Let me just say that while I am aware of H.P. Lovecraft, unlike Robert E. Howard, a contemporary, I never read his work. But like Howard, perhaps more so, Lovecraft was a racist of the highest order, a man so infected with racial animus as to pen a virulence-filled poem degrading black people. Lovecraft Country, an HBO series about an African American army veteran and science fiction enthusiast has been described as a giant FU to Lovecraft. Based on what little I know of the writer, I can hardily agree. Given Lovecraft's sentiment while alive (he died in 1937) if a dead person spinning in a grave were scientifically possible, then Lovecraft should be plenty dizzy by now.
Episode One of Lovecraft Country debuts a solid set of characters, played by a solid cast. We get a fantastical introduction to the protagonist Atticus Black, through a dream sequence featuring winged tentacled creatures and alien vehicles spewing death rays across a battle field where the combatants are a mix of modern and ancient soldiers. Atticus's imagination, fueled by his regular partaking of science fiction and pulp literature, sets the tone for this episode. After a character driven, suspense filled buildup, Lovecraft Country accelerates into an explosive fanfare of action/fantasy scenes. The special effects, like the overall look of the episode, are high end, big budget, block buster quality. No expense was spared in presenting the look of 1950s America down to the most mundane details. Much of the racial atmosphere of the time is conveyed through visuals, from a billboard advertising Aunt Jemima pancakes to quiet contempt or overt hostility displayed by whites toward blacks that require no exposition.
Storytelling the world over has often melded fiction into historical contexts. This works exceedingly well in Lovecraft Country. The episode presents two layers of horror. The first layer are the black characters being subjected to racial violence perpetrated by civilians and law enforcement. The second is their encounter with Lovecraftian monsters. I would expect these elements to be intertwined throughout the season, revealing a great deal more of life in America prior to the Civil Rights movement, while treating viewers to Atticus and his adventures.
Lovecraft Country is an exercise in marvelous storytelling. The actors are brilliant. Jonathan Majors embodies the role of Atticus with flair and distinction. Coutney Vance, an acting veteran brings superb gravitas to his role as Atticus's uncle, George, and Jurnee Smollet is simply mind blowing as the free spirited Letti. She adds fire to every scene she is in. I'm looking forward to future episodes of Lovecraft Country. This series is off to a great start.