Connect with us

Published

on

Finally, Lovecraft Country brings the horror in “Strange Case.” Sure, there have been horrible moments, mostly tied to the horrors of racism, but this episode does a great job of fusing social themes and body-horror in a creepy and effective way.

Ma’am, you appear to have an eyeball in your throat.

The story so far…

The episode continues to build on the ongoing narrative concerning the lodges and the missing pages, but the real draw of the hour is Ruby’s body horror-driven identity story.

Ruby wakes up after her evening with William in the previous episode in the body of a white woman named Hillary and stumbles out into the streets of Chicago alarmed and confused and nearly getting a poor black kid murdered by the police. She’s picked up by a pair of cops who take her back to William who has laid out a tarp in a room, placing the contorting and visibly pained “Hillary” on the floor. He then proceeds to help Ruby escape that fleshy vessel in a gruesome manner and a report about African cicadas is read on the news.

Ruby is given a potion that allows her to slip into “Hillary” for a period of time, and the episode follows Ruby over a series of transformations. Ruby first begins to enjoy the freedom and protection of being a white woman; she gets access to a managerial position at the department store, she gets free ice cream. Things seem great, but “Hillary” also bears witness to how black people are treated in white circles. She also tries to “uplift” the only black employee of Marshall Field’s (the one who applied for the job Ruby originally wanted) but only proves to condescend and perpetuate the worst sort of impulses of the moderate white of the era. “Hillary” chastizes the only woman of color in the store to “be better.” She also forces this poor woman to take a group of white Marshall Field’s employees into her safe space, a bar, where the whites proceed to gawk and fetishize the black people in their space.

With each transformation, Ruby grows more and more disillusioned with the magical transformation and the Hillary identity, and finally breaks when she witnesses the man who hired “Hillary” attempt to assault the very employee she has been bullying. This sets the stage for revenge and a high heel brutally shoved up the ass of the boss (though we do not necessarily know much about what he had done behind a failed assault).

Advertisement

The wrinkle to this storyline, however, is that it is not merely Ruby who has been under such brutal transformations because Christina and William are finally revealed to be one and the same. “William” granted the magic as a favor, which is later called when he has Ruby pose as the help at one of the local lodges. It’s all very much a solid A-plot for the episode.

Montrose, having killed Yahima, is in a very dark place. He is brutally beat down by Tic and proceeds to lick his wounds in the comfort of his lover, Sammy, and diving into the underground queer community in the area. Montrose seems less about an emotional connection than a physical one early in the hour, refusing to kiss Sammy, but by the end, among the drag performers at the club and the celebration, finally kisses Sammy. However, could an acceptance of himself truly help Montrose with decades of trauma, his fractured relationship and betrayal of Tic, and his very recent murder of an intersex person?

Tic and Leti continue to develop their relationship, albeit with a couple of hurdles. They discover Montrose has sabotaged their plans. Tic is well aware of what Montrose has done, but Leti assumes Montrose merely let Yahima go. Tic’s violent attack of Montrose naturally alarms Leti who at one point checks on him while wielding a baseball bat. Not helping matters is Tic’s obsession with uncovering more magic by translating the text from the now-destroyed pages. Tic and Leti have sex later; Tic’s knuckles still raw and bleeding from his brutal beatdown of Montrose, and later still they have an intimate moment in Leti’s bathroom. Tic opens up about not knowing what love is but finding something like it in Korea with Ji-ah, who we’ve only heard over the phone.

Even so, after finding a little bit of love and mercy, Tic is still agonizing over magic, pouring over photos of the pages taken by Leti uncovers a message in the Language of Adam, something so alarming to him that he calls Ji-ah in Korea. She knows something about what is going on.

Ruby is red.

How it worked out…

Lovecraft Country delivers an outstanding episode that delivers genuine horror that smartly intersects with the larger themes the whole season has addressed. The performances are top-notch and anchoring the episode around Ruby’s experiences with transformation worked out incredibly well.

