Lovecraft Country: 1.09 Rewind 1921
We’ve had spells, enchantments, aliens and monsters, and this week’s instalment of Lovecraft Country dusts off yet another tried and true science fiction trope – time travel. It’s far from a walk in the park, however, as Tic, Leti and Montrose find themselves embroiled in the midst of the infamous 1921 Tulsa race massacre.
There is a superb momentum to this penultimate episode, despite its heady subject matter. Storylines which in previous episodes stayed mostly distinct have now more or less converged, and we see our main crew of characters working together towards a common purpose: retrieving the Book of Names to save Diana. For Diana indeed made it through the up-in-the-air ending of the Jig-a-Bogo, when she was attacked and left for dead – as did, it turns out, Hippolyta, who makes a triumphant reappearance following her inter dimensional travels in I Am..
Using her newfound technological powers, Hippolyta transports Tic, Leti and Montrose to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 using the observatory portal machine that sent her on that intergalactic journey. Their goal is simple – retrieve the Book of Names from the Freeman family home, as it holds the key to a spell that will save Diana – but inevitably, as with all time travel narratives, complications ensue. For Tulsa is, of course, the scene of an infamous, racially motivated massacre of Black residents by rioting white mobs, which is captured with startling immediacy in this episode.
The massacre itself is depicted with fiery realism. The cinematography captures all the terrible violence and destruction that characterised the real-life event, and the sweeping orchestral score is a riveting complement to what is presented onscreen. It’s a charged emotional time for everyone involved – viewers included.
The setting also proves a significant trigger for Montrose for personal reasons. He has a revelation for Tic: he might not be Tic’s dad; George could be the father. And that’s not all Montrose is struggling to cope with, as a return to Oklahoma thirty years in the past means revisiting key scenes from his childhood – namely the shooting by white rioters of his friend Thomas, moments after Montrose tells him they can’t be friends anymore owing to Thomas’ homosexuality. It is quite the tumultuous time for Michael K Williams’ character, who grapples with the mistakes he’s made as a person, his internalised homophobia, the legacy of abuse he faced at the hands of his own father and how, in spite of everything, all he ever wanted to be was a good father for Tic.
Elsewhere, in return for helping to cast a temporary rejuvenation spell on Diana, Christina secures Tic’s consent to attend the autumnal equinox ritual, where she intends to use him to achieve immortality; her endgame by this stage has been more or less revealed. Captain Lancaster, whose attempts to rejuvenate his own form by sacrificing Black innocents and using their body parts to fuel his own, seems to finally meet his end, with the rejuvenating spell failing. His character was always fairly one-note and superfluous, so it’s good to see that plotline closed off here.
The machinations of both Christina and Captain Lancaster rely on exploitation of Black people for their own goals (of immortality, ascension, rejuvenation, etc.), and are simply an extrapolation upon the reality of white suppression of Black identity that has been realised with such sincerity in every episode of Lovecraft Country.
Rewind 1921 is packed full of the kind of emotion, drama and heroic moments one expects at this end of a season. The legacy of white destruction of Black lives and Black history is on show in all its ugly candour as the episode rockets forward into next week’s finale, Full Circle.