HBO’s Lovecraft Country: Whitey’s on the Moon (Episode 2) Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On this week’s episode of HBO’s Lovecraft Country, Whitey’s on the Moon, the trio arrives begins to explore the mysterious mansion they were invited to at the end of the premiere and as they begins to face their bad pasts, Atticus’ (Jonathan Majors) role in the mansion family’s plan become clear.
Upon arriving at the mysterious Ardham mansion, the mood of the group has mostly changed as Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and Leti (Jurnee Smollett) are loving their new stroke of fortune. Within their rooms, Uncle George is amazed by the massive library filled with the books of his favorite authors and Leti is having a fashion show for herself with all of the gorgeous dresses she finds. It’s definitely a strong, light-hearted sequence that immediately embodies the great music this series has to offer. Atticus, however, still remains heavily skeptical and after seeing the monsters in the woods tear the police apart, he’s more vigilant and paranoid than ever. His suspicions grow even more when William (Jordan Patrick Smith), the mansion’s mysterious caretaker takes them outside for lunch and begins to explain the history of the family who’s house they’re staying in.
In a nutshell, they’re basically staying in the house of the Braithwhite’s – a family of “former” slave owners that have a deep interest in the mystic and some sort of tie to the occult. While William says that Atticus’ father, Montrose (Michael K. Williams), is up in Boston for some business, no one really buys into that. Frankly, there’s just something off putting about the emptiness of the mansion and how seemingly perfect things are. They quickly realize that things aren’t though as Leti and Uncle George have no memory of seeing monsters last night or really anything before things got bloody. It’s the first hint that we get that signifies Atticus’ importance and the mystical cult that’s connected to Atticus’ birthright.
The way that the episode establishes the mysterious group that has particular plans for Atticus is definitely familiar, but very effective. With Atticus being the only one who can remember things from the night before, his ramblings about vampiric monsters and their car being magically fixed all of a sudden make Leti and George worried that he could be having a mental breakdown stemming from his time in the war. It’s a moment that sort of has the group turn on one another as Atticus yells that he’s telling the truth and the group discovers a small village that’s definitely holding some secrets. With a woman throwing passively racist comments the group’s way making things very unsettling to a cow birthing one of the monsters, later on in the episode, that hunt in the surrounding woods, something’s clearly not right here.
Things only get stranger when the group once again encounters the horrific and deadly monsters that terrorized them from the night before. However, they are saved when Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee), the woman who saved them the day before with her silver car, appears and whistles the beasts away. We then get some of the answers we’re looking for as Atticus meets up with Christina and her father Samuel (Tony Goldwyn) and it’s a little overcomplicated. To say that this episode has a lot going on would be kind of an understatement as Samuel’s explanation of their family cult has so much religious subtext that goes over your head and doesn’t really matter in the end. It’s kind of just a basis for why they are searching for immortality and how Atticus is connected to all of this is much more interesting.
So, Atticus’ mother comes from descendent of the Braithwhite family that was a slave that had a child, I guess, with someone in the family. Thus, Atticus is currently the last one in the bloodline of this cult group, called the Sons of Adam, that are looking to use him in order to perform a ceremony that unlocks the key to immortality. It’s also established that Christina displays some magical powers of her own as it’s revealed that she has been the one making Leti and George not remember the monsters and now has trapped them into their own rooms. There’s a great sequence that feels straight out of The Shining or Room 1408 that follows as the three of them deal with their inner demons and take an unwelcomed trip down memory lane.
As Leti is attempting to escape, she suddenly finds that Atticus has somehow made it into her room and the two get close talking about how Leti has abandonment issues after her mother abandoned her when she was young. It’s an incredibly emotional moment that fleshes out why she’s so self-minded and individualistic. Things even get intimate between them, but as the camera moves out of her room to show that Atticus is still stuck in his room – we know there’s something wrong. Just as this fake Atticus takes his clothes off to reveal a snake wrapped around his waist to reflect the painting of Adam and Eve shown throughout the episode, things get dangerous.
Not as dangerous as things are for Atticus though as he faces a Japanese soldiers, or at least I assume Japanese because he fought in WWII, named Ji-ah (Jamie Chung) that he seems to remember from his time in the war. He clearly doesn’t want to fight her and is totally distraught when their bloody knife fight ends with him choking her to death. Atticus’ issues from the war and the decisions he made during combat evidently still haunt him and it adds to the more complex issues he’s likely going to have to come to terms with throughout the season. George’s experience is oddly more tranquil as he dances with a woman from his past named Dora (Erica Tazel) – who we come to understand a little later. It’s actually kind of nice to have George’s sequence be a calming break from the chaos that’s occurring in the other rooms and it clears his head to give the best performance of this episode.
Vance easily locks in his awards potential here with both a great set up speech as he rallies Atticus back to reality and then schools the entire Sons of Adam when the boys are invited to a special dinner. With Atticus and George being the only black men in the room, George makes a prevalent point about the power that Atticus has that’s heightened through Vance’s incredible performance. Basically, regardless how much the room hates Atticus for being black, they have to listen to his orders since it’s his birthright and he is a part of the bloodline. It’s a very powerful moment for Atticus, especially for all of the shit they’ve gone through lately, and that’s beautifully poetic with how much it clearly means to Atticus. Even with the tables turned, Sam still isn’t just going to let Atticus and the group get away that easily and it here where a major issue occurs for this series.
All of the problems that seemed like they were going to be fleshed out throughout the season are seemingly solved in an instant. Atticus and the group find Montrose after they search the stone tower that the racist woman was guarding before. The Sons of Adam are basically destroyed when the ceremony turns them into stone and crushes them to dust as the house topples around them. The big things that were established in the episode kind of end prematurely. It also makes a lot of the religious lore building that’s done throughout the episode kind of pointless since the Sons of Adam are seemingly gone – for now at least.
Don’t get me wrong, these sequences are amazing to watch and there’re still some threads to follow with there being some big discrepancy as to who Atticus’ father is since it’s revealed that Dora is his mother and that both Montrose and George had a relationship with her. It’s all made even more complicated with George seemingly dead after he bleeds out from being shot by Sam. Now, while I don’t believe that this is actually the end for George or the Sons of Adam, it’s disappointing that a lot of the big breadcrumbs for the season are already wiped away. It just leaves you wondering what the rest of this season is even going to be about and that some of these plot thread has perhaps wrapped up a little too soon. Either way, it’s easy to be left a little mixed as to what the rest of the season, which is still a long way to go, possibly has to offer.
Although Lovecraft Country continues to excellently build its characters and perfectly mix together mystic and real-life horrors to create an incredibly compelling watch, it might have wrapped up some of its big threads too prematurely. There’s definitely a big question mark as to what else is going to happen down the road, but episode two already answers the series’ big burning questions and it’s hard to say right now if that’s a good thing.