by Joelle Monique | AV Club
Finally, Hippolyta arrives in all her stunning glory, as Lovecraft County looks to the stars for the first time. It’s hard to overstate my anticipation for Aunjanue Ellis’ standalone episode. Her performance earlier this year in, The Clark Sisters: The First Ladies of Gospel, was easily one of the most important and overlooked during this past Emmy season. Through dancing around politely in the background, Hippolyta gloriously takes up space, claiming her own name, and demanding an opportunity to shine on her own merit in episode seven, “I Am.”
This episode, written by Misha Green and Shannon Houston, finds Hippolyta following her instincts. For a while now, she’s suspected that Tic and Leti weren’t entirely truthful in their account of George’s death. Slowly but surely, she discovered that her husband had been doing more than crafting his Green Book on the road with his two young companions. After taking the golden planetary diagram from Leti’s house, Hippolyta used her astronomy skills to uncover the secrets hidden within the device. Inside, she discovers a key and a quote which essentially breaks down to “there is no end and no beginning.”
With that thought in mind, Hippolyta took off for St. Louis. On the road, she passed Bessie Stringfield, the first Black woman to ride her motorcycle in all 48 connected states. The theme of “true freedom” begins to blossom here. In the 1930s, when Stringfield first began riding, she’d often sleep on her bike as she rode through the Jim Crow South, but still experienced a unique level of freedom foreign to most women at the time. Something sparks in Hippolyta as Bessie casually passes her, scarf flapping in the breeze—a sense of adventure she’d long since buried roars to life.
When she arrives at the coordinates etched under the quote, a large telescope awaits her. Like the Fonz, she slaps the machine until it revs to life. Dozens of numbers spit out as the machine whirls to life. But Hippolyta isn’t shaken, she begins calculating. As if honoring the woman Katherine Johnson would become, the creators encircled Hippolyta’s head with the complicated equations she was solving. But just as Hippolyta cracks the problem, the police barge into the room. It’s safe to say these officers serve under the Captain in Chicago with the torso transplant. Fortunately, Tic and Leti figured out where Hippolyta went, and Tic comes to rescue her. As he struggles with the officers, knocking one of their pistols directly into Hippolyta’s hands, a rip in space time opens, immediately swallowing one officer. Hippolyta shoots and kills the officer, before being swallowed by the void. It closes, and she disappears.
Inside the void, Hippolta wakes up in an alien spaceship. A giant Black woman who looks strikingly similar to Garnet from Steven Universe encourages Hippolyta to look at her surroundings, and understand the room in which she resides is not a prison. Once she accepts that reality, Hippolyta can no longer blame any person or law for not requesting what she wanted in life. The first thing Hippolyta wants to do is a dance on stage, in Paris, with Josephine Baker. Though her fellow dancers may have struggled with her awestruck performance on night one, after a little pep talk from Josephine, Hippolyta begins to embrace this once-in-lifetime opportunity. As she dances and sings, she becomes more comfortable in her own skin. In that comfort, she could confess her darkness. Without having the words, the icon and the mother discuss their battle with depression, the short escape performing offers, and the inescapable reality of living with a depressive disorder. Though they struggle, they both recognize how precious the freedom they’ve earned in the face of racism and sexism is to their existence. Ellis’ brilliant smile spreads as she proclaims her name. The void picks her up quickly and wicked off to her next destination.
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