This review contains spoilers for Lovecraft Country episode 10, the Season 1 finale, titled “Full Circle.” To see where we left off, read our Lovecraft Country episode 9 review.
The tenth episode of Lovecraft Country, “Full Circle,” is as much a story of endings as it is of the promises born out of them. Everything Atticus and company have endured throughout this season – monsters, ghosts, curses, magical treasure hunts, and more – has led up to this moment, their climatic showdown with Christina Braithwhite. True to its name, the season finale manages to circle back to nearly every major event that has transpired throughout the series and attempts to tie the show’s many moving parts together into a cohesive whole. Unfortunately, despite its best efforts, “Full Circle” can’t quite manage to complete its own turn.
Leti and Atticus are telepathically brought to another dimension à la Black Panther’s Ancestral Plane after unbinding the Book of Names in their attempt to save Dee. Bathed in an autumnal glow of smoldering flames and writhing shadows, the scene in many ways affords even greater significance to Sonia Sanchez’s poem “Catch The Fire” after its appearance in the climax of last week’s episode. Transported to this space out of time, Atticus and Leti are greeted by his ancestor Hannah (Joaquina Kalukango) and his Great Grandmother Hattie (Regina Taylor), who explain that this ancestral place was “birthed” many lifetimes ago by Hannah’s hatred for the Braithwhite clan and her desire to protect and pass down the secrets of the Book of Names to her descendants.
The women of Lovecraft Country have proven time and again to be one of, if not the strongest element of the show’s most important moments and enduring themes, so to see Atticus surrounded, loved, and supported through the combined strength and resolve of the matriarchs of his bloodline – Hannah, Hattie, his mother, and Leti, the mother of his child – is as heartwarming a moment and as it is consequential for the series as a whole. Each of these women has carried the promise of a better future forward to this very moment, and that promise will continue to endure and survive long after Atticus and Leti have passed from this earth.
[widget path=”global/article/imagegallery” parameters=”albumSlug=lovecraft-country-season-1-photos&captions=true”]
Reawakening in the physical plane and with Dee now safe, the two waste little time in putting Hannah’s plan to stop Christina into motion. Atticus and Leti summon Titus Braithwhite from beyond the grave to extract a piece of his flesh — but not before he’s able to warn Christina that the Book of Names is now in their possession. “This isn’t generational hate,” she exasperatingly explains as she confronts the group in George’s old workshop.“Our families are not at war, this has never been personal.” And perhaps somewhere in Christina’s mind, she actually believes this. But her protests and pleas for their cooperation ring hollow, in essence, echoing the same sort of faux-rational rhetoric of “greater good” pragmatism that has been used to justify the norms of white supremacy at the expense of minorities, and particularly black people, for generations.
Christina’s true disposition is revealed when, having been slighted by Atticus’ defiance of her request for the Book of Names, painfully revokes Leti’s Mark of Cain and storms off in a huff, despite their previous agreement with one another. It’s evident that Christina, a white woman of considerable means and wealth, has seldom been denied anything in life beyond that of her own father’s love and the knowledge of magic bestowed through the Order of the Ancient Dawn, so to be denied the Book of Names — which itself represents not only the sum total of the latter but her second greatest desire apart from immortality itself, is nothing if not a grave insult to her.
Without the Mark of Cain protecting Leti’s life, both she and her child are now in mortal danger, steeling Atticus’ resolve to push forward with Hannah’s plan with even more desperate urgency. But before he can go off to meet his destiny in peace, he reaches out to Ji-ah to make amends, apologizing for his anger the last time they spoke. Atticus admits that yes, he did in fact love her, and that what they had together in Korea was real, but to accept the truth of that love would have otherwise meant to accept the inescapable truth of what she saw in her vision as well. The two of them reconcile not just as friends, but as a found family brought together through their shared bond and the ineffable circumstances of destiny. It’s a sincerely touching scene, a denouement of sorts for the series’ thematic exploration of familial trauma and the peace and solidarity found through its resolution.
This theme is further emphasized, and even complicated, by Leti and Ruby’s fateful conversation at the foot of their mother’s grave, as Leti pleads with her sister to betray Christina for the sake of their family. Ruby isn’t having anything of Leti’s pleas, admonishing her for perpetuating the very behavior she was just condemning in the same breath.
The prevailing truth of that moment is that they’re both right. Family, as a concept, is as much founded on choice as it is by blood, and an appeal to the other person’s emotions on the basis of such a relationship can be interpreted as either genuine or transactional by nature, depending on the person making the appeal. As far as Ruby’s concerned, there aren’t nearly enough reasons for her to trust, let alone side with her fairweather sister over the woman she presumably loves. There’s a long way to go between the two when it comes to mending fences and recognizing one another as family again. It’s a shame then, given what we know from this season’s conclusion, that they’ll never get the chance to do so.
As the episode’s name would suggest, “Full Circle” attempts to resolve a handful of outstanding plot threads and questions left over the course of the season’s run— to mixed results. It’s revealed that the Shoggoth that Atticus summoned the night of the police assault on Leti’s house is locked up in the darkroom of her basement, but the property damage inflicted on the home itself, including the cop cruiser that landed in her front lawn, seems to have disappeared not by any convenient whim of magic, but seemingly out of the sheer disinterest of the show’s writers.
