HBO’s Lovecraft Country: Rewind 1921 (Episode 9) Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On this week’s episode of HBO’s Lovecraft Country, Rewind 1921, the group heads back to Tusla in 1921 so they can retrieve the Book of Names in order to save Dee (Jada Harris) and end up traveling back to one of the darkest times in American and Black History.
After her run-in with two devilish girls, Dee is out for the count being in a coma and having a decrepit arm that looks like its rotting away. With everyone in total shambles, the group is in a bit of disarray as everyone points fingers in the other direction for letting this happen. Montrose (Michael K. Williams) is upset with Leti (Jurnee Smollett) for not calling when Dee was by the house, Atticus (Jonathan Majors) now can’t use the Titus Pages as a bargaining chip to have Cristina (Abbey Lee) help them save Dee, and Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) is upset with everyone for arguing. For some reason, Montrose also decides that this is the best time to tell Atticus that he’s possibly not his son and Atticus has a pretty mixed reaction to it. On one hand, he’s happy that someone so abusive to him couldn’t be his real father and that his prayers for Uncle George to be his father could be true. On the other, he just took abuse from someone that really wasn’t his father and he’s kind of pissed about it – both feeling being rightfully so. Regardless, the group dynamic is a little tense and the mistrust is at an all-time high.
Even the relationship between Cristina and Ruby is getting a little rocky as Ruby questions her role in Cristina’s plan and if she’s being used. After Cristina pays a visit to a dying Lancaster (Mac Brandt), which is a pretty gruesome but satisfying sight, Ruby questions her intentions and asks to keep Leti safe. While Cristina seems like she’s loyal to Ruby and genuinely cares to keep her around, there’s got to be an underlying double-cross in the future. Maybe she’ll keep Ruby’s intentions in mind because she genuinely cares for her or because she serves a greater purpose in her overarching plans. However, Cristina’s come a long way to keep these plans rolling and with everyone having different goals and desires with this big plan, anything that doesn’t line up with Cristina’s are likely going to get tossed to the side by her and I doubt Ruby is immune if she gets in her way.
Although the group’s spirits are down since Cristina seems to be holding all the cards and Dee still unconscious, there’s one saving grace that storms back home to save the day – Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis). Now, her reappearance is a little odd considering we aren’t really sure how she came back so suddenly, and things get even weirder once we get to the time traveling elements of the series. Truthfully, should the series set up some rules and explanations for the time travelling – yes. Does it do that – no. Does it really need to throw time traveling into the mix just at the end of this season and into the already crowded sci-fi elements of this series – also no. It’s does anyway though, and it ends up not being a bad thing as the group heads back to Montrose and Atticus’ mother childhood neighborhood in 1921 Tulsa and gives us some of the tensest and thrilling moments of the series.
As they head back into Tulsa, the group, mainly Montrose, realizes that they’ve come at one of the worst times possible – just on the cusp of the start of the Tulsa Massacre. The real-world significance of this event is that it’s regarded as the single worst incident of racial violence in American History. Mobs of white residents, with some of them being deputized and given weapons by city officials, desecrated many black businesses in the Greenwood District, regarded at that time as “Black Wall Street” because of how wealthy the area was, and killed an estimated number of 200 black residents and left another several hundred injured. It’s another excellent way that this series ingrains buried American History and opens viewers eyes to the horrific treatment that many black Americans have faced throughout history. However, this one event also holds a major impact on Montrose as well since it’s where he not only lost a lot of friends, but also a lot of his family.
The second they get there you can feel how overwhelmed Montrose is with just his lost facial expression and how quickly he tries to find comfort in the closest bottle he can find. He’s not only seeing many people that he hasn’t seen in quite some time, including a younger Uncle George and Atticus’ mom, but he’s also re-experiencing the abuse his father had on him. Seeing how he was publicly beat by his father for just wearing a flower on his ear is a perfect showing of how domestic abuse can become a vicious cycle. It doesn’t absolve Montrose of what he did for years to Atticus, but it sheds some light on how he’s been a victim himself and creates a stronger emotional connection to him than we’ve ever had in the series thus far. It’s even sadder hearing how he wishes that he could change things with what happened to a friend of his that night, who he actually had a gay relationship/friendship, but can’t because it could change the future to much. Honestly, this episode does an excellent job showing Montrose in a different light and Williams adds a whole new emotional depth to his performance.
Nothing, however, compares to the two unbelievably powerful moments that come in the finale of this episode – starting with what happens between Atticus and Montrose. There was a story that Montrose had told in a previous episode about a guy saving him, Uncle George, and Dora from a group of racists when they were kids and we finally get to see what happened – and it’s not what you’d expect. With Atticus and Montrose reconciling in an alley, them seeing the kids fight off a group of white adult residents, and Atticus’ foot grazing a baseball bat on the ground, everything becomes clear. That stranger that saved a young Montrose was actually Atticus and realizing this, Atticus enacts on exactly what Montrose remembers happening and it leads to one of the most empowering and memorable moments of the show. As Atticus cracks skulls like Jackie Robinson cracks baseballs off his bat and delivers the iconic “I got you, kid” line that’s stayed in Montrose’s mind for decades, there’s this feeling of good triumphing evil that makes you feel great. Atticus has finally become the pulp fiction hero that he’s read about for so long and this moment will hopefully bring him and Montrose a little closer.
The other amazing moment comes from Leti as she grabs the Book of Names from Dora’s childhood home before it’s burnt down with some of the family inside. With some help from Dora’s grandmother, I think, Leti’s able to get the Book of Names, but not before the house starts to burn. The book remains untouched by the flames, but Leti decides to stay with her as she burns to pray for her. It’s an incredibly cruel and sad moment to watch Dora’s grandmother burn to death and it leaves an emotional scar on both Leti and the viewers that won’t go away. However, it leads to Leti walking through flames and bombs being dropped as she makes her way back to the portal and it’s one of the most powerful visuals this show has brought and is exactly how you build hype for a wild finale.
Lovecraft Country delivers its best episode yet with Rewind 1921 as it delivers some of the most striking and empowering visuals of the series, takes viewers on a walk through one of the most nightmarish times in Black History, ignites some hype for what should/could be a wild finale. It carries an unexpected emotional resonance that shows why this show can be something special and starts to make all of the confusing and complicated build up of the series a little more meaningful.