Director: Cheryl Dunye
Starring: Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, Abbey Lee, Michael K. Williams, Wunmi Mosaka.
Episode 5 – “Strange Case” – of Lovecraft Country is certainly one for the Cronenberg-esque body horror fans (which I asked for at the end of my episode 3 review, but boy howdy did they deliver!) as we are forced/treated to the gruesome Kafka-like metamorphosis of Leti’s sister Ruby into a white woman and back again several times throughout the episode.
Strange Case takes another step back from the main players to give the lesser-seen Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) and Montrose (Michael K. Williams) a bit more time to express their characters more fully in what ends up being an excellent episode about hidden desires and freedom of expression “on the other side”, so to speak.
LIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE – THE MAGIC ABILITY OF WHITE PRIVILEGE
Read more: Lovecraft Country Episode 4 Review
The main thread of the episode begins immediately as Ruby, having been last seen spending the night with William (the creepy lovechild of Aryan race theories), wakes up as an entirely different white woman.
What follows is a far darker inverse version of Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s comical “The Gang Turns Black” episode as Ruby explores the additional privileges and benefits afforded to a white woman over a black woman navigating life in Jim Crow-era America (and, for the avoidance of doubt, now too).
As Ruby succinctly puts it to William when discussing the moral quandary of abandoning her race, ‘the world keeps interrupting her’ as both a woman and black and so she is finally ‘sick of being interrupted’ and will afford herself the magical currency of whiteness.
That whiteness is necessarily linked allegorically with a ‘currency of magic’, as Christina Braithwhite later labels it, which affords the likes of Christina and the Sons of Adam the freedom to do as they please in the world – an elegant way of expressing the power of white privilege by the show.
Director Cheryl Dunye also heightens the discomfort and repulsion of such a cultural disparity by holding on extended scenes of body horror as Ruby’s transformation is shown in extreme and gruesome detail with close ups of bloodied body parts and viscera quite literally slopping off her several times throughout the episode.
Of the 5 episodes so far Strange Case has been by far the grizzliest and quite frankly long may it continue.
FREEDOM TO LIVE
In keeping with the notion of getting to live free of the fear of bigoted persecution, an important facet of this episode is the exploration and development of Montrose’ homosexuality which has been otherwise hidden and treated as a deviancy until now (it is the 1950s after all).
Until now there have only been passing whisperings of Montrose sexuality and the era-appropriate judgements that come from the show’s characters; a rumour, too, which we can maybe partially assume has gone some of the way to growing Atticus’ ill feelings toward his father leading to his brutal assault early in the episode – although unpacking the idea of a main protagonist who maybe harbours homophobic feelings is an altogether much more difficult and long task that may be more suited at a later time away from this review.
Montrose himself also plays to the stoic machismo that is expected of him, keeping hidden his desire and treating it like an after-hours deviancy.
However, it isn’t until the exceptional scene in the drag club where we see Montrose realise he doesn’t have to stay hidden and finally allows himself the delight of freely expressing his own sexuality amongst a community who welcomes him openly.
Like Ruby, Montrose gets to experience a joyful freedom without the usual worry or fear persecution from a world which would otherwise ‘interrupt’ his life – though it may be brief.
LOVECRAFT COUNTRY EPISODE 5 IS SLOWER PACED BUT HAS GREATER REVELATIONS
Read more: Lovecraft Country Episode 1 Review
Lovecraft Country Episode 5 is perhaps a little slower since it isn’t necessarily tackling the main narrative of the show head-on with Atticus. However, there are still many excellent revelations and a significant “filling out” of other characters who haven’t had their time.
Much like episode 3, taking this extra time to give the other characters the spotlight works exceptionally well and in the long run is owing to a far more diverse and developed television series overall.
It is a narrative strategy that I have so far been a massive fan of and now being at the halfway point I am very excited to see how the latter half of the show fills out.
What did you make of episode 5 of Lovecraft Country?
Let us know in the comments below.