Secrets come out, Hippolyta is back, and Tic, Leti, and Montrose are headed back in time. It’s the Tulsa episode, everyone! This bit of history which was lost to most non-Black Americans makes its second appearance on an HBO series. Once again the survivors are front and center, and the endless trauma of Black people in America remains the theme. Lovecraft Country finally explores in depth how Montrose became the man he is today in this powerfully moving episode.
Poor baby Diana took the brunt of the hit with the Police Captain’s spell. With her blood turned black and her skin shriveled up, Diana must fight to live long enough for Tic, Leti, and Montrose to find a counter spell. All the adults surrounding her quake with fear, knowing the responsibility for the young girl’s suffering lays at their feet. As they argue, their secrets inch toward the surface. Leti’s pregnancy and Montrose’s parietal accuracy remain hidden, but Ruby reveals her intrepid affair with Christina. She promises Christina will perform the spell to heal Diana. Unfortunately, only the Police Captain who cast the spell can lift the curse. The Captain’s spell first turned Diana into the physical manifestation of a jigga boo, then caused her to flesh to rot and fester from the inside out.
Luckily, the hellhounds didn’t kill the Captain in last week’s attack, which Leti spun as a gas explosion—but to call him alive and well would be false. We learned that the police force kidnapped Black citizens and hacked off whatever limbs an officer needed, attaching the Black body part to the white officer with magic. Christina sentenced William to a thousand deaths by overriding this quick-fix spell. But, that line of deaths must end for the officer, as Christina did promise Ruby she would slow the spell’s progress. Christina takes particular joy in watching the final death mask wash over the Captain’s face.
Leti and Ruby finally have the conversation they’ve needed to have for weeks. Ruby reveals that she believes Montrose and Tic to be violent men—not an unfounded thought, considering how quickly those two go to blows. Of course, Leti knows Christina. She knows Christina intends to kill Tic, and uses Ruby to get closer to Tic’s blood. Both sisters go their own way, but each takes the lesson of the other.
Watching Ruby call out Christina brought a particular joy and relief to their relationship. For so long I couldn’t tell who was playing who. Christina always seemed to possess the upper hand, and yet she could never pin Ruby down. Now that Christina confesses what she wants magic for, their attraction makes more sense. Christina gave Ruby the ability to go places she’d never gone before. It’s the same wish the young Braithwaite held for herself. Using magic as a key, no corner of the universe would be off limits to her. The desire to control the world belonged to her father. Like Ruby, Christina just wanted to escape the box built around her identity. Ruby understood, and so made two crucial decisions. First, she demanded Christina promise not hurt Leti. Then she killed off her Hillary, proclaiming her white identity a red head. I guess it’s hunting season for Ruby Red.
Hippolyta returns a new woman. No longer timid, she stands bone straight, ready to tackle whatever event befell her daughter. Hippolyta’s been on Earth 504 for 200 years calling herself whatever she damn well pleases. As everyone questions her, she straightens her crown and walks into fire. A goddess reborn of Earth and water, Hippolyta molded herself into a champion. She plans to go back to the multi-dimensional machine to retrieve the book of names from the Tulsa Massacre.
Down at the conservatory in Kentucky, Leti gets up the nerve to tell Montrose she’s pregnant. Montrose reveals the gender of the baby and blames Leti for the probable death of his son, Tic. Hippolyta turns herself into a motherboard. With over six trillion alternate realities, she needs to direct the computer to open a portal to this Earth’s Tulsa in 1921. While the process looks painful, Hippolyta doesn’t hesitate or falter; but Montrose does. He’s entering the nightmare of his own past, the reality he spent three decades drinking away. Confronting that reality—not just the severity of his father, but the horrendous acts of terrorism inflicted upon the community—is the biggest step he’s taken in his life.
The trio hop through the portal, and realize that they only have a few hours before the attack begun. Time travel rules apply. They can’t do anything that changes the future, despite knowing that Tic’s mother’s entire family would be burned alive in their home, along with the book.
The secret Montrose kept from Tic his whole life finally comes to the surface. The news hits Atticus like a ton of bricks. All the beatings Montrose made him endure, all the time he spent with George wishing he could call him dad—and now he lives with an unknown. Who really sired him?
Tic snaps when he realizes Montrose came to the past high on liquid courage, and he tells him all the hateful things he’s stored in his heart since he was a child. Finally, Tic decides to end his relationship with his father after they’ve saved D’s life. The reality of the harm done, combined with his worst fears staring him in the face, brings Montrose to a halt. Montrose watches his younger self being beaten with a lengthy branch, by his drunk and enraged father. Homophobia that causes the beating to extend until Montrose cannot stand. We see what the love between Montrose, George, and Tic’s mother meant. Dora, Tic’s mom, protected Montrose, loved him like a brother. And she couldn’t stand the way George stood by and watched Montrose be beaten. She used her life to stand in between Montrose and the cruel world.
Of course, Montrose has just now discovered the hero with-in. He takes off. Leti and Tic think he went to warn his older brother about the impending terrorist attack, so they decide to split up. Leti, though invincible, finds herself being chased down by an angry white mob. She runs into Dora’s house for shelter. The entire house flies into a panic, rounding up their weapons, and searching for the kids.
Leti agrees to help protect the house—shooting first to warn, and then to kill. Hannah immediately something wasn’t right with the new girl. The tennis shoes gave her away. As the house burns down around them, Hannah has to choose whether to save her family from burning, or accept her fate and help her descendant by giving up The Book of Names. She chooses to help Leti. She binds the book in a spell, allowing future users to only use the book for welfare and not evil. “When my great-great grandson is born, he will be my faith turned flesh,” Hannah blesses Leti as the upstairs begins to spark and crackle with flames. We cannot hear our ancestors proclaim us as their wildest dream, and as a descendant of slaves, I found power in Hannah’s proclamation. Truly this is what art is for.
