[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Lovecraft Country, Season 1, Episode 4, “A History of Violence.”]
The puzzle pieces are finally starting to come together in this week’s Lovecraft Country. Titled “A History of Violence,” the latest episode saw Atticus and Leti heading back to Massachusetts with Montrose, Christina Braithwhite relocating to Chicago as she tries to stake her claim in the upper ranks of the Order of the Ancient Dawn, and Hippolyta looking to get some clarity on George’s death. “A History of Violence” is a much-needed episode after watching three episodes which seemed more disjointed, narratively-speaking, than we expected. Now, we can appreciate all of the efforts of this table-setting exercise as Lovecraft Country continues to shape its bigger story and the pieces fall into place.
There is still some disjointedness, though. Tonight’s episode feels as much a self-contained story as it feels connected to the previous three, with roots laid down for a mysterious next chapter. I get the sense that Lovecraft Country is a show more concerned with its thematic explorations than developments on the ground level, which may irk some viewers looking for a more traditional narrative. As for me, I’m on board to let the show continue to do whatever it wants because of its consistent cleverness and attention to detail.
The Adventure Is Just Beginning
Atticus, Leti, and Montrose take the lead in “A History of Violence” with an arc that has them traveling back East and through time to get the answers they seek about missing pages from the fabled Book of Names. This arc is a damn fun one, with big Indiana Jones energy permeating the group’s mission as they scour through books at the local library, go to a museum seeking out a secret vault, and encounter an otherworldly hostage of Titus Braithwhite’s. Our new trio is full of tricky dynamics that emerge at the worst possible times throughout their journey to test the bonds of trust they’ve formed with one another.
The trio’s goal in “A History of Violence” is to locate missing pages from the Book of Names. For Atticus and Leti, this is lucky because Montrose likely knows where those pages are because he has already spent so much time digging around for information in his research on his late wife’s family. However, it’s also unlucky for Atticus and Leti because Montrose is a hazard to himself and others, an aggressive and haunted man whose wild card status makes him an uneasy ally. But it’s hard not to appreciate Montrose for his brief flashes of cooperativeness, like when he reveals there are 34 more Order of the Ancient Dawn lodges and thus hints at just how big this story could potentially become as Atticus and Leti work to take on the Order.
The search for the missing pages takes them to Boston, which proves to be a revealing trip in more than a few ways. With history written by white men, it should come as no surprise a tour guide’s monologue about Titus claims his travels to Africa and South America were nothing but pleasant, with other cultures graciously gifting him the artifacts which now populate his wing of the museum. It’s a whitewashing of what we all know to be true: Titus, like any good colonizer, took from other cultures without asking and exploited anyone who stood in his way. Keep a pin in this.
Atticus, Leti, and Montrose find the vault which would lead them to the hidden Book of Names pages, but it requires a nighttime mission into the museum. Their time underground provides time for some necessary character development. Atticus and Montrose have been locked in a cold war until now, but things soften as they trudge along when Montrose offers up to Atticus the importance of having a song to play for your sweetheart whenever trouble’s brewing. Meanwhile, Atticus and Leti grapple with a charged awkwardness after hooking up which, after going through hell and high water in the episode’s climactic setpiece, results in a passionate kiss and confirmation these two are making it official in their own way.
“A History of Violence” comes to its aforementioned climactic sequence when, after walking through miles of vault tunnels, the trio enter a secret chamber revealed to be Titus’ ship used to make his final voyage to Guyana in South America. Mummified remains of indigenous men and women sit around a banquet table and one body sits at a large desk. The trio finds the pages but the body keeping guard reanimates into a two-spirit person, Yahima (Monique Candelaria). Yahima shares (as Atticus translates a language he has never heard but instinctively knows, mind you) that Titus tricked them into translating pages from the Book of Names before cursing them to the confines of the ship. The unspoken truth of Titus’ colonizer past is now out in the open and the group is propelled into the next phase of their plan: Translate the pages from the Book of Names.
