HBO’s Lovecraft Country: Strange Case (Episode 5) Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On this week’s episode of HBO’s Lovecraft Country, Strange Case, the group deals with the repercussions of Montrose’s (Michael K. Williams) actions while Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) steps out of her own skin after making a devil’s bargain with William (Jordan Patrick Smith).
Picking up on where we left off last week with Montrose killing and destroying the only shred of progress they had on understanding Titus’ pages, Atticus (Jonathan Majors) is livid with him. The second he confronts him, he knows exactly what he did and proceeds to give him a vicious beatdown that sends the group in a bit of a spiral. The beatdown definitely shows a more destructive side to Atticus that’s legitimately scary to see and even has Leti (Jurnee Smollett) a little afraid of what this birthright power could be like in his hands. There’s this powerful level of desperation and anger within Atticus to find answers, at any cost, and it makes Leti question if he’s really in the right mind to be dealing with all of this and if the magic he’s trying to find is even good. Frankly, the relationship between these two is great as they’re not afraid to open up and question one another, but still care about each other at the end of day. They’re truly the dream team, but it looks like they’re about to hit some bumps in the road as Atticus makes a discovery that scares the hell out of him and is left as a mystery for now.
After Atticus beats him down, we also get to see a different side of Montrose as he looks for safety in his lover Sammy (Jon Hudson Odom). We got a hint last week that Montrose is really gay, and we get to see him in that environment as he goes to Sammy for some genuine comfort. While we’ve seen him mostly just be abrasive and demanding for most of his time on the show, he actually looks like he’s in a place where he feels accepted and safe. He’s definitely quiet and a little closed off at first, but as he stays with Sammy through his drag show performance it’s easy to see him feel comfortable in his own skin – a major theme of this episode. It’s a glittery feel good moment that’s encapsulated in a sweet kiss between the two, their first one as they are ragged on by Sammy’s friends for never kissing, and it’s a pretty impactful storyline as there aren’t many about gay black men. It’ll be even more interesting when Montrose finally makes Atticus aware of his relationship with Sammy.
However, this is all the time we get with our, supposed, main protagonist as the series once again gets lost in another cool, but unnecessary distraction – I mean plot line. Seriously though, while it was a big deal that William seduced Ruby because it seemed like he was using her to get into Leti’s house, which ended up not being the case, that doesn’t we need the whole episode to basically be dedicated to it. It’s just another example as to how this series continues to keep itself in mystery and not want to give any sort of direct answers and direction on what the endgame is. We’re literally so close to the season finale and there’s no real sense as to where exactly anything is going or what any of this means. Frankly, the answers better be pretty damn amazing otherwise none of this build up or shroud of mystery is going to be worth it. I will say though, this is all still pretty fun to watch and this storyline provides some horrifying imagery that’s absolutely bonkers.
William’s true intentions with Ruby are much more sinister and stranger than anyone could’ve imagined as he gives her a magic potion that allows her to become a white woman (Jamie Neumann) for a short period of time. It’s actually very horrifying take on the old idea of “walking in someone else’s shoes” as Ruby sees the other side of the racism that surrounds her and it’s actually a strong moment for her character. The series perfectly continues its excellent streak of creating interesting perspectives and story sequences that show the horrors of racism as Ruby begins to understand how deep-seeded the racist beliefs around her are as well as how hard it is to change anything – even in her new skin. From watching her co-workers causally make crude remarks about black people without even knowing who she really is to seeing how her boss really views the only black employee, Tamara (Sibongile Miambo), Ruby begins to be consumed by a sense of hopelessness and anger as she realizes the uphill battle the black community has. Even when she tries to sort of change things by helping out Tamara and trying to change her co-worker’s perspective in her white skin, it leaves her feeling empty. It’s a strong moment for her character arc and is given some gross, stomach-turning imagery with the effects that go along with it.
The visuals of Ruby breaking out of her white skin is absolutely disgusting and is some of the best horror visuals we’ve seen from the show. William basically describes the process perfectly in the same vein as a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, but this is way bloodier, disgusting, and creepy as hell as the white skin tears and falls apart when Ruby is transforming back into her normal self. It’s a process that is done several times throughout the episode, with each one being more skin crawling than the last and looks incredibly gnarly. Not to mention, it actually plays a relevant part in a big reveal that happens at the end.
At one point, Ruby is asked to do something for Christina (Abbey Lee) that shows how the remaining Sons of Adam in the police force are looking to take her out. However, after doing the task and waiting for William to return, she sees Christina break out of William’s skin like Ruby has been doing throughout the episode and reveals that she has been William all along. It’s an interesting reveal that shows how much Christina is really in control and it looks like she’s even trying to play into Ruby’s anger to get her on her side. Could Christina being trying to build a powerful female army to subvert the Sons of Adam and create a powerful force of her own? Hopefully we find out these answers soon before the series derails itself again with more distracting side plots.
Episode five of Lovecraft Country is another small step forward and multiple backwards. Again, the side plot that for some reason becomes the main plot is intriguing as Ruby takes a walk on the white side of things, but it’s just hard to see the bigger picture it plays in the grand scheme of things. There’s plenty here that’s delightful for horror fans wanting more skin-crawling antics from the series, but this series NEEDS to get back on track before it completely derails itself.