East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Back from Lovecraft Country


So last night I saw the last episode of Lovecraft Country, the HBO series based on Matt Ruff’s book. And while I found some episodes to be below par, all in all I must say it was a nicely satisfactory adventure.

Granted, I believe “Lovecraft purists” (whatever that means) will find the series objectionable because it is not “properly Lovecraftian” (whatever that means), the same criticism that is usually leveraged at the scenarios for The Call of Cthulhu, the roleplaying game. And it’s a fair criticism, and a few episodes of the series do feel like write-ups of someone’s Call of Cthulhu games. But hey, they certainly were good games I’d have loved to sit through.

So, on the minus side, I found the insistence on gore not to my tastes – but that’s just me. Ditto the HBO trademark sex scenes – only very few of which are functional to the plot. But again, that’s just me.
The plot does meander a little in the first half, and it was good to see the writers were able to pull (most of) the loose end together in the finale.

On the plus side there is certainly the cast, that’s very very good – in particular Jurnee Smollet as Letitia Lewis, the female lead that also owns the series’ best episode – #3, Holy Ghost.
And yes, Courtney B. Vance as George Freeman is absolutely great, probably the best character in the series in my opinion.
The look of the series is also perfect, and while some of the musical choices were a bit odd, most of the soundtrack was much to my liking and worked quite well with the story.

As a European, I also appreciated how the series explored some aspects of American history that I did not know – and that left me aghast, in the “why nobody ever talked to me about this?!” sense.

Before the series premiered I heard some bad vibes about it, and allegations it was disrespectful of Lovecraft’s legacy.
If that was ever a concern, it’s not the case to worry about it – Lovecraft Country uses HPL’s ideas in a good, fun way, and indeed it follows the spirit if not the letter of his phylosophy of horror. It does not waste any time in useless polemics. And yes, they call Lovecraft a racist, but we always knew he was, right?
Uncle George’s comment on the whole thing should be set in stone.

So, yes, it was a good, if bumpy ride.
If you’ve missed it, try and give it a look,and don’t let the problems in the early episodes (like the abrupt and somehow arbitrary ending of Episode 2) turn you off.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

3 thoughts on “Back from Lovecraft Country

  1. I enjoyed the series. My favorite bits of the Cthulhu Mythos are the stories that feature cosmic horror, alien races, infinite space and deep time so I was disappointed that it didn’t go there. It played more in the “Thing on the Doorstep/Dreams in the Witch House/Charles Dexter Ward” part of his sandbox. And it did a good job.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it misses the really big scale stuff from HPL, but it makes sense – it’s supposed to be a personal story. And we can always hope for season two (I REALLY wanted a Nyarlathotep walk-in cameo in the final episode…)


  2. I’ve seen first 3 episodes (IMHO 3rd is the weakest so far, a mere filler, with only the bat+shotgun scene which I’ve enjoed quite a lot and a link with previous story quite weak).
    A little camp sometimes (a lot of times) with bad digital effect (I would have prefered more “not seen” evilness) , but so far I am enjoying it.

    The thing which is scaring me most is taken from history (not from HPL): how a lot of black people accept the situation, how if it were written in the stone and how they should wait until 1960s Civil Rights Movement before things start (really?) to change.

    It’s always a pleasure to see Michael K. Williams in action (he is always perform the same character, but it’s OK!)


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