[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Lovecraft Country, Season 1, Episode 2, “Whitey’s on the Moon.”]
There is a lot to process in the newest episode of HBO’s Lovecraft Country, “Whitey’s on the Moon”: This episode focuses on Atticus’ (Jonathan Majors) continuing search for his missing father, Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams), with the help of his uncle, George (Courtney B. Vance), and Leti (Jurnee Smollett). The trio now finds themselves off the map in Ardham, Massachusetts, in the centuries-old lodge of Samuel Braithwhite (Tony Goldwyn) and his daughter, Christina (Abbey Lee). It’s revealed over the course of the episode that the Braithwhites lead a secret order and Atticus has familial ties to both this white family and the order — and he may be the long-lost essential tool Samuel needs to return to the Garden of Eden (yes, that Garden of Eden).
Even though this all sounds intriguing, the way the information is shared in Episode 2 borders on confusing at some points. And while the process of adapting a book for TV — in this case, Matt Ruff‘s 2017 novel of the same name — is often a complex process, the information plucked from the book and shared in a somewhat opaque way skims the surface of what’s really going on here and what the Braithwhite’s motivations are. So, having read the book already, I’m here to give some insight on what HBO’s adaptation of Lovecraft Country left out or changed about Atticus, George, and Leti’s adventure in Ardham in this week’s episode.
Atticus and His Connection to the Braithwhites
In the book, it’s revealed Atticus actually knows about the connection his family has to the Braithwhite’s on his mother’s side. Atticus discloses this information shortly after the group’s arrival at the Braithwhite lodge, subsequent tour, and getting all cleaned up. While waiting for Leti to get ready before going into town, George and Atticus sit outside and talk. When George questions why Atticus seemed unresponsive during William’s talk about Titus Braithwhite, Atticus tells his uncle he knew his mother’s ancestor, Hannah, was a slave in Titus Braithwhite’s house and that she escaped in the middle of the night. It’s a brief moment in the book and was likely changed so both George and Leti might have a bit more to do in Episode 2, since they’re the ones who disclose the information and then connect the dots. Those slight tweaks also affect Atticus’ behavior and motivations during the episode, making him even more unsuspecting and then in a rush to process the information.
The History Behind the Order of the Ancient Dawn
At the end of Episode 2, George quickly explains the Order of the Ancient Dawn’s motivations for luring Atticus to Ardham while the group tries to escape in the Braithwhite’s car before the ceremony is supposed to take place. In terms of getting the meat-and-potatoes of it all out in the open, it’s a serviceable moment that helps viewers get from one moment to the next without feeling left out. The book offers up some more information, including an important piece of context: the full name of the order is the Adamite Order of the Ancient Dawn. Furthermore, evidence of Adamite beliefs and practices as showcased at the lode and in the Ardham town church, which we don’t see in the book.
The Adamites were a sect of Christianity, and the original sect is perhaps best known for not wearing clothes during their services in an effort to practice nudism in search of getting closer to Adam and Eve. Some writings also indicate Adamites eschewed marriage and lived lawlessly or hedonistically. Just like Samuel hints early in Episode 2 and George later explains, Adamites were searching for a way to close the gap between themselves and the divine Christian beings they worshipped. This history helps explain the ruthlessness of Samuel’s (and the rest of the Order) behavior toward Atticus and motivation to stop at nothing in order to selfishly use his distant relative to open the portal to Eden so he, too, can close the gap between himself and Adam, the First Man, and achieve immortality.
Also, the level of superiority implied in historical discussions around the Adamites is also reflected during book-Samuel’s explanation of this Order’s history during a private meeting with Atticus. This kind of superiority furthers the book’s exploration of the ways in which white supremacy manifests and the ways in which white ownership over occult practices throughout time allows whites to reinforce their perceived superiority.
The Language of Adam
There is one key aspect of the ceremony performed at the end of Episode 2 which is missing: The language of Adam. In the book, just before the ceremony begins, Samuel instructs Atticus to read an invocation in the language of Adam. Atticus doesn’t know it, but Samuel reassures him everyone knows it, they’ve just forgotten. True enough, Atticus begins to try to speak it, the words eventually coming more easily. Unbeknownst to Samuel, Atticus was also slipped a secret message before the ceremony also written in the language of Adam. In the book, it’s this secret message which spurs on the ceremony’s disastrous conclusion. In my opinion, this is was a smart change for the TV version of the ceremony, which instead implies Atticus’ power (and perhaps help from Hannah’s ghost) helped bring the lodge to the ground.
Finally, Episode 2 adds some new supernatural events which don’t happen in the book but, interestingly, help build out the Braithwhite world and expose them and the Order as villains. The first addition in the mirage sequence, which sees George, Leti, and Atticus visited by apparitions of people they care for who expose secret parts of themselves. These apparitions are created by the Order, ostensibly for both the members’ entertainment as they created one-way windows in each person’s room and to show the weaknesses of George, Leti, and Atticus.
Oh, and remember that scene where Christina helps a cow give birth to one of the vampire monsters? Yeah, that’s not in the book. Christina (who is actually Caleb, Samuel’s son, in the book) is called away from her tense chat with Atticus by one of the Ardham residents in the middle of the night. We are taken to a barn, where other Ardham citizens mention wanting to alert her when the time had come for the creature to be born. Christina is thrilled by it all, delivering this gross worm-like creature into the world all while wearing a silk blouse and expensive jewelry. It’s a bizarre moment, but it certainly helps illustrate how normalized the views of the Order and its occult practices have been made to Christina, who will no doubt continue these practices without thinking about their true cost.
New episodes of Lovecraft Country air every Sunday at 9/8c on HBO. For more, check out our Episode 1 recap and explainer on those sci-fi references from the opening sequence of the premiere.
Allie Gemmill is the Weekend Contributing Editor for Collider. You can follow them on Twitter @_matineeidle.