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Major spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched Lovecraft Country's second episode.
With its series premiere, Lovecraft Country gave viewers abundant pulp-horror proof that the 1950s were not a safe place to be black. (As if real life wasn't already proof enough.) Alas, it only took one more episode for the HBO drama to (seemingly) officially kill off its first major character, as Courtney B. Vance's George Freeman died of a gunshot wound delivered by Tony Goldwyn's cultish loon Samuel Braithwhite. But as shocking as it may have been for viewers, Vance himself was not upended by that shocking plot twist.
Even though Jurnee Smollett's Leti is technically shot first in the episode – and she actually dies – Abbey Lee's Christina magically resurrected her to further coerce Jonathan Majors' Tic into taking part in her father's ritual. Sadly, George did not receive that same mystical helping hand, making the character's final 48 hours on the planet a truly weird adventure. Speaking with THR about George's death, Courtney B. Vance pointed to horror's history with people of color, saying:
Whenever there was a Black character in a [horror] film, he or she was killed off in the first five minutes of the movie, and unfortunately, most of the characters are Black in this…so somebody Black has got to die.
With some rare exceptions for films such as George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead or Wes Craven's People Under the Stairs, or movies where the main Black lead is the actual villain (as in Candyman), horror films are historically not so kind to Black characters, or any other characters of color. It's definitely one of the genre's most glaring tropes, but one that filmmakers such as Jordan Peele have been course-correcting in recent years. And it's no coincidence that Peele is one of the executive producers on Lovecraft Country.
So yes, in a TV show where nearly all the principal actors are portrayed by Black actors, it was inevitable for Lovecraft Country's first major death to come from that group. (While we can consider Christina and possibly William to be major white characters, ol' Samuel Braithwhite did not make that cut before being turned to dust.) But before George was gone forever, he introduced to viewers the notion that Tic may have been his own son, though Michael K. Williams' Montrose didn't want to hear it. Even without George around in future episodes, that potential truth is presumably going to be an albatross around some of the characters' necks.
Courtney B. Vance spoke to the importance of legacy in a story like this, and for George himself. But in the actor's mind, George's death doesn't have to just be a depressing burden on the others. In his words:
Either it can take you down or it can take you up, when loss happens with a character who looms as large as George did in all of their lives. Structurally, when deaths like these happen in books and films, they serve to propel the action forward. They've got to reconfigure the team.
How will George's death affect Tic and Leti as Lovecraft Country goes on? Will they rocket forward in facing the setting's mysterious monsters head-on? Or will they take a step back and approach the situation with the kind of determined logic that George would? Too bad they won't have a big ass mansion to mourn him from, though.