Hannah turns out to be a woman of God. She asks Leti to pray the “Our Father Prayer” with her. Their words drown under the poem “Catch The Fire” by Sonia Sanchez, posted below. As the house burns, they gripped hands. The love, passion, and knowledge passes like fire from one mother to the next. As white men cackle while the life built for them burns around them, Leti continues to hold Hannah’s hand even as she burns and screams in agony. The past is never dead, and we cannot outrun the tragedy inflicted upon our ancestors. But we can become less vulnerable to the attacks, and we can honor those who survived long enough so that we might exist. We are tribute to the lives they might have led, were they truly free.
(Sometimes I wonder:
What to say to you now
in the soft afternoon air as you
hold us all in a single death?)
Where is your fire?
Where is your fire?
You got to find it and pass it on.
You got to find it and pass it on
from you to me from me to her from her
to him from the son to the father from the
brother to the sister from the daughter to
the mother from the mother to the child.
Where is your fire? I say where is your fire?
Can’t you smell it coming out of our past?
The fire of living…not dying
The fire of loving…not killing
The fire of Blackness…not gangster shadows.
Where is our beautiful fire that gave light
to the world?
The fire of pyramids;
The fire that burned through the holes of
slaveships and made us breathe;
The fire that made guts into chitterlings;
The fire that took rhythms and made jazz;
The fire of sit-ins and marches that made
us jump boundaries and barriers;
The fire that took street talk sounds
and made righteous imhotep raps.
Where is your fire, the torch of life
full of Nzingha and Nat Turner and Garvey
and DuBois and Fannie Lou Hamer and Martin
and Malcolm and Mandela.
Sister/Sistah Brother/Brotha Come/Come
CATCH YOUR FIRE…DON’T KILL
HOLD YOUR FIRE…DON’T KILL
LEARN YOUR FIRE…DON’T KILL
BE THE FIRE…DON’T KILL
Catch the fire and burn with eyes
that see our souls:
Hey. Brother/Brotha. Sister/Sista.
Here is my hand.
Catch the fire…and live.
Montrose did not go to warn his brother, he left to save his first love, Thomas. And this is where we learn that it wasn’t the beatings that destroyed Montrose, but the loss of his first love. He stopped saying Thomas’ name so that he could have a chance at a life. This is the pain he ran from. He referred to the loss of this love, “As the first in a long line of sacrifices,” he made to be Tic’s father. Tic, like all children, forgot his father only existed as flesh and blood. While none of Montrose’s pain makes up for what he put Tic through, it does explain how he ended up so lost. How he could cavalierly say the murder of children are the lesson all Black folks must learn.
For Montrose, murder isn’t a possibility but a stark eventuality. If that reality is not accepted, it will bring a person to their knees. This knowledge weighs so heavy on the spirit that it literally kills the victim. It takes years, but it destroys completely. I think of Eric Garner’s namesake Erica Garner, who, after watching her father be murdered by the police, became an activist, before dying of a heart attack at just 27. I think about the pockets of Black dominated spaces, laced with poverty throughout America, where the average life span of a citizen is just 26 years.
Montrose lived too long at the precipice of destruction. He befriended it and courted it, until he became as close as lovers with the idea of destruction. He could no longer see the difference between himself, and the destruction he caused. It seemed to him an inevitability that he would become his father. He couldn’t see he was making a choice to become his dad. All of it, all of it, came from the seed of knowledge that in America, Black lives don’t matter.
When George faces the person he hid from himself, the little boy who deserved love instead of beatings, the teenager who deserved romantic love, and the man who desperately wanted to be a father, he can admit to his son that every sacrifice was worth it, because it ended in the existence of Tic. By this logic, Montrose believed he could save Thomas without sacrificing the son he loves so much. He held onto that ideal for as long as he could, willing it to be true. But in the end, Montrose was unwilling to take the risk. He relied on his personal cavalry, his future wife and his brother, to save him as he narrates the atrocities he survived. Sometimes, the only way to heal is to speak. He talks out his trauma, with the one person there to witness it, and little by little the pain clenching his heart eases, but does not dissipate.
Tic and Atticus realize at the same time that Tic was the mysterious stranger, the person who had their back, the future that made their wildest dreams come true. It’s a beautiful full circle moment for the father and son, who have struggled to understand one another. Just like the book never burned in the house, Tic was always meant to be Montrose’s savior. It’s not the right way of things. A child should not have to protect a parent. But parents are only human, and do occasionally require a hero. There can be such beauty in forgiveness, in releasing and healing the pain done to us over and over again. Montrose had such a wall of pain, humiliation, and isolation to climb. It makes horrible sense that a new generation would need to come around before he could heal all the wounds inflicted upon him.
Montrose relived his childhood horror from the hotel, naming the neighbors, icons, and children, whose destinies were not yet known. Hippolyta struggles to keep the portal open as Leti walks painfully slowly through bombs that seem as if they were dropped on her specifically, and Montrose stares out the window. Hippolyta’s hair turns blue, Orynthia Blue, for her troubles, becoming the hero her daughter always believed she could be. “Rewind 1921” ends with all the cards on the table. The autumnal equinox follows next week. Will Tic survive? Tune in next week to find out!
- Am I to understand that Christina let the captain chop up Black folks knowing the spell would work less and less, subsequently causing more Black death, so she could enjoy his pain? She is the devil.
- Anyone else feel like Leti and Tic’s baby gonna come out a girl? They put so much emphasis on him having a son, and the multiple realities, I imagine that there’s some big twist coming in this plot line.
- For the love of all that is good, please let Ji-Ah get a final arc in the series finale. I have questions that need answering.