Atticus (Tic) Freeman goes on a journey in 1960s Jim Crow era America to find his missing father. He is joined by his Uncle George and his friend Letitia as they encounter racism and terrifying monsters.
Spoiler Level: High
Rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air…. and flying saucers and tentacled flying creatures are all there. A visually stunning opening sequence grabs us from the beginning, but then shifts from the fantastic fantasy dream to the stark realism of the Jim Crow era 1960s south.
Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors) is a black army soldier who loves pulp science fiction novels. He dreams the opening sequence while on a bus heading from Florida to Chicago. The bus is divided into a section for whites and a section for blacks, this gives us our setting.
Tic is going home to Chicago to find his missing father, who years before he had a falling out with because he joined the Army. In a letter his father wrote him, Tic has some sort of mysterious birth right. Following the clues from the letter. Tic, Letitia (Jurnee Smollett), an old friend, and his uncle, George (Courtney B. Vance) set out on a road trip to find Ardham, Massachusetts. One problem, it is deep in “Lovecraft Country”.
The journey is perilous, but not due to any monsters, aliens or tentacled creatures, but because they are three black citizens in an era where having a different skin color meant you could be treated unjustly and violently. The trio stop at a restaurant that was, at one point in time, a safe place to eat. But we soon find out that it is now quite the opposite. A car chase and shooting match ensues, giving us our first glimpse into the supernatural A mysterious silver car intercedes and the chasing vehicle is inexplicably flipped over without actually touching another vehicle.
Similarly, In order to get to Ardham, our travelers need to go through Devon County, a “Sundown County”. This is an all-white county where people of color need to be out by sundown, or they could be met with violence. This gives us some very tense moments in the episode. A race to get past the county line ends in a trap. Tic and the others are led out into the woods to be shot and killed, but just in the nick of time, strange creatures, “Shoggoths” from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, attack the gunmen. As the creatures move in on our heroes a strange whistle noise is heard and, like obedient dogs, the monsters run away.
As the sun is rising, the travelers find the bridge that leads them to Ardham and a huge house. They approach the front door covered in blood and see the silver car that saved them earlier. Before knocking, a blond man opens the door and expresses, “We’ve been expecting you Mr. Freeman, Welcome home.”.
The beginning of the episode shows more like a civil rights drama than a sci-fi horror. We see the complete inequality that people of color dealt with for so long and still are dealing with. From the beginning of the episode in the bus to the near death in the woods, we see how dangerous the world was… mirroring how dangerous the world is and how far we still need to go. It shines a spotlight and raises the question, which are the worse monsters, those from Lovecraft’s imagination or the ones that look like humans. Of note is the fact that H.P. Lovecraft himself was notoriously racist.
I really enjoyed the first episode. It was well written and well-acted. We are given plenty of clues that hint of things to come. The characters are well thought out and we get to see little pieces of how their past is influencing their present and how it may shape their future. There were plenty of tense moments but could have done more with the supernatural elements earlier in the episode. The first 2/3 to 3/4 of the episode would have thinking this is a drama about segregationist America. A rude awakening though comes when the monsters do appear, flipping the show into a horror/suspense drama.
Atticus (Tic) Freeman tries to find his birthright while searching for his missing father in 1960s Jim Crow America. He is joined by his Uncle George and friend Letitia as the try not to get killed by monsters, both human and other worldly.
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Acting - 9/109/10
Music - 8/108/10
Production - 9/109/10
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