Welcome to another week of Scaredy Cat recaps, where I, a habitually terrified person, review what is and is not nightmare fuel on HBO’s horror allegory Lovecraft Country.
HERE IT IS, FOLKS! THE MOMENT YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR! A HIPPOLYTA EPISODE! I did not know I was so invested in finding out what is going on with Aunt Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) until it was hinted at and then withheld from me for weeks! After the museum trip to Boston, Hippolyta and her daughter Dee (Jada Harris) made a detour to follow the route on Uncle George’s (Courtney B. Vance) map, trying to figure out what really happened to him. And then… we had two episodes of detour ourselves, popping into Ruby’s (Wunmi Mosaku) double life and then going back in time to the Korean War. “GIVE ME HIPPOLYTA!” I screamed at the doors of HBO Max like I was Laura Loomer that time she tried to break into Twitter headquarters to get her account un-suspended! And, unlike Loomer, I was victorious!
I don’t quite know what’s so intriguing about this character arc. Perhaps it’s just the actress, Aunjanue Ellis, who is never anything less than superb but seemed strategically un-deployed early in the season. Perhaps it’s the mythic connotations of her name, which originates in Greek mythology. The OG Hippolyta was the queen of the Amazons (okay, work!) and the daughter of Ares, the god of war (this is controversial as I am pro-peace, but we cannot be held responsible for our parents’ jobs). Ares, according to myth, gave Hippolyta a magical girdle, which is such a dad gift. Hippolyta gave you a whole list of her interests and wishes, Ares, and you got suckered by a salesperson at the Victoria’s Secret store in the Mt. Olympus mall. I hope you kept the receipt. (Also, lol at me writing “according to myth” as if the real goddess is going to read this and be like “Wow, actually this story is apocryphal and that’s libel and you’re sued, babe.”) Anyway, on Lovecraft Country we’ve only heard Aunt Hippolyta’s father’s voice on the other end of a telephone call discussing models of the solar system, so it’s still possible he’s Ares, god of awkward presents. TBD. Episode 7 answers some questions and leaves others open, but how scary is it? Let’s get into it!
Spoilers for Lovecraft Country episode 7, “I Am.”
How scary is A Beautiful Mind?
We find Hippolyta and Dee in the crumbled remains of the Braithwaite mansion. Hippolyta finds one of Dee’s comics in the rubble, confirming that George was there, despite the story that Leti (Jurnee Smollet) and Tic (Jonathan Majors) told her. Back home in Chicago, she goes back to consulting her orrery, the model of the solar system. I wasn’t sure that I knew that this was the same orrery owned by Hiram, the racist old ghost who lived in Leti’s house, but the show says it is. As Hippolyta’s trying to figure out how to make it work she begins a process I call “Beautiful Minding.” That’s that thing in movies where a brilliant character starts speaking their internal monologue aloud, often accompanied by glowing calculations or a chalkboard full of math that looks right to me. I love this because even though they are explaining what they are doing for me, a dum-dum in the movie theater, I still don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s just enough technical noise to lull my brain into submission. I’m always like, “You seem to have a good grasp on things here, so I’ll just wait until the time machine roars to life or whatever. Let me know if you need an extra flux capacitor.”
She Beautiful Minds herself into figuring out how to properly align the planets in the orrery and it comes to life, glowing and spinning and opening to reveal a key and an inscription that reads, “Every beginning is in time and every limit of extension in space.” The inscription is accompanied by a longitude and latitude that correspond to Troy, Kansas. So, that’s where she’s going. Verdict: Not scary and quite awe-inspiring. I think I need an orrery!
How scary is morning sickness?
Leti has a dream that echos the vision Tic had of the ancestor (Joaquina Kalukango) running out of the Braithwaite house, but in Leti’s dream she’s pregnant and bursts into flames. Foreboding. Later, after making amends with Ruby, Leti has an averse reaction to garlic in the food and Ruby jokes that maybe she’s pregnant. That would explain the vision, but what of the flames?!
Meanwhile, Ruby and Christina Braithwaite (Abbey Lee) have a tough conversation about Christina lying to Ruby. Christina explains that Winklevoss (Jordan Patrick Smith) and the Scary Woman from Scary Town (Jamie Neumann) are both dead, which is how Christina and Ruby were able to transform into their respective bodies. Christina says that everything she did was an effort to infiltrate the Order of the Ancient Dawn, which is all-male, and get the lost pages from the Book of Names so that she can cast spells. Okay, this sounds like a fine plan, I guess.
Also, Ruby is wearing the cutest high-waisted shorts!
Here, take another look!
OBSESSED with Dayna Pink’s costume design!!!
Verdict: The shorts are divine but I’m scared for Leti!
How scary is a hookup that stays over?
After their transformational night at the club, Montrose (Michael K. Williams) has let Sammy (Jon Hudson Odom) spend the night. Sammy makes an elaborate breakfast but Montrose is already like, “Wow, actually this seemed like a good idea when I was horny and feeling empowered as a human but now that it’s daylight I am regretting my choices. Also these grits are too watery.” Watery grits?! Immediate breakup. They fight and are interrupted by Tic and Leti. Tic does not have a very good reaction to finding out that his father is queer. Sigh. But, while he’s outside processing, Leti finds out that Tic’s mother, through whom the magic apparently comes, had a cousin who also survived the Tulsa massacre and lives in St. Louis. So that’s where he’s going. Verdict: watery grits?! Terrifying.
How scary is space, part two?
