We’re on a hat trick Lovecraft Country fans! S1E7 was another cracking episode, this time focusing on Hippolyta and her journey of self-discovery through many worlds and incarnations of herself as she names who she really is down to every atom. “I Am” is a beautiful lesson in black women’s empowerment.
Hippolyta, the Curious, had been trying to figure out how to unlock the orrery left in Leti’s new house since she found it—Leti and Tic unaware that she even had it. The quest led Hippolyta to Ardham, and the ruins of the lodge in which George lost his life. There she found proof that George had been there in the form of the comic strip daughter Diane (Dee) had drawn of her mother, in amongst the rubble. In an agonising twist, it will also likely be a comic strip by Dee that will be her mother’s undoing—left in the arms of a dead, white police officer, shot by Hippolyta in self-defence (though there is no way in hell it will be seen that way).
In a moment of tired frustration, Hippolyta shoves the orrery to the floor, flipping it on its side, revealing to her what she’s been missing. With the moons tilted on their axis, the orrery fires up; a golden light swims around inside as the mechanics slip into place, opening a gold dome which holds a key and is inscribed: “Every beginning is in time and every limit of extension in space”.
(Side note: If it is possible to fall in love with an object this would be it for me. It has now become my mission to own an orrery like this. The wonder and awe of it would enchant me eternally.)
In real life, the co-ordinates engraved here take you to 1073, 205th Road, Troy, Kansas 66807. It’s in the middle of a field, and not too far from St. Louis (though still four and a half hours away), which is where Tic was headed. Tic has had one hell of a day already; first learning that the rumours about his father being gay were absolutely correct when he sees Sammy leaving Montrose’s apartment in the morning. What’s more is that Tic’s mother knew. He should perhaps take some solace from this, that his mother was liberal-minded enough that she could live with it. However, we don’t know what killed her. Her true love lied with George, and now it is clear why Montrose was not angry about his brother having an affair with his wife. I am still confused as to why Dora and George couldn’t just be together and Montrose not be involved at all, but perhaps they all helped keep each others secrets.
Leti awakes from a dream; the same vision that Atticus has of his ancestor Hanna, escaping the lodge as it burned, heavily pregnant. In Leti’s dream she too is pregnant, and the flames reach her and set her alight. What Tic hadn’t noticed before is that in the dream Hanna is carrying a book—which must have been vital for her to take it when she fled. Tic and Leti determine that it must have been the Book of Names, which Christina Braithwhite is looking for the missing pages from. If they can get their hands on the whole book then they are way ahead of Christina.
Little do they know that Leti’s sister, Ruby, has been embroiled in a relationship with Christina/William. Christina tells Ruby the whole story about what happened to William. He was her lover, and he really was murdered by police Captain Lancaster. Christina took his body and made a potion from it, enabling her to transform into his skin and play the part of a man. William, when he was alive, was adept at magic and taught Christina much of what she knows. Never being allowed into the Sons of Adam because she was a woman, Christina gave up trying to impress her father in her own skin, and when William died took what she could to get revenge and to progress further as she should have rightly been allowed. Christina’s story is not the only one where men stifle a woman. If you look closely, every woman in Lovecraft Country is held back in some form or another by a man. Sometimes it is not out of malice; oftentimes they don’t even notice they are doing it.
It appears to me that Ruby is being blindsided by her affection for William, despite knowing that it was Christina all along. Ruby and Leti have a tumultuous sisterly relationship. Will Ruby choose blood over love when it comes down to a big showdown, which no doubt there will be? Ruby is not aware that it was Christina that gave Leti the money for the house, and it wasn’t left to her by their mother. It doesn’t really matter because the point of Ruby’s anger was that Leti didn’t share the money with her siblings. Likewise, Leti has no idea that Ruby even knows Christina, and certainly not that she has been living at her house the past few weeks. Christina is playing them both—playing on their family struggles, to get what she wants. It is becoming increasingly clear that Christina doesn’t care who she steps on, on her way to the top.
But does Ruby really dislike her sister that much to choose a white woman who tricked her into sex and encouraged her to be brutally, sexually violent towards a man (whether he deserved it or not, the fact that Ruby became a monster in those minutes cannot be good for her psyche), over Leti? I don’t think so, not in the long run. Black women have had to fight for centuries without any magic to help them. Christina is cheating her way through life, has no real clue what hardship is as she’s lived a life of white privilege, wealth and freedom. Ruby will hopefully realise that once again she’s being controlled by a white person, without her even noticing, and will take that rage and use it against her.