This might be the single goriest episode of the series yet, with flaps of flesh sluicing right off of bodies during transformations and it really feels the closest to effective Lovecraftian horror the show has gotten. H. P. Lovecraft wasn’t necessarily much of a body-horror writer, as in those themes didn’t exactly drive him, but the larger movement his work inspired has latched onto body-horror as a driving element, such as the recent adaptation Color Out of Space. Plus, it does make a kind of cosmic sense that our mere fleshy vessels are so easily slashed and scrapped as we are just meat in an indifferent universe. So while Lovecraft Country has not delivered the sort of cosmic awareness normally associated with Lovecraft’s prose, the body horror does feel like an appropriate well for the series, especially because it makes for such a nice metaphorical device for exploring identity.

Advertisement

What I appreciate most is that the episode, while horrifying, was also bleakly funny. Not funny as in laugh-out-loud, but more a recognition of the effective use of situational irony that ran through.

And look, this show still has issues. The William-Christina transformation scene creates some issues because there are moments in the show where the two identities are seen just mere moments apart. Let’s not even get into the fact that there are just strips of meat all over Chicago from the transformations, either. How are the racist cops not investigating the flayed remains of a white woman? Montrose’s rough sex (closer to rape) was uncomfortable given what he did to Yahima the night before. The show isn’t handling queer themes well enough. Themes of blackness the show does quite well. Everything else, well, is a coin-flip.

Lovecraft Country may have bounced back a bit with this week’s episode, one that deftly integrates horror and social themes in a delightfully gory package. I give Lovecraft Country‘s “Strange Case” four and a half Cthulhus. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Maybe it is just German for “the?”

Miskatonic Musings

So what are the other miscellaneous odds and ends to cover?

  • I appreciate the gorgeous title cards presented with each episode but there’s no way in Hell I am going to make new title cards for these reviews week to week.
  • Yes, that was Shangela from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
  • The actress playing “Hillary” was the same actress who kept the dogs and Shoggoths in the first two episodes, Jamie Neumann.
  • So, the police captain’s torso is apparently black and we didn’t even really get into that or the man in his office closet. I am sure we’ll learn more in the coming weeks.
  • I appreciated Tic looking every bit the Lovecraftian scholar at the end of the episode; flop sweat, panicked eyes, piles of documents. It was very recognizable.
  • The big literary reference this week? The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  • The monologue over the Hillary montage is “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When The Rainbow Is Enuf.”
  • Some great songs, as usual, on the show. Tic and Leti’s love scene was set to “Return to Love” by Black Atlass. One of the first songs we here is Patience and Prudence’s take on “Tonight You Belong To Me.” My choice for the sound of the episode, though? Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow.”

What did you think about “Strange Case?” Do you think Lovecraft Country has bounced back, or do you think it’s been going strong since the first episode? Let us know in the comments.

Advertisement

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

Movies n TV

The Boys, Beware the Jabberwock, My Son

Published

on

We’ve reached episode five of The Boys. And after the last episode’s emotional bombshells, this one had some much-needed levity.

And then a whole bunch more emotional trauma.

The story

We begin this episode with Homelander and Ryan in a meeting regarding a new teenage show. But Ryan doesn’t want to be on a show. He wants to be an actual hero. He wants to do real good and help people. And Homelander, fresh from his therapeutic killing spree, is in a mood to support his son.

Advertisement
Antony Starr and Cameron Crovetti in The Boys.

For now.

Meanwhile, The Boys are searching for a virus that can kill sups. The last time we saw this virus, it was in the hands of Neuman. They borrow Stan Edgar from jail and go to the lovely family farm upstate.

There, they discover that Neuman’s been testing temp V on farm animals. And it works as well on them as it does on hamsters. Soon the boys find themselves batting killer sheep, chickens and bulls. Hilarity and blood ensues.

What worked

The first thing we have to talk about is the superpowered animals. This was such a fantastic, hilarious situation. I especially loved the flying homicidal sheep. They were hilarious, unexpected, and incredibly gory. One just doesn’t expect to see a sheep covered in blood and guts. But it was delightful.

Karl Urban in The Boys.

The main pull of this episode, though, is the evolving relationship between Homelander and Ryan.

Homelander realizes that he doesn’t want Ryan to be brought up the same way he was. He wants his son to be happy.

Advertisement

He isn’t trying to be a better person though, and I think that’s important to remember. He loves his son, and he wants his son to be happy. And if being an actual hero and actually helping people will make Ryan happy right now, then that’s what Homelander is going to do.