Likewise, the Chicago branch of the Order of the Ancient Dawn, which had previously been primed as a major factor for the finale, is rendered as a virtual non-entity in the series’ climax, with Christina acting as something of a proxy for their own aspirations along with her own, despite their rivalry. It’s also not clear exactly what the denizens of Ardham, who remain in the village after the destruction of the Braithwhite lodge, have to gain from assisting Christina in her bid for immortality. Is this some sort of “Shadow over Innsmouth” type of deal, and if so, what exactly is in it for them? These glaring narrative omissions aside,“Full Circle” manages to offer a decent share of entertaining easter eggs scattered throughout the episode, including a lovely nod to Afua Richardson, an acclaimed comic illustrator credited as a production artist on the show, creating the many comics and illustrations Dee has been seen “drawing” throughout the series.
In Lovecraft Country, no-one is entirely what they seem, or at the very least are inevitably revealed to contain multitudes far more complex than they might at first appear on the surface. It turns out that Christina does love Ruby, or at the very least, nurtures some semblance of that sentiment towards her, though even this cannot save Ruby from Christina’s wrath once her intention to aid Leti is discovered. Killing Ruby, Christina siphons her blood to create a potion that allows her to masquerade as Leti’s sister so that she can reliably ensnare Atticus and his group in an ambush once they arrive in Ardham to stop her plan.
Having promised Ruby to inflict no harm on Leti, Christina restores her Mark of Cain— though not before throwing her from the top of the tower where Montrose was imprisoned in episode 2, ensuring her safety while also ensuring her inability to interfere with the sacrifice of Atticus. “Despite everything, the trip here was nice. I feel like I understand the pull of family for the first time,” Christina tells Leti before revealing herself. The sinister violin sting punctuating her statement aside, one can tell that there is some measure of truth to her words. Christina is a prime example of the sort of depth and complexity Lovecraft Country has applied to all its principal female characters. Put simply, she may be a monster, but she still has a heart.
What began in fire now ends in tears: Atticus is sacrificed at the altar of Christina’s ritual. The group’s efforts to thwart her plot appear thwarted instead, and Christina’s ascension to godhood seems all but assured. But even this seems to have been part of Hannah’s ultimate plan. A now-resurrected Leti, using Atticus’ blood as a conduit, summons the spell that Hattie taught her in Hannah’s ancestral plane and, with Ji-ah’s help, completes her own ritual by drawing Christina and Atticus’ bodies together. Hannah’s plan succeeds as Christina awakens pinned underneath a pile of rubble, her immortality revoked by Leti’s incantation. In a creative decision that’s likely going to be controversial, we learn that not only was Christina’s immortality nullified, but so was her and every other white person’s ability to command magic. Not just Christina, not just the Order; every white person’s ability to wield the forces of the Book of Names. That power now seemingly lies exclusively with those of Atticus’ bloodline, and of those close to them (i.e. black people). It’s a bold creative swing, one that doesn’t entirely land with the weight and impact that might’ve been intended through its execution, but a bold swing nonetheless. No one will ever threaten Atticus’ family and friends again, and all it cost was Atticus’ own life.
Reading a letter Atticus wrote to him before arriving in Ardham, Montrose is entrusted to help raise young George, to teach him and in doing so, become the father he always wanted to be, but couldn’t be because of his own fears and self-hatred. Atticus’ final wish in death is for Montrose to relinquish these fears, and in doing so raise George to be the sum of the very best parts of both his father and his grandfather. Dora was right: this is a beginning, not an end, and the life that Atticus’ family and loved ones forge ahead of them will forever be marked by the selflessness of his knowing sacrifice.
The season’s coda is a fitting bookend to the surreal pulp-inspired dream sequence that first opened the series, albeit a bewildering and somewhat underwhelming conclusion in and of itself. Dee and Atticus’ Shoggoth, who apparently was bound to protect Dee before the group came to Ardham, discovers Christina under the rubble of the Braithwhite estate. Revealing a metal prosthetic arm crafted by her mother to replace the one atrophied by Lancaster’s curse, Dee throttles Christina to death, enacting her long-desired revenge for the murder of her father George and the death of her cousin.
In Episode 8, Atticus mentioned that when he was transported to the future by Hiram’s machine, it was a woman with a metal arm that gave him a copy of his son George’s book before pushing him back through the portal. It turns out that woman was a future version of Dee this entire time. While this revelation is interesting, it feels a bit late to reveal in the series’ final scene. “Full Circle” ends on a note of uninhibited camp, with Tic’s Shoggoth roaring against a moonlit sky in what feels like an inadvertent mash-up between the T-Rex scene from Jurassic Park and the final shot of Tim Burton’s Batman. Entertaining though it is to watch, it’s little consolation for the uneven and unresolved storytelling of the episode’s conclusion.
[poilib element=”poll” parameters=”id=88b977ce-e3f7-4fcb-a730-f63fc28ad9f0″]
Source: IGN.com Lovecraft Country: Season Finale Review