The Best Show on TV Right Now Is a Thrilling (and Terrifying) Roller Coaster Ride
*Warning: Minor spoilers ahead*
The best show currently on HBO Max (and IMHO on all of TV) is a terrifying and terrific roller coaster ride—and I'm so mad at myself for not watching it sooner. To say I'm late to the party is a gross understatement.
Indeed, my new favorite show actually debuted back in mid-August and while I've heard plenty of buzz around it, my viewing queue was so full that I didn't get started on it until the very end of October. This was a large mistake on my part.
I know there is a ton to watch out there right now, but if you haven't already tuned in, please do yourself a favor and binge Lovecraft Country on HBO Max as soon as you can. Here's my honest (and yes, glowing) review.
1. What Is Lovecraft Country About?
Lovecraft Country is based on Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel of the same name. This sci-fi horror series focuses on a young Black man named Atticus 'Tic' Freeman who sets out in search of his missing father during the 1950s. (Please don't let the words 'sci-fi' and 'horror' turn you off if those aren't usually your jam.)
Atticus is joined by his Uncle George and his friend-slash-love-interest Leticia on a journey that leads them to encounter murder, monsters, magic and a whole lot of overt racism. That's right, one of the show's central themes revolves around life as a Black person in the '50s—from the prejudice and violence they face to the heartache and loss they experience.
In the premiere episode, Atticus sets out with George and Leticia to find Atticus's father using a cryptic note he left behind as guidance. They are led to the town of Ardham, Massachusetts, where they quickly encounter a terrifying, racist sheriff who warns them of the town's "sunset laws." He explains that this means the three Black travelers have until sunset to leave town or else the laws expire and the sheriff will be allowed to kill them (yup, this show gets real dark, real fast). Oh, and as it would happen, sunset is just minutes away.
The three race to escape the town before the sun disappears, with the sheriff hot on their tail. And just when you can't take the tension anymore and think this sheriff is their biggest threat, all hell breaks loose. What somehow seemed like a "normal" show suddenly thrusts the viewers into a truly off-the-walls alternative world with the arrival of (spoiler alert) horrifying monsters. And this is just the beginning.
Each episode, while following a much larger story arc, presents a new set of horrors—and seemingly shifts into a new genre. While the first episode is heavy on monsters, the second one takes us into a magical universe. Later episodes change genre as well, with one feeling like our characters are smack dab in the middle of an Indiana Jones movie and the next in a haunted house film, complete with demon exorcism. This constant shift keeps the show terribly exciting, as the viewer has no idea what to expect next.
By the time you reach the season's end, you will truly feel like you have gone on a journey of epic proportions with these characters.
2. Why Should You Watch Lovecraft Country?
As I mentioned, the shift in genre (though they all fall under the sci-fi/horror umbrella) keeps things interesting and unpredictable. But beyond that, there are so many reasons to tune in.
First of all, there's the acting. This cast is incredible. Led by Jonathan Majors as Atticus and Jurnee Smollett as Leticia, this ensemble brings massive acting chops to the small screen. It's hard enough to act in a horror movie (constantly trying to hide from or outrun something terrible), but these actors lend a large depth of emotion to their performances. It is impossible not to read the pain, passion and fear on Majors's face in nearly every scene. He is at once the hero and antihero in the story—someone we can root for one minute and be furious with the next. And Smollett's performance is certainly award-worthy. No doubt both of their names will be floating around come awards show season (if such a thing exists in 2021...).
Next, there are the brilliant names behind the show. The series was created by Misha Green and Jordan Peele, who also served as an executive producer alongside J.J. Abrams. Green brings her experience as creator of the show Underground to this new project. It's hard not to see the thematic similarities between the two, as Underground is a period drama focused on the Underground Railroad. Peele has clearly brought his genius filmmaking skills to the table here as well. He is a masterful storyteller when it comes to both morality tales and horror. One Lovecraft episode later in the season introduces a set of demonic sisters who are easily reminiscent of the characters in Us. And then there's the impossible-to-miss, big-budget, special effects, I-love-time-travel influence of J.J. Abrams. Green, Peele and Abrams clearly make for a winning behind-the-scenes team here, bringing a beautiful and magical universe to life on screen.
And then, beyond the obvious fact that the story is fascinating, fun and unlike anything I've ever seen before, this series is important. The historical significance of the piece cannot be overstated. Lovecraft Country takes place at a time when racial struggles and inequities were at the forefront of every person's mind—the 1950s. This backdrop brilliantly points out the heartbreaking challenges of living as a Black person in a society set up for only white people to succeed. It is impossible not to draw direct parallels to societal circumstances in 2020. In one extremely moving episode, Letitia's sister Ruby (portrayed by the extremely talented Wunmi Mosaku) is given the opportunity to temporarily live life as a white woman. What she chooses to do with this "gift" (the quotation marks are very much intentional) is an unbelievably honest and revealing look into the psyche of a Black woman trying to make her way (and survive) in 1950s America.
Again, I know I am extremely late to the party on this. But if you, like me, didn't prioritize Lovecraft Country when it first debuted, I implore you to do so soon. It is beautiful. It is terrifying. It is—in my opinion—the best show you can stream right now.