by Joelle Monique | AV Club
Old Hollywood comes to Lovecraft Country, as the show takes a trip to an American-occupied Korea in 1950. The truth of Atticus’ military past comes to horrifying light, and most importantly, the mystery of Ji-Ah, the woman on Tic’s phone with premonitions of his death, is revealed. Classic musicals, enemies to lovers romance, and a creature feature roll into a beautiful—if slightly baffling—episode of Lovecraft Country, “Meet Me in Daegu.”
Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung) loves Judy Garland. The wisp of a girl, with big brown eyes, and the deep rich voice filled with sorrow falls hopelessly in Meet Me In St. Louis. Multiple watches have branded the moving images on Ji-Ah’s brain. In her fantasy, after the theater empties, she sings along with her idol, performing beautifully in the flickering light of the projector. But even alone in the theater, Ji-Ah can’t express this secret side of her.
Training as a nurse, making kimchi with her mother for the winter, and seeking a husband to bring honor to her family after her mother’s husband passes, Ji-Ah’s like every other young woman trying to figure out what she wants her life to look. Of course, nothing is quite what it appears. Ji-ah’s struggle to self-identify comes with an extra layer. The body belongs to Ji-Ah, but the spirit inhabiting it is a kumiho. A nine-tailed fox, found throughout Korean lore, a kumiho changes its figure to devour humans. Like legendary monsters like vampires or the chupacabra, the story varies depending on the storyteller.
I am not an expert on Korean legend so I’ll try to clarify how the kumiho works in this story. Ji-Ah’s mother gave birth out of wedlock and was shunned by her community. Desperate to be accepted once again, she fell for the first man to treat her kindly. Unfortunately, he was a pedophile who raped Ji-Ah when she was still just a child. Soon-Hee (Cindy Chang) summoned the kumiho at a high cost. The demon replaced her daughter’s spirit. But when her husband visited her daughter’s bed, the fox’s tails ripped him to shreds. To get her daughter back, the kumiho must sleep with and destroy 100 men.
The fox spirit believes the woman who called her into this world is her mother. In Ji-ah’s body, Soon-Hee ses the remnants of the little girl she wanted to save. As long as the kumiho inhabits her daughter, she failed as a mother. Soon-Hee struggles with her duty to her child, and the love she holds for this new being. Often it leads her to verbally abuse the person inside her daughter’s body. She calls her a monster and forces her to kill.
So, Ji-Ah escapes into the movies, and the one friend who understands her, Young-Ja (Prisca Kim). Young-Ja possesses all the favorable qualities of a good girlfriend; she dates a lot of fine men but takes no particular interest in any of them. In fact, she offers one of her finer men to Ji-Ah without a second thought. She’s got her unique style, but she’s not a snob—she gets along with just about everyone. Best of all, she encourages Ji-Ah to embrace self-love and acceptance. “It’s okay to be different,” Young-Ja assures Ji-Ah.
Young-Ja believes communism will uplift her community, but as a member of the communist party, her life is threatened by the hero of Lovecraft Country’s story. Tic bursts on the scene in the middle of this beautiful story of friendship, when the U.S. Army determines a spy is working in the hospital. They narrow their list of suspects down to a shift of nurses. Without investigating their politics, or figuring out where the women went after work, a soldier began executing the same nurses who thanklessly saved the lives of his men. These men called the nurses horrible slurs as they reattached limbs, and sacrificed digits to stave off infestation. But their lives were useless. When the soldier’s gun jams, he calls for a lieutenant. Tic appears out of nowhere to point his gun Ji-Ah, prepared to end her life, but Young-Ja bravely places herself between her friend and the gun. That’s the last time Ji-Ah sees Young-Ja. The army drags her away into the dusty light of day.
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