HBO’s Lovecraft Country: Holy Ghost (Episode 3) Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On this week’s episode of HBO’s Lovecraft Country, Holy Ghost, the group returns to Chicago and as everyone reels from Uncle George’s (Courtney B. Vance) death, Leti (Jurnee Smollett) and Atticus (Jonathan Majors) deal with some new paranormal and racist threats after Leti makes a major purchase.
With George’s death being the final thing we saw from last week’s hectic episode, the biggest thing coming into this week was how it was going to affect everyone. While it’s a little disappointing that we just cut to three weeks after they return so the big emotional swell has dissipated, the remnant feelings about his death still linger. Although she’s managing, Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) is clearly torn up about George’s death and she’s doesn’t exactly buy the story of him being shot by a white sheriff that was told to her. From how Atticus has been going out of his way to help out and even try to not have Hippolyta be reminded of George to how the three of them are just looking to move on with things, she’s incredibly suspicious that they’re not really telling her the truth.
Even though they’re trying to keep Hippolyta in the dark about what happened, their discovery of witches and magic existing in the world, especially in the hands of a white cult group, still rattles their cages. Atticus has a big blow-up with Montrose (Michael K. Williams) over whether or not they should Hippolyta the truth or if they should even acknowledge anything they’ve just seen. It’s especially takes a toll on Leti, especially given that she died and then was resurrected, as she describes that she feels like a ghost walking around. While it would’ve been great to see these feelings fleshed out more, the series unfortunately continues to become confusing and aimless as this week’s episode deals with some haunted house horrors that are cool, but confusing in the grand scheme of things.
For most of the episode, we instead to get watch Leti deal with some paranormal ghosts and extreme racism that are tied to the new house she bought on the North Side of Chicago – which is full of white people. Looking to make amends with Ruby (Wummi Mosaku), Leti decides to purchase a beat-up old bearding house on the North Side in order to help the black community. It’s actually a pretty big achievement for Leti as it’s a truly rare feat for the time. A boarding house for black residents in a white neighborhood, would’ve just been a fantasy at the time, but through Leti’s efforts, it became a reality.
So, it’s actually no surprise that it fills up so fast with residents and an even attracts the attention of black journalists. There’s something incredibly satisfying and gratifying seeing Leti and the black community on such a high like this as the party they have carries this immense number of good vibes and the overall atmosphere and tone is very calming. Hell, even Leti and Atticus explore their feelings for one another with some sex, which Leti also reveals that its her first time, and it’ll be interesting to see them deal with their feelings for one another down the road.
However, the good times don’t last forever as they are heavily unwanted by their white neighbors and are subjected to some of the most aggressive and horrifying racism I’ve ever seen. There’s a point where Atticus notices they’re using the same kind of tactics that they used during his time in the war and it directly iterates how deep-seeded the racism they face is – to the point that they’re seen as war enemies. It’s a hatred that’s despicable since all Atticus and other black folk are doing is existing and what they are forced to deal with is truly terrible. From a cross being burned on their front lawn to Leti being slammed around the back of a police van, this episode depicts the realistic horrors of racism in an undeniably effective way. Even the way that they have to deal with a car horn going off is enough to psychologically torture anyone and the way that the noise continues throughout the episode until Leti decides to silence it with a baseball bat. Lovecraft Country definitely doesn’t hide the racist atmosphere of its time and it’s what makes it so effective in creating realistic horrors that are truly haunting.
Leti also must deal with the haunted past of the house she just bought as her and Atticus deal with ghosts that are looking to have Leti join them in the afterlife. Overall, the paranormal sequences are cool, especially when they try to purge the spirits out with the help of a medium, and the designs of the ghosts are intriguing and tough to look at. Even the kills that happen when three local racists come in and try to harm Leti are awesome, but the overall concept and execution is just underwhelming. It’s just comes off like a random diversion of the plot that’s a mix between the first season of American Horror Story and stories about Nazi experimentation that replaces Jews with Black people. The scares with the ghosts are kind of lame and certainly don’t hit the same levels of effectiveness as the more realistic, racist horrors. Add in an unimportant Ouija board sequence, generic disfigured ghosts, and having it all wrapped up in one episode and you get a deja-vu horror experience.
Even worse is that the series still struggles to give viewers a clear direction as to where things are going. Don’t get me wrong, the aesthetics, the great performances, and the compelling showcasing of the horrors of racism are more than enough to keep me around. However, ever since the premiere, I’ve been struggling to figure out not only how to describe what this show is about because it’s all over the place, but also why someone should dive in at this point. It’s undeniable that the makings of a great show are present, but they’re just not coming together to create a cohesive storyline or anything to hold onto as a viewer.
The reappearance of Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee) definitely starts to make some things come together as she tells Atticus that Leti’s house was once owned by one of the Sons of Adam. She’s also likely the one that silently influenced her to buy it in the first place and there could be some potential for things to come together as the house seems to contain some documents that are the key to making the immortality ceremony work. Whether or not the series can pull through on this potential remains to be seen, but the next episode or two is going to be key in finally putting some hooks into its story that viewers can latch onto and understand where things are really going.
Holy Ghost continues to showcase the best that Lovecraft Country has to offer, but also shows its flaws in how there’s no clear direction for the story. The strongly effective and horrifying depictions of racism and the incredible performances easily show that this series has the potential to be something special, but it needs to show it by finally keying us in on where the hell things are going.