Lovecraft Country: 1.07 I Am.
After last week’s interlude from the main narrative, I Am. further illustrates Lovecraft Country’s penchant for character-centric drama, which as I have has explored in recent weeks, is one of its primary strengths. I Am. is the episode that has best exemplified the breadth of story and character plot lines at play in this world of provocative supernatural fantasy.
Each episode so far has paid particular attention to a certain individual or character grouping – Tic, Leti and George in Whitey’s on the Moon, for instance, or Ruby and William in Strange Case, or Ji-Ah in Meet Me in Daegu. Episode seven concentrates on a character not seen since episode four – Tic’s aunt Hippolyta – and propels her on a powerful journey of self-affirmation, while also touching on other character subplots.
We’ve only had snatches of insight into Hippolyta’s grief at the loss of husband and, indeed, her life overall. I Am. rectifies this by picking up on her quest to uncover the truth about George’s death, travelling to the ruins of the Braithwhite mansion and to an observatory in Mayfield, Kansas. A machine inside the observatory whisks Hippolyta away on a weird, cosmological journey through the universe: first to the domain of an omnipotent alien being; then to a cabaret performance in Paris alongside the Black entertainer Josephine Baker; then to an African village where she learns the ways of a warrior; and finally into the arms of her husband – or an alternate-dimension version of him by any rate.
It’s a powerful interdimensional journey for Hippolyta that puts her knowledge of cosmology, science and mathematics to good use, and also allows actor Aunjanue Ellis to deliver some touching emotional moments as Hippolyta rages against her oppressors and the setbacks she has endured. More than being simply George’s wife or Tic’s aunt, Hippolyta is a woman who across much of her life has made sacrifices for her family and friends, frequently putting aside her own ambitions or being put in her place by the greater powers in (white) society.
Meanwhile, after his initial encounter with the secret society known as the Sons of Adam and witnessing the apparent demise of its leader Samuel Braithwhite, Tic has busied himself with deciphering the Language of Adam and tracking down the spellcasting Book of Names, a task which has preoccupied him for the past few weeks. Here, he follows a lead to St Louis, Missouri, leaving Leti to make up with Ruby, who herself is still hiding the fact that she has been consorting with a white (wo)man and living the high life.
Strange Case ended with the revelation that Christina’s compatriot William – who had seduced and manipulated Ruby into embracing her more violent and destructive urges – was, in fact, Christina using William’s skin as a ‘suit’ to walk about in, just as Ruby had in the same episode. Only a single scene is devoted to their interplay this time around, but it’s clear Christina’s ambition to combat the sexist and patriarchal attitudes of the Sons of Adam – itself a motivation for continuing William’s scientific experiments and utilising his skin – will factor into the events that follow.
Tic’s relationship with Montrose appears almost beyond repair now, as the former discovers that the latter is sleeping with Sammy, another gay man. Tic’s anger at this revelation about his father’s sexuality, and his anger at himself for excusing Montrose’s abusive tendencies during Tic’s childhood for so long, is as much representative of toxic masculinity as it is of homophobia, and the shades of grey surrounding Tic’s character deepen.
Lovecraft Country is full of bold, imaginative and wacky ideas and rarely shies away from its pulp science fiction-fantasy roots. But it also fiercely celebrates Black power – particularly Black femininity – in the face of systemic inequality. If we take this season as a single work, then with the end of I Am. we're now heading into the third and final act. It remains to be seen how satisfying the culmination of the arc will be, but one thing is for certain: individual episodes have been gloriously vibrant and distinctly flavoured, and each week brings something new and wild.