Lovecraft Country – Whitey’s on the Moon (S1E2)

This week’s episode hit us fast and hard. Let’s deal with two quick items before we begin discussing the show. 1) Spoilers ahead! You may want to watch the episode before reading this. 2) I write my summation before listening to the podcast and without reading any outside blogs or breakdowns about the show. I consume that material AFTER writing because I want to bring my thoughts to you based on my own experience and interpretation of the show. Do with that what you will.

Ok, let’s get it…

The Comical Opening

Uncle George and Letitia dancing around in their rooms, excited by the items they find that are perfectly tailored to their personal tastes, all while shaking their groove things to “Movin’ On Up” was funny to me. However, their joy and seemingly unbothered behavior juxtaposed with Tic’s unsettled recollection of the previous night immediately throws you off from how the show ended last week and makes you wonder WTF is going on. Add to that Leti’s incredulous reaction to Tic’s recounting of the night’s goings-on as she fills her plate with the food they have been offered, and a picture begins to form that there is something wrong with them OR this place into which they’ve been welcomed. Leti and Uncle George think Tic is suffering a breakdown due to trauma from the war, but we know that isn’t the case.

Religious Overtones

This episode was steeped in religious imagery and symbolism. We saw stained glass windows and wall art that depicted The Garden of Eden, Adam naming the creatures, and angels. There were specific references to scripture. In that vein, the focus of Tic being lured to the mansion was to use him in a ceremony believed to open a portal to the garden and endow Samuel with immortality. The leaders of this ancient order are obsessed with living forever, yet this goal has been unattainable. Because of Tic’s lineage, Samuel believes using him as a conduit between realms is the key.

There are some very strong and unsettling undertones. There are theories in religious discussions that the serpent in the story of Adam and Eve was not an actual snake, but Adam’s phallus. That is played up in the images and even hallucinations in this episode. Christina, who has some resentment at being excluded because she is female, has disdain for the fall of man being placed solely at Eve’s feet. She explains,”Of course, it didn’t really happen that way. Biblical literal-ism is for the simple…”

As with the Greek mythology, how do we connect this to the overarching story and what are the deeper implications for what is to come?

Family Reunions

Before going to dinner, the three travel companions are stuck in their rooms and they each experience hallucinations. Uncle George’s hallucination is especially revelatory. He is reunited with Dora, Tic’s mother. First, Dora clues us in that she, Montrose, and Uncle George are all from Tulsa. Given their ages, they are likely survivors of (or at least have intimate knowledge of) the Tulsa Massacre. In addition, she tells Uncle George he can fly with his “children.” Up until this moment, we’ve only known him to have his daughter, Diana. Some of us have speculated in the Black With No Chaser online discussions that he could be Tic’s father, and we were spot on! During this section we are also re-introduced to Tic’s South Korean female cohort in her human form. This is the first time he calls her by the name Ji-ah. Their interaction is volatile and does not leave us with any better understanding of the connection between the two, other than she may be someone he met in battle during the war.

When Tic, Uncle George, and Letitia find Montrose, he’s coming out of the Count of Monte Cristo-esque tunnel he’s dug for himself. He explodes with anger that Tic would be “stupid enough” to come find him considering that they hadn’t spoken in five years and they didn’t get along very well. Uncle George tries to check him and gets “cussed” too. Though it was clear their relationship was strained, I thought he would be relieved and grateful to be rescued by his son. We know that Montrose may not be Tic’s father at this point, and we know that Montrose is also aware of this. Could this be why he’s always treated Tic so poorly? Uncle George, after being shot, tries to reason with Montrose about his treatment of Tic but Montrose doesn’t want to discuss this issue.

Uncle George remembers in the woods that Dora had an ancestor, named Hannah, who escaped the fire that burned down the original house. It is Hannah that we assume has come to save Tic when he is being used by Samuel to open the gate to Eden. When Tic sees Hannah, her presence seems to empower and embolden him to release some sort of energy that destroys Samuel, along with the rest of the Order of the Ancient Dawn, and the house. Hannah leads Tic through the house and to the exit as the house comes crumbling down around them. Tic is devastated because he believes his family to still be inside. Leti calls Tic’s name and alerts him that she, Montrose, and Uncle George have escaped, but Uncle George does not survive the gunshot wound. We watch as Tic painfully processes the death of his beloved uncle. The closing scene is heart-wrenching.

The Soundtrack

Jordan Peele and Misha Green use music to tell the story just as much as the script. We’ve experienced how they both use it to evoke certain emotions, whether to mislead, terrify, or drive home a message. This show has been no exception to that rule. The transition from Nina Simone’s “Blackbird“, to Marilyn Manson’s “Killing Strangers“, to Gil Scott-Heron’s “Whitey on the Moon” (which this episode seems to be named after) was seamless and genius. I was particularly moved by the placement and implications of the show’s namesake song. “Whitey on the Moon” (which was released in 1970) highlights how the struggle of Black people, working for unlivable wages and living in subpar conditions, made it possible for the country to afford the scientific advancements that placed a White man on the moon. The use of Black bodies for the advancement of the White man’s purpose is on full display during the ceremony to open the gate to Eden. Powerful.

Easter Eggs

The Count of Monte Cristo, thought last week to be a simple Easter egg, came in handy this week. Here are the Easter eggs I noticed in this episode:

  • The weird wooden maypole
  • Mention of Clark Ashton Smith and Algernon Blackwood (other well-known Sci-Fi authors)
  • The House on the Borderland and Other Novels by William Hodgsdon (which has a direct relationship to the way the story unfolds in this episode)
  • Use of the hallucination sequence to remind us how Black people were caged and observed for the amusement and wonder of Whites
  • Mention of Prince Hall and the Freemasons
  • Mention of The Book of Names as if it is a real book and not a novel

This isn’t an Easter egg, but did anyone else notice the same symbol that is on the ring appears and lights up every time the invisible barrier is used to detain the group?

Unanswered Questions

  1. Why is Tic unaffected by the memory-erasing spell? Is it his lineage or is he purposely left to remember his encounter with the creatures?
  2. Why is Christina’s father called both Titus and Samuel? (He is also listed in IMDB as both characters) Did I miss something here?
  3. Did Christina and William escape? What about the fate of that awful village?
  4. William mentioned the order liked to “dine in private,” with a dramatic pause before saying the word dine. On what or whom were they dining?
  5. Why are the Shoggoths birthed from cows? And why do they sound like scary turkeys?
  6. What is the significance of the book Hannah is holding as she looks at Tic while she’s standing in the doorway of the crumbling house? We do not see this book until she is standing still at the front of the house and it disappears with her when she fades into oblivion.
  7. Tic still has the ring he was given by Christina and seems to have received some type of power during the ceremony. Why doesn’t he attempt to bring back Uncle George?

P.S. After this episode, I don’t wanna hear nun’ about Jordan Peele and Misha Green selling their souls to the devil and being a part of the Illuminati. Let’s not do that, okay?

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