Leti’s dream about Hanna appears to be a message or perhaps a warning. Leti feels that Hanna smiles at her, but it doesn’t look like affection to me. It feels more like encouragement or even concern. If Leti is pregnant with Tic’s child, then she may just be carrying the next in the ancestral line. What power does Tic hold with Titus Braithwhite’s blood flowing through his veins? Perhaps that isn’t the question. What power does Tic hold with Hanna’s blood running through his veins? For it was she who escaped the lodge with the book, not Titus. Tic’s fate looks uncertain, especially after Ji-ah’s premonition in last week’s episode.
Christina doesn’t seem particularly bothered about Tic; it is Leti and Ruby that she wants. She even told Leti that when Leti bought the Hiram Epstein house. Did Leti tap into something when she died at Ardham? She tells Tic that nothing has felt the same since she died. In African culture, the Goddess Oya guards purgatory, the realm between life and death and when Leti’s house is haunted by tortured souls in “Holy Ghost”, she calls upon the Mama Oya for help. In African mythology, people are cautioned against invoking or provoking her due to the intensity of her power. Leti appears to be depicted as the physical manifestation of Mama Oya. When threatened, she brings a storm just like the Goddess is known for.
The Goddess of this episode is Hippolyta. A woman of strength, bravery and curiosity, she follows the co-ordinates to an observatory in Mayfield. Inside she finds a panel that she can turn on using the key from the orrery. Two of Captain Lancaster’s police officers show up and attack her for breaking in. Tic shows up to kick some ass, and a portal opens, sucking Hippolyta in, throwing her through time and space, until she reaches a nearby planet.
39.605499, -95.159492, 6.265749
Taken by two robots to a spacecraft of some sorts, Hippolyta has to figure her way out. She only has her own knowledge to help her. It is a test set by a beautiful black Goddess, who wears the most incredible and awe-inspiring afro I have ever seen. Talk about being proud of your heritage. Is this the Goddess Oya? She fits the bill as she has electricity coursing through her, using it to incapacitate Hippolyta when she tries to escape. She is named Seraphina (Karen LeBlanc) in the credits, however, so that is how I will refer to her.
85.264793, 74.684721, 35.842368
85.264793, 74.684721, 37.149785
85.264793, 74.684721, 41.942574
These numbers seem to be co-ordinates. I have looked them up and they mostly seem to place you in the middle of various seas and oceans on Earth, but the third sequence may tell us more. Are the number increases the length of time Hippolyta has spent there? Are these co-ordinates for a place on another planet? Or many other worlds which exist in space and time just like the reality we know on this Earth? Seraphina tells Hippolyta she is not imprisoned, but this is clearly something Hippolyta needs to experience to find out who she really is. Here she can be who and wherever she wants to be, and her first choice is dancing with Josephine Baker in Paris.
52.263231, -49.988712, 67.429781
52.263231, -49.988712, 69.529827
52.263231, -49.988712, 72.329827
52.263231, -49.988712, 74.529827
52.263231, -49.988712, 77.169742
52.263231, -49.988712, 79.169742
52.263231, -49.988712, 83.945463
52.263231, -49.988712, 85.945463
The last sequence of numbers has many duplicates there, which if they are time in days, hours and minutes as we know them, could mean that Hippolyta spent eighteen days in Paris with Josephine Baker. What a wonderful life that would be. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you who Baker was, but in a nutshell, Josephine Baker was an American-born French entertainer, French Resistance agent, freemason and civil rights activist. Her career was centred primarily in France. She was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, the 1927 silent film Siren of the Tropics.
As well as being a huge star of the stage and screen, Josephine Baker (portrayed by Carra Patterson) adopted twelve children from all over the world; they were dubbed the rainbow family. She was openly bisexual and is said to have been in a relationship with Frida Kahlo, who was also seen in this episode, dressed as she often did in male attire.
In Paris, Hippolyta gets to experience true freedom to be a black woman without the ties of motherhood or marriage. She has fun, dances on stage with Baker, makes wonderful friends, and lives the high life. Baker sees the same kind of special in her that she owns herself—something bigger than stardom, something out of this world. Hippolyta admits that she is so angry about what she has allowed white folks to do to her. She says that they just found a smart way to lynch her without her even noticing. And it’s true. That is what white supremacists have done and continue to do to black people wherever they can get away with it.
Full of rage, Hippolyta screams her name and is transported to what I believe to be the territory of Benin, formerly known as Dahomey, in West Africa.
