by Joelle Monique | AV Club
Lovecraft Country serves up another dish of oh-my-god-what-the-fuck as biblical imagery, science, and magic collide in this haunted house episode, “Whitey’s On The Moon.” Once again, Misha Green’s pen pushes a horrifying narrative mixed with macabre gore, insightful exploration of Black American life in the mid-20th-century, melding the popular voices that spoke truth to power with the images that defined the era.
Daniel Sackheim’s direction helps strengthen the show’s roots of Americana and traditional fantasy-adventure elements. We’re moving on up to a family drama with a lot of dark secrets.
“Now we’re up in the big leagues, getting our turn at bat,” booms the classic theme song of The Jeffersons as Leti (Jurnee Smollett) and George (Courtney Vance) twirl about their new deluxe rooms. The mansion in the middle of nowhere seemingly provides what the heart desires most, by daylight. For George, stacks of books; for Leti, a bespoke wardrobe. But as George and Louise discovered back in 1975, just because they arrived in a better neighborhood, doesn’t mean they’ve escaped their problems. Costume designer Dayna Pink highlights the parallels between these families’ situations by dressing Smollett in a pink dress with a matching jacket, similar to the one actress Isabel Sanford, who played Louise, wore when she first arrived at the East Side apartment. But, Atticus (Jonathan Majors) isn’t distracted by the piece of pie offered to him. He remembers the vampiric beasts out there, and his father’s still mysteriously off in Boston.
By night, we learn, the mansion offers only horrors. The locked room transports Atticus back to the war. Gunshots ring out and Ji-ah (Jamie Chung), the woman he spoke to on the phone in “Sundown,” attacks him with a knife. She gives him the business, slicing into his shoulder, forcing Atticus to fight back, reducing him to the brute strength that comes with the survival of the fittest. Leti, on the other hand, lives out a romance with Atticus (at last, a love story with the insanely hot leads.) Omg, Leti spills her heart out about her abandonment issues with her mother, and “Atticus” promises complete devotion on the spot.
But haunted houses will not let them know peace. The images of Adam’s snake penis should have been the first clue that these were more than just illusions. In H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, even when a demon unleashed their cruelty on the world, there was always a human holding the reins. And what’s dinner without a show? In making the lodge members privy to what’s happening in the house’s rooms, the Braithwaites make a sex worker out of Leti, a spectacle out of Atticus, and an emotional sadist’s dream out of George. “They want to terrorize us. Make us scared,” George instills in his younger traveling companions. “But Letitia Fucking Lewis doesn’t get scared, does she?”
The mansion, home to the Braithwhites, stands proudly in an open field that is surrounded by woods. The builders situated the brick building so that it would be secluded enough that no one would stumble upon it, yet not guarded like a fortress. No high gate to keeps local youths from snooping around. The behemoth looks more like a university than a home, with its glass domes and Renaissance paintings of white angels descending from the heavens decorating the halls. In other words, this place holds secrets that the owners aren’t concerned about getting out. The law cannot touch them. Perhaps they are the law.
Titus Braithwhite built this ancestral home. His name, of course, evokes images of the Roman Emperor Titus of Utica, most famous for leading the charge against the first Jewish rebellion. The close-up on the portrait of Titus B. features the same square head as the Roman emperor, and a large white ring that screams cult founder gives Atticus the heebie-jeebies.
Like the emperor, Titus’ loyal subjects dictated his legacy. Titus Braithwhite made his fortune in “shipping,” which Leti quickly declares as code for slavery. William (Jordan Patrick Smith) continues that loyalty by explaining how kind Titus was to the people who worked for him. Later, it’s revealed that kindness was a polite way of saying rape. Given that every burned building reference in the show so far links back to the revolt of slaves and subsequent cover-up of that damage, it’s clear that this is not a welcome place for Black Americans. A fire in the house killed almost everyone inside in the 19th century. Now, a gathering of lodge members heads to the mansion. Leti and George can’t remember their daring escape the night before. Ah! It’s Get Out all over again. Run.
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