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Lovecraft Country didn't have to be perfect: Its undeniable flaws are part of the point

  • "In its first season, the show often drowned out its most interesting points with heavy-handed plotting, but the expectation to be perfect is unfair to begin with, and one that most shows aren’t burdened by," says Lex Pryor following last night's Season 1 finale of the HBO series from Misha Green. Pryor adds: "Seen another way, those flaws are part of the point. Back in the season premiere, after their segregated bus broke down, Tic and another Black passenger were forced to walk to the nearest town with their luggage. While they sauntered past slopes of cornfields they talked about the nature of stories and of accepting their limitations. 'Stories are like people,' Tic said. 'Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You just try to cherish them, overlook their flaws.' Not every television show has to be immersed in brilliant social commentary, and not every show that attempts to do so has to be completely successful in those efforts. But shows like Lovecraft Country, shows about Black life, are still implicitly expected to be. What do you call a flawed drama, or comedy, or action show, that’s about, produced by, and marketed to white people? Well, you call it TV. Maybe we’ve been looking for meaning in the wrong place with Lovecraft Country. Maybe what matters most about the show is that it exists. That it was an attempt. That Misha Green was actually given the space to shoot for the moon rather than the fact that she often missed. Maybe the most important thing about Lovecraft Country is that it didn’t have to be perfect, that it might be a harbinger. I’m not sure if that’s entirely good or bad—more of a reminder, I guess, that 'this is a beginning, not an end.'"


    • Lovecraft Country is bad at having fun: "Looking back on Season 1 and heading in to Season 2, this is the biggest problem facing Lovecraft Country: The show simply does not know how to have fun," says Ben Travers, adding: "If Lovecraft Country was weighed down by its social commentary, that would be one thing, but the series seems content to let the bulk of its racial discourse play out in the background: Parallels between these mystical stories and today’s world clearly convey how overt racism of the ’50s still exists, and that it’s still horrifying. Declarative moments that force you out of the supernatural narrative exist — like Diana saying 'I can’t breathe' when being tortured by two cops in Episode 8, or Montrose (Michael K. Williams) reciting names of real victims from the Tulsa Massacre in Episode 9 — but the conversation never progresses past what was obvious in Episode 1: Monsters are scary, but racism is scarier. Unless Lovecraft Country gets a lot better at balancing its convoluted plotting with precise character development, Season 2 needs to lean in to its most entertaining elements."
    • Lovecraft Country is exactly the show Black people needed: "There’s a running joke about how difficult it is to explain Lovecraft Country to non-watchers," says Kamaria Fayola. "It’s probably more truth than joke. We stumble through genres — Sci-fi. Horror. History. Fantasy — trying to find the perfect fit. Never succeeding. When in actuality, Lovecraft Country is its own genre. It makes us smile, cry, laugh, cringe, rejoice. A range of emotions. So at the end of the day, we honestly don’t care what category it falls in. Because we know how it makes us feel. Powerful. Majestic. Unbeatable. This show plows through us with a tsunami of themes, images, and feelings that simultaneously transport us to the past and future and eventually leave us in a space where time is only a figment of our imagination. Energy is all that is. On Sunday nights, the future and past merge into one seamless exclamation of Black excellence. In this way, Lovecraft Country is visual poetry. With daring gusto, this show honors our collective heritage in a beautiful way. Watching feels like a small historical redemption of sorts."
    • Issa Rae had trouble explaining Lovecraft Country in a cut-for-time SNL sketch: “It has race, gender, witches. And aliens! Or maybe they’re monsters?” Rae’s character expounds. “Gender and Afrofuturism, which, you know, is the whole study of black women in space, who time-travel with Afrorobots.” Chris Redd’s confused character responded: “I can’t tell if you’ve seen the show … or if you’re just making stuff up?”
    • How Lovecraft Country completely changed its own universe with its season finale
    • Michael K. Williams channeled his own "trauma" to play Montrose: "In that moment, I went home to the projects (where I grew up) in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and remembered all the violence and the anger and the missed opportunities and the potential and the innocence lost and stolen," Williams says of his tearful scene in Episode 9. "It was very painful. I was looking at my neighborhood, especially the murder and the death and the way police treat us... I looked at all of that and for the first time, I understood the why. All of that greatest that was in Tulsa, I saw that in my community. It was a really painful connection to make, but in my mind, that's where I went to for that scene."
    • Did showrunner Misha Green intentionally try to pack each episode with ideas in case Lovecraft Country wasn't renewed?: "Yes and no," she says. "I didn’t feel like we had to do everything because we might not have a chance to do more. It just felt right to have the show be this thick. There’s a long history of television that’s very episodic. Every episode is different. I just feel like we’ve moved into a more serialized version — especially what we expect out of our cable series. To me, each episode, this was our ghost story, this was our sci-fi story, and what can we put into that to make that exciting? It wasn’t, 'Pack it all in, because we may not get to do this again.' It was, 'Pack it all in, because it’s exciting!'"
    • Misha Green on a potential Season 2: "Nothing is official yet, but I envision a second season that carries on the spirit of Matt Ruff’s novel by continuing to reclaim the genre storytelling space that people of color have typically been left out of."

    TOPICS: Lovecraft Country, HBO, Saturday Night Live, Chris Redd, Issa Rae, Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Michael K. Williams, Misha Green