Director: Helen Shaver
Starring: Jonathan Majors, Jamie Chung, Cindy Change, Alexis Rhee
You might be forgiven for turning on episode 6 of Lovecraft Country – “Meet Me in Daegu” – and wonder where your cosmic-monster laden, white supremacist occult battling, 1950’s deeply racist segregated Americana show has gone as the show drops us on an opening image of Judy Garland singing away in the 1944 Meet Me in St Louis to an empty Korean cinema theatre on the eve of the Korean War in 1949.
That is until our quiet, unassuming, medical student Ji-ah (Jamie Chung) lures a man back to her home and reveals herself to actually be a horrifying many-tentacled monster who consumes men in a nightmarish bloodied spectacle that even the creators of Teeth would be curling their toes at.
Suddenly we remember that we are indeed still watching Lovecraft. Thank the cosmic blood frenzied gods!
And with our prior knowledge that Atticus served in the Korean War and seemingly has some sort of mysterious and troubled past with a woman there, “Meet Me in Daegu” once again has us enticed and perhaps more than a bit cautious for what our young hero might be about to encounter with Ji-ah.
ATTICUS THE BAD GUY
By setting the episode quite outside the normal bounds of show we end up with an interesting perspective looking from the outside in at Atticus as a stranger to us in the US army – we don’t quite know what Atticus got up to in the army but he’s certainly haunted by something in his veteran past.
As the US arrives in an ironic proclamation of salvation to the streets of Daegu for the Korean War – which has been so often underrepresented within media – we might hope for a glimpse of Atticus sitting upon a rolling steel tank as Ji-ah watches with doomed resignation for what is about to happen to her quiet home.
However when it does come our hopes of a familiar comfort are met instead by a deep dread and despair for who this soldier Atticus is.
By continuing to lead the episode with Ji-ah it gives a necessary distance to watch Atticus-the-soldier commit heinous acts that where we to be following his perspective as the show’s usual hero would provide quite the moral conflict as a viewer.
But since there is that distance we could view and judge these acts for exactly what they are even though we already support Atticus as the series protagonist. It’s a similar sort of enticing moral questioning of ‘who’s the real bad guy’ and cycles of violence that was so expertly handled earlier this year by The Last of Us: Part II and, as narrative media continues to develop, is cropping up more and more.
Atticus becomes the focus of Ji-ah’s hate and quest for vengeance however, as we might expect, she soon grows to fall for him and resolves to break the constant hate and violence cycle instead.
I mean to be fair, who can resist that charming Jonathan Majors sweet smile anyway.
ESCAPING THE TRIALS OF HATRED AND EXPECTATION
A theme for this episode is character’s stuck between situations that are not welcoming to them.
Ji-ah finds peace and joy in the quiet solitude of the cinema and the American technicolour’s of Judy Garland. As we understand it, this is her reprieve from the pressure of her twisted (if that’s even appropriate enough to describe it) home-life and her demanding mother.
Being told constantly by her own mother that she is different and a monster is enough to develop a mental problem for Ji-ah where she finds it impossible to fit in, but as she takes to the floor to dance along with Garland she can at least briefly reclaim and feel that shred of humanity being so desperately pulled away from her.
This runs in parallel, too, with her conversations with Atticus and the Korean American soldier as they describe hating being at war just as much as being back home where they are met with hatred either way. Like Ji-ah they don’t have a place in the world open and welcome to them.
However like the cinema, Atticus finds freedom in his books and hoped the war could be an extension of those freeing literary adventures that take him away from the troubles of home normally.
With Ji-ah and Atticus’ mirroring here the show returns to its question seen earlier in the series: why fight for a country/force that hates you?
For Ji-ah this is a revelation who uses it to push back against her abusive mother; for Atticus the same resolve hasn’t quite been seen yet.
ONE TO LOVE OR HATE
Read more: Lovecraft Country Episode 1 Review
“Meet Me in Daegu” is the biggest divergence from the show’s main thread so far – which is saying something since it has been largely made up of smaller interconnected threads anyway.
For that reason, this is going to be an episode that audiences might be split on.
Either you’ll be fully on board with it as we fill out Atticus’ backstory and see him painted in a new light, or you might find episode 6 a little tiresome if you’re hoping for a more direct connection to the series as a whole, and therefore may struggle to remain invested in Ji-ah’s story for the 57-minute runtime.
Whichever way the discourse blows it cannot be said that Lovecraft Country isn’t bold in its diverse and many big swings each episode, and for that, it should at least be applauded.
Where do you sit on this episode of Lovecraft Country? Let us know in the comments below.
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