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Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet watched Lovecraft Country's series premiere.
When one looks at the entirety of HBO's acclaimed programming, the horror genre is perhaps the most sorely underrepresented in the bunch. That anti-trend is slowly changing, however, and the network's latest original Lovecraft Country is another big step in the right direction, both for horror fanatics and for audiences in general. The proof is more than present in the wacky and disturbing season premiere, "Sundown," which provided viewers with more than enough batshit-crazy moments on Sunday night to keep thinking about on Monday morning.
Showrunner Misha Green and her creative team have kicked off Lovecraft Country's first season in fine form, bringing a stellar live-action cast to the adaptation of Matt Ruff's 2016 novel. By combining the otherworldly "weird fiction" of horror icon H.P. Lovecraft with the author's knowingly prejudiced opinions, Lovecraft Country delivers a pulp-driven trip back in time that feels like it could still take place today, for better or worse. Now let's run down the list of all the premiere episode's most bonkers scenes and WTF moments.
That Opening Nightmare Sequence
With a newsreel-lite aesthetic, Lovecraft Country opened on a Korean War battle scene that transitioned from black-and-white to color as an agog Jonathan Majors' Atticus "Tic" Freeman feasted his eyes on the impossible: a fiery battleground being lit up by UFOs, War of the Worlds-esque pods, a red-stained Jamie Chung, motherfucking Cthulhu and more otherworldly threats.
Then, totally expectedly (he said with heaping sarcasm), MLB legend Jackie Robinson split Cthulhu in half with a baseball bat and walked through the remains before the slimy-as-hell creature reformed itself. Granted, it was all revealed to be a nightmare Tic was having, but you just know it was a sign of...things...to come.
The Simmonsville Car Chase
After that gobsmacker of an opening, Lovecraft Country's premiere settled into its plot formation and character introductions, and had viewers waiting for the next big WTF moment. It happened during an exceedingly misguided diner visit, which quickly led to Tic, Jurnee Smollett's Leti, and Courtney B. Vance's George being chased by rifle-wielding racists, with some in a siren-blaring firetruck. Lest anyone think such bigotry would be limited to citizens' personal vehicles.
The two-car gunfight jumped from the suburbs to the highway, which is where a mysterious silver Bentley entered the picture and caused the racists' car to flip over, presumably killing them all. From the unidentified car stepped Abbey Lee's Christina (though she isn't named yet), whose eye contact with Tic revealed nothing of her motives. But something is definitely weird here, since the other car flipped over without actually hitting anything, so it's not clear what actually caused the accident. Assuming the Bentley didn't have invisible karma ramps connected to its driver-side doors, WTF happened here?
That Sundown Car Chase
Car chases aren't the most prevalent sequences in horror projects, but Lovecraft Country capitalized on the above entry with an even more stomach-churning pursuit. After the trio stopped on the side of the road in frustration, they were approached by a cop whose smile belied his hatred. He warned them that they were in a "sundown town," where non-whites would face threats and violence (and even death) if caught in city/county limits after dusk. Naturally, the sun was already starting to sink towards the horizon, putting everyone in a dangerous spot.
Though the cop let them go – and only after making Tic use a slur against himself – he aggressively followed them to the county line, even ramming into their vehicle during what will go down as one of the most terrifying car chases ever shown on TV, despite topping out at only 25 miles per hour. Thankfully, the protagonists made it out of the county with nary a second to spare, but before anyone could get too excited, Tic & Co. were hit with the gut-punch realization that more cops were blocking the road ahead.
The Monsters' Arrival
Obviously the true monsters in this episode (and entire series) are the racist supremacists spread throughout the country, but Lovecraft Country would have been remiss if it didn't bring out more literary creatures. Just when it seemed like Tic, Leti and George were going to be mercilessly killed and buried in shallow graves, the woods came alive with hungry Shoggoths (presumably), which most definitely did not sound like fucking wolves, Sheriff.
The biggest asshole cop immediately had his arm severed when one monster bit a chunk out of his shoulder, and more wonderfully gory mayhem soon followed. The light-sensitive creatures rocked multitudes of sharp teeth, and their bulky bodies were covered with constantly opening-and-closing eyes. I'm not quite sure how they could be so massive and vicious, but also nimble and agile enough to relatively quietly traverse across treetops without crashing through everything, but that's probably not the mystery I should focus on here.
That Cop's Transformation
I'll admit that while I was flummoxed by the one cop's ability to still walk around and think semi-clearly after his shoulder was turned to blended lasagna, it didn't immediately occur to me that his survival was in service of a monstrous transformation. But that's indeed what ended up happening in the cabin, as Officer White People Only soon succumbed to his wound and started morphing into one of the beasts. And because the other cop was too traumatized to shoot the snarling malformation before him, his dumbass got bitten as well.
Thankfully, Leti saved the day/night by driving the car through the cabin, which sent the cop-monster on the run. Perhaps the bigger WTF element of this scene was Leti's motivation in that moment. A. She was honking the horn a lot and drawing way more attention to herself, and B. she had no way of knowing that Tic and George would be ready and able to try and move out of harm's way before she crashed through the wall. Granted, killing them both would have been a harsh way to end the premiere, but it was still a wild character choice.
Just when it looked like Tic and Leti would have to stay up all night making sure there were enough flares to keep the monsters at bay, a loud whistle suddenly pierced the sky and caused the Shoggoths to retreat. That moment inspired more than a few questions.
The timing of that whistle was certainly key for the protagonists' safety and not the cops', but where did it come from, and who is responsible? And what's the range on that whistle? And are we meant to believe that the monsters have all been trained to react to the sound, or could it be something more evolutionary?
"We've Been Expecting You, Mr. Freeman. Welcome Home."
After surviving a night like none other in their lives, a still-bloodied Tic, Leti and George arrived at their destination in Ardham, which ended up being a massive mansion on a dirt road. There, Tic saw the same silver Bentley from the previous day, and the three were greeted at the door by Jordan Patrick Smith's William (who goes unnamed here). It is William who delivered the above line welcoming Tic "home," but WTF?
First, good on William for being the one white person not to react negatively to Tic, Leti and George, but he didn't bat an eyelash at the three of them being covered in blood. Even if he was expecting them, their distress should have alarmed him in some way. But also, who is he, and why was he expecting them? Does it have something to do with Tic's father, the subject of their cross-country trip? And how is this dude connected with the blonde woman from Simmonsville?
That was one hell of a series premiere, wasn't it? With lots and lots of other horrifying moments yet to come – both in terms of supernatural creatures and super-racist creatures – Lovecraft Country airs Sunday nights on HBO at 9:00 p.m. ET. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more coverage, and head to our Fall 2020 TV premiere schedule to see what other new and returning shows are on the way.