Now I told y’all I was scary before LoveCraft Country even started. This week’s episode had all the trappings of a horror movie: a creepy house, ghosts, ne’er-do-well neighbors, and a ritual goat-killing. I had several, “Dis tew much,” moments. However, by the end of the episode I was so invested in some “get back” for the souls of the experiment victims in the house that I was yelling at my screen. Let’s try to unpack some of this…
All About Leti
This week we are given more insight into Letitia “Leti” Lewis. The episode begins with her in a church full of people. There’s singing, hand-clapping, and shouting from the church-goers around her, but Leti is seemingly alone and sad. There’s a beautiful poem being spoken during this scene about inspiration and flying high, yet Leti seems desolate and detached from all that is going on around her. It is in this moment we are reminded that of the three survivor’s of the horrific trip to Ardham, she is the only one that has been brought back from the dead. It’s awful to be surrounded by joyous folks and still feel alone and lonely, and we see that in the single tear that streams down her face.
Leti then tries, in her own way, to connect with Ruby. It begins as a gesture to get closer to her sister by purchasing a residence with the intent of using at a boarding house. We aren’t clear as to how she got the money, but Leti accidentally reveals it was an inheritance from their mother. That piece of information threatens to damage her relationship with Ruby forever. Leti is unaware that Christina was in cahoots with the realtor and was really the benefactor of the money for her own nefarious reasons.
Leti also tries a few times to be vulnerable with Tic, to no avail. He’s surprisingly standoffish until other men take notice of her. Then, he comes on strong. Too strong. Tic makes an assumption that Leti has been intimate before, but he’s wrong. When she reveals to him that the bathroom encounter was her first time, he’s immediately remorseful at how he handled her. Throughout the other parts of the episode, Tic dealt with Leti with a measure of care. He made sure she was safe, he never made her feel crazy when it came to her thoughts about what was going on in the house, and he was present even when he felt she should just cut her losses and leave the house.
Leti – the Bad Ass! They couldn’t have picked a better song than Dorinda Clark-Cole’s Take It Back for the scene where Leti pulls a Jasmine Sullivan! As Leti was marching forward with that baseball bat and Dorinda was running up and down the musical scale, I was stomping my feet and clapping my hands like I was in Sunday morning service. Can we just talk about that shingled dress shimmying as she was swinging that bat?!
Lastly, we learn a little more about Leti’s mother. When Tic asks her where she found the woman that performs the exorcism, Leti replies, “My momma couldn’t really commune with the dead, but she was a hustler and knew how to do her research.” This leads me to believe her mother’s profession was that of a false medium or psychic. An early Ms. Cleo of sorts. Leti’s heritage is almost as mysterious as Tic’s.
Honoring Our Ancestors
The nod to our ancestors went deep this week. The dead souls trapped in the house were victims of sadistic experiments by a maniacal doctor (Hirem Epstein) who was connected to the same ancient order as Samuel Braithwhite. This is reflective of many instances in our history where we were used as lab rats. I mean, we were considered three-fourths human. Saartjie Baartman, Henrietta Lacks, the Tuskegee experiment, and Vertus Hardiman are just a few examples of how we were used to advance medical research that was not developed to treat us.
Leti’s research of the house led her to the names of those that disappeared. Though we see them in scary detail throughout the episode, they were not the ones to fear. They were always there to help. To that end, the final basement scene gave me chills. We knew Leti was a force, but here she was a powerhouse. She called the names of those who’d died in that basement in the name of Science. She called on the ancestors to help her fight an evil she could not defeat of her own accord, all while Shirley Caesar took us to church singing about tearing down Satan’s kingdom. When the ancestors came to her aid, they were broken, mutilated and disfigured. By the time they helped her rid the house of Hirem Epstein, they were restored to their rightful condition before being released to cross peacefully to the other side. I found that transition to be beautiful. It was such a reminder that our ancestors endured much that we don’t even know or understand, yet they are always near and ready to help when we need them.
This week’s recall to an Easter egg is in regards to Jackie Robinson’s appearance and his quote, “I got you kid,” in episode 1. We hear the story of an actual occurrence where an unknown male shows up with a bat and saves young George and Montrose from some white men. Here’s this episode’s hidden jewels…
- The Count of Monte Cristo is focused on again.
- Hyppolyta tears pages from Brahm Stoker’s Dracula (Uncle George’s favorite book). The specific pages were unclear to me, but I’m sure they have importance.
- One of Leti’s tenants is named James and his dog is named Baldwin.
- One of Leti’s tenants is a dancer. Some of the potential dancers of the era that this person may be portraying include Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham. Both ladies spent time in Chicago.
- There’s a reference to Martin Luther King, Jr. (whose birth name was Michael) and his having been engaged to a White woman.
- “Bobo, it’s your turn.” One of the young men seen playing with the Ouija board is called Bobo, which was the nickname of Emmett Till. Till was from Chicago and is often seen pictured wearing the same garb as the young man in the scene. When the young man asks the board, “Will I have a good time on my trip,” he is told, “No.” (Shoutout to Deloris L for sharing the photo from another discussion.)
- The other little boy at the Ouija board is named Gil. Gil Scott-Heron is also from Chicago.
- Leti being tossed around in the rear of the squad car… not sure if that was a nod to Freddy Gray or common practice from that time to present. While that tactic left Leti battered and bruised, Mr. Gray did not survive his encounter on April 12th, 2015.
- Three of the names Leti called during the exorcism (Lucy, Anarcha, and Betsey) were actual victims of James Marion Sims, a physician and gynecologist. They were slaves taken and mutilated by Sims for unethical medical research.
- Is the church scene Uncle George’s funeral? I’m not clear on this as we do not see a casket or Ruby. We also do not see any members of the Freeman family.
- Why is The Count of Monte Cristo a recurring Easter egg? How else can this story be useful to the LC storyline?
- Ouija boards were, and still are, very taboo in our community. How did those kids get their hands on one?
- Hyppolyta is drawn to an orrery (a mechanical model of the solar system) placed in a strange room within the house. We already know she is a stargazer and is fascinated by the heavens. In some belief systems, orreries are thought to be portals to other times/dimensions. We have seen Hyppolyta in outfits that are definitely not from the 1950s in previews for future episodes. Does Hyppolyta time travel? Will she go back to save her husband? (Shout out to Nicole N from the BWNC Community! I didn’t know what that model was called.)
- Will Tic or Christina ever tell Leti the truth about the money? Will the truth mend Leti’s relationship with Ruby?
- There are light-up symbols similar to the ones seen at the Ardham mansion as the elevator travels to the room below the basement. What do the symbols mean?
- We see the fresh bodies of the three white men in the room below the basement. The prior experiment victims were already recovered. However, there are innumerable bones scattered around the room. To whom do the rest of the bodies belong?
Samuel Braithwhite is listed as being in three episodes on IMBD. We haven’t seen the last of him yet…