Lovecraft Country (2020-) Season 1 review
Based on the novel by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country is set in the 1950s, during the Jim Crow laws in the United States. The story follows a young African-American man who sets out in search for his missing father, only to discover a world of magic and monsters. While the works of H.P. Lovecraft play an obvious inspiration for many of the events in the novel/series, the horror stories from the author draw a deeper connection to the themes dealing with racism in the United States. The first season of Lovecraft Country was released on HBO in August to a strong critical reception, but only a so-so welcome from audiences.
Lovecraft Country has the disadvantage of starting strong and limping to the finish. The pilot might be the best episode in the season, introducing us to some truly fantastic ideas when it comes to thematic storytelling. The season finale however is honestly messy, with a dash of confusing and a silly conclusion to some of the strong themes. So when it comes to watching the show or not, watch the pilot. If you need to watch more, watch more. If you don’t, yeah maybe wait to see how Season 2 is…
I for one kinda needed to see more after starting it… The show has it’s problems, and I’ll get into at least a few of them, but the premise really hooked me! Right off the bat I absolutely loved the story setup, strong themes, and weird Lovecraftian worldbuilding. The show uses the characters to bring out some strong drama, the setting and time period for tension, and the fantasy to keep the audience guessing where all of this is going! However the more the story changes focus, the more difficult to connect with the series becomes.
Ensemble casts can work really well! But you do need to advertise that, not introduce three leads and spend half the episodes in the show following characters we barely know. For a large chunk of the series, I spent ten minutes trying to remember who this character was in relation to Atticus and Leti, then another ten minutes trying to place them in the story and decipher the relevance of focusing on them. I’m not going to pretend I know exactly how to fix this, but it feels very messy. And speaking of messy, the predominately subtle writing for the series goes out the window right at the end, leaving a strange aftertaste for an otherwise decent finale.
Despite a narrative that feels simply all over the place, the quality of the series might have been enough to save it for me, aside from the strong writing and themes I mentioned. Laura Karpman and Raphael Saadiq’s score was an absolute highlight for me, blending traditional instrumentation with a bizarre grab-bag of unique sounds and melodies when the show goes full Lovecraft. Easily one of my favorites of the year! Misha Green’s direction for the season as showrunner (as well as the individual directors) was also very good. The cinematography was always sharp, the visual effects were strong, and the pacing kept the show compelling even with the inconsistent focus working against it. Plus the entire cast does a wonderful job! (Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Abbey Lee, Michael Kenneth Williams- really there’s no weak link here.
And as much as I would LOVE to get into some specifics, the series gets into quite a lot after the first episode, and I dare not give too much away! Overall, I liked it. It’s hard to love for sure. The focus is a bit of a mess, and the finale is probably the worst episode in the season. Yet it’s not a terrible episode, it just has to follow probably one of the best pilot episodes I’ve ever seen! Overall though, the show has really strong themes, great performances, a memorable score, and a wonderfully unique setting and tone in which it pulls its true horror and tension from the truths of the early 1900s, not just the fiction of Lovecraft… So despite the fact that this could easily be a miniseries if Season 2 goes off the deep end, I would watch more! 7/10.
So Lovecraft Country? Have you watched it yet? What did you think? And you know what, what is your favorite Lovecraft Adaptation this year so far? We’ve had AT LEAST three! Whatever your thoughts, be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review, keep an eye out for another review from HBO coming soon…
-review by Ryan Prince