Okay, we already went over this in episode 4: space is very scary. Nevertheless, Hippolyta follows the coordinates to Kansas, where she finds an abandoned observatory that is accessed using the key from the orrery. She turns the observatory on and numbers start clacking and here she goes Beautiful Minding again! Two cops who work for Captain Lancaster (Mac Brandt), Christina’s nemesis, intercept Hippolyta as she’s in the middle of getting the observatory to rev up. (Do not ask me how she knew how to do this or what she was planning to accomplish. I have tried to figure it out and I have failed. It’s space stuff; not my business.)
The racist cops accost her and are about to shoot her when Atticus arrives. (Now wait a dang minute. Atticus was in St. Louis and now he’s in Mayfield, Kansas, a three-hour drive. And he doesn’t have a car? What in the interstate high-speed rail?!) In the fight that ensues, the cops shoot the machine, which causes it to go on the fritz (a technical term) and opens up a rapidly rotating portal to different dimensions. One cop gets thrown into the portal (good luck being racist on Lizard Earth, officer!) and then Hippolyta and Tic get sucked into it. Verdict: SPACE IS ALWAYS GOING TO BE SCARY. STAY AWAY FROM SPACE.
How scary is Tron?
Hippolyta finds herself on a barren planet, being approached by two tall robots with glowing lines like Jeff Daniels in Tron. Then she wakes up naked in an all-white space room (a technical term) with glowing lines on her wrists. A huge Black (as in African-American) robot enters. Actually, I guess the term would be African-Alien? African-Robotian? Afro-Futurian. In any case, the robot has an ENORMOUS Afro giving me a little Grace Jones meets Janelle Monae realness. Okay, werq. Hippolyta is told that she is not in a prison and then locked in the room. Make up your robot mind, Grace Jones.
Hippolyta goes through a long period of imprisonment and Beautiful Minding (space stuff, not my business) but eventually she figures out how to open the door. Grace Jones shoots her backward and demands that she name herself and say where she wants to be. Verdict: Scary but also who wouldn’t want to be imprisoned in Grace Jones’s space odyssey lab?
How scary is Le Jazz Hot?
Pressed for an answer by Grace Jones, Hippolyta declares she wants to be on stage dancing with Josephine Baker. Okay, lol, random Hippolyta. But suddenly, there she is. On stage, in a feather bustier with a headdress, stumbling through the steps like she’s on an episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy sneaks into Ricky’s club. She gets guff from the other dancers, but Josephine (Carra Patterson) takes her aside afterwards and is like “Hey! Let’s do a fish out of water learning to swim montage” and so they do!
After Hippolyta acclimates to life in France, Josephine brings her to a party. Perhaps in a gloss on Baker’s moniker Black Venus, she says “nights like this I feel like a star,” meaning an actual star. Hippolyta says she regrets shrinking her personality in America to be palatable to white people. The freedom and sexual liberation of Josephine’s world in France has woken her up. She confesses that she sometimes wants to kill white people. Okay, at this point I’m realizing that I definitely needed to have a lot more information about Hippolyta going into this! This woman was just sitting in Chicago, leading a life of quiet desperation like Julianne Moore in The Hours and plotting murder like Velma Kelly and we’re just hearing about it now? Hippolyta lets out a scream of self-affirmation and suddenly she’s blasted into another parallel universe, in the middle of training with an all-female group of Amazon-like warriors, possibly on the African continent. The latitude and longitude on the screen lead to what appears to be a spot in the ocean off the coast of Madagascar. The leader of the warriors is giving a rousing speech and ends with “Let’s do a learning to fight montage!” and so they do!
After a while, Hippolytpa finally bests the warrior trainer and is bestowed an ornate battle helmet by the queen. Now Hippolyta is leading a troop of warriors in battle against an army of colonizers. She gives a rousing Braveheart speech in which she says, “We are here because we did not believe them when we said our rage was not ladylike! Free to hate when we must, free to kill if we must!” But then as they are closed in on by an even larger group of colonizers, she removes her helmet and says “I am Hippolyta, George’s wife.” And she’s gone. Verdict: Not scary, quite rousing! But wow, backstory!
How scary is Lily Tomlin in The Incredible Shrinking Woman?
Suddenly Hippolyta’s in bed with George again. She animatedly tells him about her “many worlds” adventure and is alight with the idea that she can live in “a world where I can name myself anything.” She also names her anger. “For so much of my life, I’ve been shrinking. When I was a kid I thought I was big enough to name anything in this world…By the time I met you I’d already gotten so small. And I thought you knew how big I wanted to be. I thought you saw me.” This is incredibly compelling and, frankly, I would have watched an entire series that covered Hippolyta’s journey from shrinking to fullness. I know the show has another project going and I respect that, but this story is so intricate, has so many levels and layers to peel back, that I was shocked to find we only had five minutes left before the end of the broadcast.
George apologizes for not seeing her. They grab hands and are both taken to a ’50s-era space landscape, two characters out of Dee’s comics, as Sun Ra monologues about Black people being myth on the soundtrack. There is, honestly, an entire series to be crafted out of an exploration of Afro-futurist ideas like Sun Ra’s and the changing self-conceptions of Black people, particularly Black women. I can’t wait to see it. Verdict: Not scary, save for the terrifying truth of how many lives and how many stories have been shrunk down to fit an oppressive paradigm.
How scary is Lena Horne in The Wiz?
They frolic in space and then Grace Jones floats over to her, even more giant and trailing space dust. She is LITERALLY giving you Black Glinda realness. Tens across the board. She says Hippolyta’s change has been made permanent but that she can go back to Earth if she wants. We leave Hippolyta floating there, aware of her possibilities and her limitlessness. Verdict: For once, not scary at all.
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