Episode four of Lovecraft Country continues to interweave a compelling exploration of race and prejudice into its classic adventure story structure that embraces the show’s pulp roots.
So far, no two episodes of Lovecraft Country have been the same. Episode four of Lovecraft Country continues this trend. Shifting the action to a museum in Boston, A History of Violence has the flavour and sensibilities of an old-fashioned adventure story.
Tic, investigating the history of the Sons of Adam, sets off on another road trip in search of the missing pages from the Lost Book of Names (a plot MacGuffin if ever there was one), which are to be found within the chambers beneath the Braithwhite family museum exhibition. Leti and Montrose travel with him, and in a boost for character continuity are joined by Hippolyta and Diana – although ultimately their presence proves only tangential to the main plot.
The trip to Boston accomplishes more than just filling in the next stage of the plot. A History of Violence explores the tetchy boundaries of Tic’s relationship with his father, who knows more about his family heritage than he’s saying. Montrose’s internal terrors have become more pronounced, and the show thankfully does not brush over the tension between him and Tic in favour of plot.
In comparison with the impulsive Leti or the brave (but often single-minded) leader Tic, Montrose is less inspiring an individual. He lacks the depth of courage or moral centre that Tic and Leti – and Uncle George – embody for all their respective faults, but that’s what makes the whole arrangement feel very all human. As life threatening as an enclosed tunnel rapidly filling with water is, no one backs down from an argument between family members – a intersection between family and drama that Lovecraft Country embraces.
Meanwhile, Leti’s half-sister Ruby has a subplot of her own, setting up some interesting interplay with William, of the Sons of Adam, and there are a few tender moments – the episode’s best – between Hippolyta and her daughter as Hippolyta explains one of the subtle and unseen ways the colour of her skin has impacted her life.
More than any episode so far, you could really see the events of A History of Violence playing out within the pages of a comic or a pulp fiction adventure novel. The spells and wizardry of two weeks ago have been followed by booby traps, a treasure map, puzzles solved in the nick of time, and a tunnel passing leading down into the earth. One of the central set pieces takes place on a narrow bridge across a yawning chasm, where the bridge is quickly disappearing beneath one’s feet – a classic.
The colonialist legacy of the Braithwhite family, and their treatment not only of Black people but Native Americans too, gets some attention. The dangerously beautiful Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee) and her suave companion William (Jordan Patrick Smith) reappear in supporting capacities, the former playfully riling up Tic and Leti and the latter seducing a downbeat Ruby (and clearly doing so with larger goals in mind). The seeds of an ongoing mystery leading to a final showdown between the Sons of Adam and Tic, Leti and family are being sown.
A History of Violence is intentionally different from the three preceding episodes of Lovecraft Country. The episode continues to interweave a compelling exploration of race and prejudice into its classic adventure story structure that embraces the show’s pulp roots.
Lovecraft Country airs on HBO in the US, Sky Atlantic in the UK, and Foxtel Now and Binge in Australia. Read The Digital Fix’s take on the first three episodes here.
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