlights.
The world building is also particularly impressive, with an extraordinary mix of visual and practical effects bringing to life the many supernatural, horror & sci-fi elements. Opening with an epic dream sequence straight out of Lovecraft’s books, Atticus walks through a battlefield full of spaceships and alien creatures, including the most notable – Cthulhu. The production values are outstanding; the period costumes, music, settings and locations all give an authentic feel to the 50s world. If there’s one small critique about the show however, it’s the lack of fantasy creatures featured past the second episode.
Tremendously creative and hugely gripping, Lovecraft Country is astounding genre-defying television. You’ll tune in for the Lovecraftian horror elements and fascinating social commentary, but you’ll stay for Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Jonathan Major’s phenomenal performances. There’s no doubt about it, this series is definitely contender for best of the year.