-25.164754, 52.021799, 12.365684
Here in 1890, the Mino (often known as the Dahomey Amazons), a tribe entirely of women warriors attempted to seize back a Dahomean village that had fallen under French rule. The chief had come under the sway of the colonialists and attempted to diffuse the situation by persuading the inhabitants that the Tricolore would protect them. Following the orders of her general, one Mino fighter then decapitated the chief and carried his head, wrapped in the flag, back to the Dahomey King of the time, Béhanzin. Yet whilst their bravery and ruthlessness were grudgingly respected by their French opponents, the Mino were no match in scale or weaponry for the French troops, and after a second Franco-Dahomean war, France gained victory over Dahomey in 1894, marking the beginnings of European colonisation that lasted until the country’s independence came in 1960.
25.164754, 52.021799, 14.742656
25.164754, 52.021799, 17.945463
25.164754, 52.021799, 20.347881
25.164754, 52.021799, 22.941242
25.164754, 52.021799, 25.469562
25.164754, 52.021799, 26.469562
25.164754, 52.021799, 29.754812
Hippolyta trains to be a brutal warrior, becoming the leader in battle, the first of which they win. They are no match for the numbers of white French soldiers with weapons far greater and deadlier than theirs, but the imagery here is breathtaking. It will take an army of men to defeat these women. An army of men in a much more privileged position than them. Imagine what an army of women could do if they all stood up to fight against the patriarchy, instead of just going along with the all the “freedom” that a well-kept slave could ask for.
Her next choice is to be Hippolyta, George’s wife.
88.649896, -78.226541, 98.659971
Reunited with her husband, Hippolyta excitedly tells him about how she has learned that the ‘Many Worlds Theory’ is true. Without knowing exactly when Lovecraft Country is set, though the mid-1950s is certain, it is possible that Hippolyta knew of the theory, though it was not officially created until 1956 by Hugh Everett III in his doctoral thesis, The Theory of the Universal Wave Function. We know that Hippolyta’s curiosity and interest in space and time would likely have led her to this knowledge. She doesn’t know if being with George right there and then is real, but in this parallel universe, George is alive. Whatever decisions were made that create a new reality, in this one George lives on and Hippolyta has the opportunity to tell him how he made her feel.
As many women experience—I know I certainly have—Hippolyta tells him that when she was a child she thought she could be whoever she wanted, but as she grew up she began to shrink. As in many marriages, one party (and in the ;50s this would predominantly have been the male counterpart), probably did fall in love with a woman because she was bright, ambitious, smart and powerful. But because it was a man’s world, all of those dreams were slowly boxed away as women become wives and mothers, losing their true identity and passions. George realises he has done this to Hippolyta—all those times he wouldn’t let her come on his travels. All those times she wanted to be something more but he decided it was too dangerous, or she was needed at home to look after the children or keep the house clean. She was there where he wanted her; safe at home waiting for his return.
I am Hippolyta. Discoverer.
48.377481, 99.549847, 36.632478
Not leaving him behind as he did her, Hippolyta takes George’s hand and the two travel to somewhere completely new. A place just like Diana had drawn in her comic strips of her mother. Hippolyta as a space explorer, along with George, on another planet, where the two of them make notes of flora and fauna they discover. They make peaceful acquaintance with alien beings and live in B-Movie heaven. It is gorgeous, fantastical and unreal. Hippolyta knows this, and despite being given the opportunity to stay here and be whoever she wanted to be, I believe she chooses her original life as mother to Dee who needs her, armed now with the knowledge of who she really is and the power to fight.
-66.997146, 69.349514, 27.647146
“I’m not real. I’m just like you. You don’t exist in this society. If you did, your people wouldn’t be seeking equal rights. You’re not real. If you were, you’d have some status among the nations of the world. So we’re both myths. I do not come to you as a reality. I come to you as the myth. Because that’s what black people are, myths.”
– Sun Ra responding to taunts by black children in a community center in Space is the Place (1974)
Hippolyta is going to need that power, for Dee’s comic strip is hard evidence against her. Has she returned home? Tic remains in the observatory, now with a book in his hand which must have been passed to him from another dimension. The book is Lovecraft Country. By George Freeman.
I love a good meta ending! If George lives on in another world, he could and would have written the story that Tic and the gang are experiencing right now, but what do the pages say?
Two things still playing on my mind: 1) How did Dell die in order for Christina to use her body? She seemed to be alive when Montrose was kept in the tower at Ardham. Did Leti’s whack across the head with a shovel kill her? 2) The mark on Tic’s back is exactly the same as his cousins. What does that mean?
For all of this and more, join me next week for more cosmic weirdness in Lovecraft Country. Thank you for reading.
All images courtesy of HBO