Except that, since he doesn’t care about people, he is really bad at being a good person. Which is what led to a director getting beaten to death by his assistant.

I’m not saying this beatdown wasn’t cathartic. I’m just saying that it was maybe not something a good person would endorse.

I honestly think this new desire to be an actual hero is going to make Homelander more dangerous. If such a thing is possible.

What didn’t work

Advertisement

Of course, this episode wasn’t perfect. It brought to light a weakness that’s been irritating me this whole season. And that is the storyline with Hugh Senior.

What are we doing here?

While Hughie’s dad’s health issues are sad, and the sudden reintroduction of his mother is interesting, it has nothing to do with the rest of the season. Every other storyline blends and ties together. You can’t pull one string without all of them coming unraveled.

But not this story. So far, this storyline could be removed entirely and the whole rest of the season would remain pristine. All this storyline seems to have done is to have popped our main character out of the main storyline altogether.

Hughie’s absence is a deficit. I would have loved to see him freak out over the killer chickens. But I also would have liked to see him work with Neuman. I would have liked him to be there to defend Butcher. I would have liked to see him interacting with any other characters at all.

Advertisement

At this point, no character is purely good or purely bad. And I think that’s important. I’m invested in the story of every single character. And with three episodes left in the season, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Movies n TV

The Boys, Wisdom of the Ages

Published

on

Episode four of The Boys was possibly the darkest episode of the series so far. And I am aware that this alone is an intimidating prospect.

It should be.

The story

Our story in this episode mainly consists of the single most dickish action I have ever seen anyone perform. Sage and Firecracker set up a four-hour show outside Starlight House, to talk about how horrible of a person Annie is.

Advertisement

Four hours.

Valorie Curry and Susan Heyward in The Boys.

Annie gets everyone out of the building safely but then decides to watch the entire Anti-Annie show. And it is horrific.

The real horror show of this episode, though, is Homelander’s little adventure. After a fight with Ryan, he’s decided to visit his childhood home. Or, at least the place in which he grew up. Because he was raised more like a science experiment than a child.

I don’t think we’ve seen so far exactly what Homelander went through. The horrors he faced as a small child. Things no one should ever have to experience.

Things that the rest of his world will now have to pay for.

What worked

Advertisement

If you’re paying attention to politics, this episode got way too real. The absolute hypocrisy of our current political situation was on display with superpowers. I especially liked (and by that I mean was enraged by) Firecracker saying that accidentally blinding someone at age thirteen was worse than being an adult and assaulting a minor. Those two things are not the same, and one of them is obviously worse.

Another thing that I appreciated in this episode was the new, and horrific, information we got about Homelander’s childhood.

Do I maybe feel bad for Homelander now? After seeing the dismal and dark little world he was raised in, yeah, I do. That is a monstrous way to treat a child. It’s no wonder he ended up how he is. Even the milk fetish makes more sense. And I am not any more cajoled by the fact that these people were just doing their jobs than Homelander was. That has never been an honest or adequate justification.

This, of course, doesn’t justify the horrors he’s inflicted. It just makes it easier to see how he got to where he is.

Antony Starr in The Boys.

The best fiction inspires strong emotions. It makes us feel things for people who are not real and feel passionate about events that did not happen. It does this by showing us glimmers of real people and real events within these bags of bones and false narratives. And it is because of this that The Boys is succeeding. It’s taking very real moments we are all living through, and embedding them into a fictional narrative. And that’s always going to be more impactful than just burning someone alive.

What didn’t work

Advertisement

I only had one complaint about this episode. But it did bother me.

When Firecracker’s show starts, Annie makes a point of getting all the kids out of Starlight House to safety. That’s good. But then she sits down with her friends to watch the show.

Why would you watch a four-hour-long live show about why you are a terrible person?

I get asking someone else to watch it and take notes, because in a position like that you need to know what the opposition is saying about you. But for Annie to just watch that unfiltered was asking for trouble. And it’s exactly the sort of trouble that Annie ended up in.

In conclusion, this episode was almost too real. It had my blood boiling. It had me yelling at the TV. And that’s exactly what I want a good story to do.

Advertisement

We’re halfway through the season now, and I think we’d all better buckle up for what’s coming.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Movies n TV

House of Dragon: S2E3 – Family Feud for Dummies

Published

on

In this great episode, we see something we have yet to see in any of the GoT/HoD shows–a dysfunctional family. Wait. I meant, SSDD.

