The new drama on HBO ‘Lovecraft Country’ is a Black man’s search for his roots with a horror twist during 1950’s segregated America. The series premiers on Sunday 9PM on August 16th.
‘Sundown’ (S1 E1) starts with Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) fighting in a foxhole in a foreign country. As he scrambles his way out to the field he sees monsters, space ships and beautiful alien creature who he melts into her embrace right before Jackie Robinson whacks a monster that almost eats him. It’s all a dream but it sets the tone of the premier episode of ‘Lovecraft Country’. It’s whimsical, bright and scary as Atticus is on the back of the bus with an older Black woman as he wakes up to the living nightmare of segregated America in the 1950’s on his way home to the Southside of Chicago. Sundown has a double meaning as it’s a glimpse into Sundown Towns that dotted the USA legally and are still defacto in some parts of the country.
The series is based on ‘Lovecraft Country’ by Matt Ruff and adapted to TV by Misha Green (with Executive Producers Jordan Peele & J.J. Abrams both adept with suspense and horror). It had me hooked from the first few moments as a Black woman I felt the visceral fear of venturing to the backwoods with no idea of how I’d be treated all without a trusty Greenbook published by his uncle George Black (Courtney B. Vance) and his wife Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) who we meet as they indulge in a midday delight as their horrified daughter Diana (Jada Harris) realizes what that unexpected noise means. Atticus is back in Chicago to look for his missing father and as he tries to figure out where he is by going to his dad’s old haunts to learn that he left with a White man in a fancy silver foreign car (that can NEVER be good for a Black man in the 1950s). Atticus is following a trail left by his father who had asked him to learn more about his mother’s peoples despite George’s misgiving. Atticus isn’t the boy he once was despite after joining the Army and leaving something behind in Korea.
‘Sundown’ has a segregated Chicago that is almost idyllic as they have a summer block party with kids playing in the fire hydrant, Black women and men walking carefree down the street and Ruby Dandridge’s (Wunmi Mosaku) melodious dulcet sexy voice getting everyone dancing at sundown joined by her sister Letitia (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Letitia comes with baggage as she seems to be a rolling stone who doesn’t like responsibility and doesn’t stay in one place for too long. Atticus wants to find his father and joins George on his latest Greenbook entry travel with Letitia (grabbing a ride) in a very nice car to try to find Montrose. The road to Montrose has some unexpected bumps, shots, and things that go bump in the woods that leave our heroes a little worse for wear and myself squealing (I was watching with the lights off and got scared!).
I really enjoyed this first episode that had unexpected monsters some people might not have expected (I did) but still the buildup to Montrose was really good as it sets up the mystery of the town and his family. The supporting cast conveyed the fear Black people felt at that time trying to find a place to eat, grab gas, sleep or even use a toilet. I’m looking forward to this new series Sunday nights on HBO.
Production: Executive producers: Misha Green, J.J. Abrams, Jordan Peele, Bill Carraro, Yann Demange, Daniel Sackheim, David Knoller
Cast: Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Courtney B. Vance, Michael Kenneth Williams