Lovecraft Country continues to up the ante when it comes to chilling visuals, over the top special effects, and also the rising level of gore. The fifth episode of the acclaimed HBO series saw Tic angrily beating his father, Montrose living out loud, and Ruby living life on the other side, literally and otherwise.
The show opens up with a white woman sleeping naked in bed and waking in horror as she seems to be outside her own body. As the disheveled white woman runs frantically into the street, we soon come to realize that the woman is actually Ruby Baptise, using a spell crafted by the mysterious William. As savvy viewers noted, the transformation of Ruby to Hillary Davenport was both used as an allegory of how whiteness is a powerful badge, but also the limits of her assumed superiority over Black folks because she’s a woman.
The specter of gender and race is never far off away when the show focused on Ruby as Hillary. But, the spell is a temporary one and Ruby’s real body violently bursts from Hillary’s in explosive fashion, which we learn later on is not for the faint of heart.
Meanwhile, the magic-hunting trio of Leti, Tic, and Tic’s father, Montrose scramble to make sense of the spellbook pages they nearly drowned to obtain from the Arawak two-spirit person, Yahima. As we saw in the previous show, Montrose slit Yahima’s throat, which destroyed the only link in deciphering the spellbook pages. Apparently, the pain of the act, which we assume was to save his son from the magical snares of the Sons of Adam cult, has him also muting himself more than anyone should.
However, this is the 1950s, and being an out person from the LGBT community could spell banishment or worse. Yet, we see Montrose retreat to the home of Sammy the bartender, who is apparently his lover which we saw alluded to in episode four. The pair engage in a passionate physical session that feels more like grief than love. Later, Montrose goes to watch Sammy performer in full drag queen regalia, and it appears the night was necessary for him to express not only his full humanity but also his true feelings for the bartender.
As for Tic, his obsession with deciphering the pages and the swift realization his father killed the only person that could help sparked him to hand out the taper, fade, and lineup on his pops before Leti, scared by the rage displayed, pulling Tic away. Tic, seeing how frightened Leti was, reassures her that he’s been holding it in and dished out the hands out of wanting desperately to figure out the spell to protect them from the Braithwaites.
Speaking of the spooky family, Ruby learns that William’s spell has a shelf life but she’s willing to be transformed at length to learn what it means to be white in a world that hates the sheer sight of her people. Not only does Ruby as Hillary enjoy the benefits of her privilege, she also learns that her proven educational qualifications as a Black woman pale to that of a white woman.
Hired on the spot at Marshall Fields by an overzealous manager, the racism that Ruby once experiences has now evaporated yet she still is a witness to the realities of her life, especially as she speaks with the Black woman who took the Marshall Fields job she thought was in the bag. William asks a favor of Ruby, having her wok for the Chicago Sons of Adams faction as a serving lady, but she has a mission to plant some artifact in the desk of police captain Seamus Lancaster, who seems to have the body of a Black man or some other creature.
Later, Ruby/Hillary and her white co-workers hit up a dance joint in the Southside of Chicago, clearly crossing the tracks to have a good time with the locals. While Ruby/Hillary’s white co-workers are getting a full dose of Negro tourism in, complete with a side order of lust, Ruby/Hillary’s boss tries to physically assault a Black woman which she witnesses and decides to follow Christina Braithwaite’s advice and “do whatever the f*ck you want.”
This apparently means taking off her stilettos and using them in an uncomfortable place on the manager then allowing her real self, bloodied, to be fully revealed. It’s a tough watch but a powerfully dense scene nonetheless, with Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” playing in tow. Ruby then discovers what many already suspected: Christina and William are one and the same, and it seems like the daughter is aiming to become the son (of Adam).
Keep scrolling to see the reactions to the “Strange Case” episode of Lovecraft Country below.