A Woman’s Place Is… at the Top of the Secret Order Food Chain
It was revealed at the end of Episode 3 that Christina Braithwhite had survived the lodge collapse in one piece. Now, she’s come to Chicago to make sure her sole living relative, Atticus, stays close by just in case she needs him. Turns out, she just might because it seems Christina is on a mission to get to the top of the Order of the Ancient Dawn food chain.
Christina is laying the groundwork of whatever plan she’s cooking up as she takes the focus of the third big arc in Episode 4. She first makes a house call to Leti on the North Side. Leti seems to be much more settled than when we saw her last — and she’s no doubt feeling more secure with the sigils on her doorframe from the priestess now providing Leti protection from, say, a potential enemy named Christina. Ms. Braithwhite is on the hunt for the Hiram Epstein’s orrery, something Leti will soon discover she doesn’t have; Hippolyta took it.
But when one door closes, a cop car door opens. Later in the episode, Christina is picked up from her new suburban residence (where she is playing tag with local kids?! M’am, just…no) by two uniforms and escorted to Captain Seamus Lancaster’s (Mac Brandt) office. As you might expect, the cops are also connected to the Order through Lancaster and he’s not too fond of an outsider, regardless of her status in the Order, just rolling into town without warning. A terse conversation reveals Christina’s interest in the orrery: It unlocks a time machine Hiram built and that machine belongs to Lancaster’s lodge. Now, why would Christina wanna pull a Cher and turn back time?
Ad Astra? More Like Ad Ardham
Hippolyta’s grief over George’s death has now transformed her into a woman hellbent on getting answers. After getting nothing from the two men she should trust, Montrose and Atticus, Hippolyta is now on her own fact-finding mission. Much of her arc in “A History of Violence” is concerned with laying the foundation for this mission.
It’s also established that Hippolyta is a keen astronomer, a skill that will no doubt come in handy if and when Atticus, Leti, and Montrose discover they need someone to help them unlock the orrery’s secrets. Speaking of, Hippolyta was able to get Hiram’s huge-as-hell orrery out of Leti’s house after discovering it at the housewarming party which means I will defer to Hippolyta and her abilities at all times, from here on out. A phone call with her dad reveals the orrery is a model of a solar system with two suns; if it’s not ours, which system is it? The trip to Boston also sheds more light on Hippolyta’s shrewd mind and her scientific inclinations. While Atticus, Leti, and Montrose are off searching for Titus Braithwhite’s vault, she and Dee go to the planetarium, where she reveals an astronomical discovery she made as a young girl was later credited to a young white girl.
What we should be worried about is Hippolyta and Dee’s impulsive decision to go to Ardham. It’s somewhat clumsily revealed that Atticus, Leti, and Montrose are back in Chicago after the magic vault tunnels are shown to lead from Boston to Leti’s house on the North Side. I don’t know if I should be nervous or intrigued for this fearsome twosome as they go into the belly of the beast.
- The needle drops in this episode are next-level incredible. Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” as Christina speeds through Chicago? Leikeli47’s “Money” as Ruby strolls into the Marshall Field department store? I have no choice but to love!
- There’s something deeply satisfying about seeing Christina’s shocked face as she realizes Leti’s house is now protected by magic she can’t break.
- Leti absolutely reading Atticus to filth as the pressure mounts to find the lost pages is the kind of hero shit I’m here for: “Can you stop acting like this is only happening to you? You’re not the center of the fucking universe!” #LetiFnLewisForever
- I want only good things for Ruby but my gut instinct after William just rolls in and seduces her says she needs to get out of there ASAP.
- Every episode should have a reanimated corpse sequence. Just sayin’.
Lovecraft Country airs every Sunday on HBO at 9/8c. Catch up with our Episode 3 recap here.
Allie Gemmill is the Weekend Contributing Editor for Collider. You can follow them on Twitter @_matineeidle.