Episode 6 of Lovecraft Country finds us in a different time; to be precise 1949 in Daegu, South Korea. We finally meet up with Atticus's mysterious past lover; Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung), alluded to in previous episodes (2 and 5) over the phone repeatedly, warning Tic that he shouldn’t have returned home, as well as in instances where reality is constantly being questioned.
We have come full circle in understanding more of Ji-Ah’s role in the wider narrative of the series - she is Tic’s saviour. She is also used a device for viewers to understand how parents play a part in the series, both Montrose and Soon-Hee (Ji-Ah’s mother played by Cindy Chang) are seen as parents who use their children to further their own goals directly juxtosing with the characterisation of Uncle George who was a positive father figure to both his own child and Tic. Ultimately, Ji-Ah and Tic bond over their desire to love and be loved in return, they find solace in one another.
This episode also continues on the themes ever-present in former episodes; blending reality with magic and gory scenes which leave viewers squirming uncomfortably (see Ruby’s transformation). But ultimately this episode helps us to understand more of Tic as a person - a man running away from the realities of his home life, finding himself enlisting in the Korean War (1950-1953) and arguably, finding love for the first time.
The story spends its first half focusing on Ji-Ah and is documented through telling her story of her love of Judy Garland, an American actress famous for her voice and can be seen as a juxtaposing image for Ji-Ah’s own life which is no Hollywood romance. She’s a student nurse living with her widowed “Umma”, who we see at the start of the episode telling her daughter that, “The only way for this family to be whole again is for you to bring home men.” This plays into the theme of having a patriarch in order to succeed/further yourself, as seen with the Christina/William reveal in Episode 5. At first I believed that this was in reference to ‘Comfort Women’ who originated from the Japanese occupation of Korea. It saw young girls/women being forced into prostitution at the hands of the Japanese. But instead we later find out that this narrative to bring home men is driven by an ulterior motive, Ji-Ah is a being of Korean folklore, a kumiho to be precise - a nine-tailed fox spirit in who must consume the souls of 100 men if she is to return to her human form. We see her take her 99th soul in a vivid display of furry tails which exit her body and literally tear her victim apart.
Whilst this isn’t Lovecraftian in it’s imagery, it is monstrous and helps the reader to once more understand that not all monsters in this show are inherently bad. Sympathy is created for Ji-Ah in the understanding that the kumiho wasn’t born onto her but instead forced upon her by her mother who wanted to use the spirit to enact vengeance on her late husband for his abuse of her daughter.
This brings forth the constant idea that the characters in Lovecraft Country can’t help but use magic for selfish purposes, the opposite of Tic’s entire agenda throughout the series thus far. Christina, Samuel, Ruby and now Soon-Hee have all used magic to further themselves in some way or another, often to the detriment of other characters.
Ji-Ah later meets Tic, but it's not the romantic “meet cute” we might have envisioned it to be. American soldiers have discovered a communist amongst the hospital nurses and pick them off one by one till Ji-Ah’s best friend, Young-ja comes forward declaring herself a “spy” and being killed as a result. The martyrdom of characters is nothing new - Young-ja’s sacrifice allows for Ji-Ah’s narrative to play out and perhaps save Tic in a future episode.
We meet up with Tic once more, except he no longer wields power like he did in that line up. Instead he is now the vulnerable one, at the mercy of Ji-Ah who recognises him as one of the soldiers who killed her best friend. She then decides that Tic will be her 100th soul as a form of justice for her friend and begins to interact with Tic whilst he is recovering.
Romance quickly blossoms between the two, with Tic treating her to a private cinema viewing on the army base and when Ji-Ah takes him to her home to claim his soul, she can not complete the ritual instead forcing him out, and informing her mother, “I really think I feel something for him, Umma.”
But all good things must come to an end, and reality comes crashing down on the pair as Ji-Ah informs Tic that she remembers him from the lineup which killed Young-ja as well as exposing her tails to him during a round of passionate sex (in the way that only HBO know). But Ji-Ah’s tails don’t consume Tic the way they have consumed others, perhaps an indicator of the magic flowing through him instead she is given a glimpse into his soul seeing his past and his future death - which isn’t at her hands.
After Tic runs off in horror (seeing your girlfriend sprout nine tails will definitely do that to you) Ji-Ah is consoled by her mother in a way that we are yet to have seen in the episode thus far. Soon-Hee is practical, terse and uncaring when it comes to the concerns of the spirit which has possessed her daughter, but seeing her humanity - crying over a lost relationship has her offering Ji-Ah comfort. They later travel to see the shaman who gave Ji-Ah the kumiho spirit and she implores her to tell her about Tic’s fate.
It seems as though Ji-Ah may end up saving Tic in more ways than just offering escapism from his life at war.