Director: Victoria Mahoney
Starring: Jurnee Smollett, Courtney B. Vance, Abbey Lee, Michael K. Williams
As the title of Lovecraft Country Episode 4 – “A History of Violence” – suggests, the show uses its critical qualities to highlight the many acts of racial violence and subsequent acts of whitewashing, little and large, over the course of a western history of imperialism.
In the opening scene, we see Montrose spiralling out of control as he reads and burns the Sons of Adam’s religious covenants while descending further and further into a drunken and frenzied stupor.
As with any Lovecraft property, the characters are having their very sanity tested and here we see Montrose perhaps feeling the weight of being exposed to the world’s cosmic secrets most of all.
However most notable in terms of announcing this episode’s critical angle is Montrose final words right before the title card flashes: “smells like Tulsa” he declares while a burning pile blazes in front of him which is evidently evocative of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 – coincidentally also explored in HBO’s last racially charged premiere show Watchmen.
Going from this immediately to the title card emphatically declares episode 4’s theme which is further explored as the episode divulges more information on the Sons of Adam and the length and breadth to which they, as white supremacists, have operated in the US for years and how many more of them there might be positioned as various high ranking authorities.
A notion which I’m sure is not too unfamiliar or outlandish to anyone that’s been paying attention the last few years…
A REVISIONIST HISTORY AND WHITEWASHING
Read more: Lovecraft Country Episode 3 Review
Episode 4 moves back in line with the main series thread of Atticus and co moving against the Sons of Adam.
Their quest this time takes Leti and the entire Freeman family to Boston to investigate a museum believed to hold Titus Braithwhite’s vault.
Since the main point of the show generally is to hold a lens to a historic racial inequality and systemic racism a museum provides precisely the right avenue for doing so.
For example – and as an addendum for the moral question over museum displays themselves – while on a tour of the museum we hear the guide explaining that the artefacts being displayed are from ‘famed explorer Titus Braithwhite’ who was (very particularly) GIVEN them by the ‘savage tribes’ in exchange for teaching them the ways of the ‘civilised man’.
Of course, anyone who knows anything about Western colonialism will presume correctly that this version of the story is likely some distance from the actual reality, however, colonial narratives have usually framed themselves as being beneficial to the lands and the people that they invaded as part of a ‘civilising’ process -i.e teaching that the white man and way of being is superior.
These references do not stop here with Montrose also evoking the name of Jesse Owens – the black athlete who embarrassed Hitler’s notion of the Aryan Race in 1936 – as well as the picture of whitewashed history similarly explained by Hippolyta in her story of naming Hera’s Chariot in a competition as a child, however the credit is given instead to a white girl in Sweden since a ‘coloured girl couldn’t be the face’ of such a thing.
It is a credit to the series that it can pull together this mystery and cosmic narrative while seamlessly invoking these cultural critiques in a thematic manner befitting of each episode.
LOVECRAFT COUNTRY EPISODE 4 VERDICT
Read more: Lovecraft Country Episode 2 Review
While I think I preferred episode 3 just a bit more, episode 4 has also been a very strong entry to the series and has helped stitch the main thread of the series together again with further intrigue and many more questions to be answered – particularly over who and how far some characters can be trusted.
At just under halfway through the 10-episode series so far Lovecraft Country has hit more positives than negatives and continues to strike succinctly at the racial questions it raises.
What did you make of Lovecraft Country Episode 4 and how have you enjoyed the series so far?
Let us know in the comments below.