We start out with two people fighting. Why? Why not. I guess they have a blood feud for ages. I mean AGGGGGESSSSSSS. So, of course, we don’t know anything about them what-so-fuck-ever.

Basically, the scene is two girls slapping each other and then one gets an arrow to the knee. The end.

Dead hookers, Kings Hand, and a War Plan

Next up, we have two dead twins, but enough about my sex life. In the show, there are two dead uhhh twins (note to self: deeper holes for twins). Alas poor ermrmm….let’s call them the Ging Twins. We hardly knew. ye.

Advertisement

Ohhhhh I love this part where a knight that’s fucking the queen and got Poor Sir Ging killed is being late to his first day of class. Naughty Naughty. The rest of the scene is like ‘oh new peeps in white, something something, King is Big Warrior!’. So, this is what it would be like if Joffrey got laid? Hmmmmm….

Daemon arrives at Harrenhal–buyers remorse incoming

Daemon apparently wanted to take over something so he took over a shit hole. It’s almost suspenseful. Almost. I think it would be better to have drug the scene out more to give a sense of how Daemon was thinking about taking this big stronghold but slowly finding out it’s just a ghetto of shit.

For all the grief I give HoD for rehashing old tropes/plots from GoT, this is the one connection that makes sense so far. I like the exploration of a place we hear about in GoT but never got to see much into it. The connection is a way of doing exposition for a series we cared about. This is the first time it really feels like a prequel and not just a stand alone ‘shit pile’ they put the skin of GoT on.

We also get to see something of a character development for Daemon. This is something I really. hope others get a chance to get–characters. Maybe this is just the actor putting everything on his timey-wimey shoulders. Maybe that’s what the real turn for the character is–Matt Smith just going ‘fuck it’ and hitting for the fences.

Rhaenyra’s Diplomatic Mission, Some Politics, and Ser Cole Gets Jiggy Wit It

So like even though you fucked my dad and like made sure I wasn’t queen and then like started a war and like your bastards killed my son and like, you know, maybe we can be friends and end this war?

I heard this part of the scene was ad-lib. The writers had just this for direction: Think of the stupidest thing you can think of for your character to say and just go with it! Oh, and if you can tie in a previous episode of a better show into it–even better!

Advertisement

While that happens, political people are like ‘lets use a dragon. The show is called house of dragon, not house of weird random call backs to the future happenings of GoT’. Speaking of GoT, remember when the small council meetings were interesting? Like you wanted to know the twists and turns of it? You know why those were better? Because you gave a shit about the characters who made up the council. Even when the Queen remakes her council after her dad’s death, we still cared. We didn’t know them as well, but we cared because we knew the people they replaced were better for the job. So we had an interest in ‘how doth they fucketh this up’.

Here is more like…well, put it this way. Take pictures of the people on both councils. Then cut them into single head shots. Now, shuffle. Can you name the person? Hell, can you even name which side that person is on? That’s my point.

Oh and Cole goes off with the queen’s brother to attack something. A dragon happens. They go awwwhwhwhwhwhwhw!! Then run away like little girls.

Change your whores more than you change your undies

So pirate eye blondie is caught by king blondie using the same whore as he did before. Guess this is what rich kids count as shame.

Oh and surprise to nobody–the Queen admits that maybe Rhaenyra should have been ruler, but shit happens so it’s like too far gone stop now. Let’s have everyone kill each other and that way the gods will decide who the king really meant to give the throne to when he said, ‘I want my daughter Rhaenyra to be ruler’.

Final Comments and rating

It’s starting to pick up, but it seems that every time that it does pick up the writers go ‘fuck it’ and swerve directly into the ditch.

Advertisement

I don’t think the lack of action is a problem in this series. I think taking things slower in places and cutting down the cast to a manageable number (or at least give them a different look/name type so we can tell them apart) might be the thing needed to bring this show into a better footing. Will it ever be GoT? No. Sadly, I think it’s trying so hard to connect to GoT plots that it waters itself down. Instead of giving us a fascinating look at an older time, we get a constant reminder of just how much we miss GoT. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Continue Reading

Trending