Lovecraft Country Review: S1E7 'I Am'
For Besse Springfield, Josephine Butler, and the Mino warriors of Dahomey. For discoverers.
In this weekly dose of history and adventure, episode 7 of Lovecraft Country is about Black girls taking up space ‒ literally. As we marvel at Hippolyta living out her galactical fantasies, writers Misha Green and Shannon Houston communicate a realistic message; when a Black woman takes up space, she is free without apology.
The introduction of the orrey foreshadows that there is a budding curiosity to Hippolyta that lies beneath the surface of a motherly, obedient wife. In the opening scenes, we see Hippolyta with disheveled hair as she is immersed in a mountain of pages of equations. Looking every bit the part of a mad genius, she steps into these shoes and puts her astronomy skills to use to decipher the orrey. In it, she finds a key accompanied by leading coordinates which unlock the door to where her adventure will take her next.
Taking a short detour, Leti and Tic continue their search for the Book of Names and visit Montrose. Upon arrival, Tic confirms his suspicions that his father is gay and we learn that his bitterness is partly fueled by Montrose’s attempt at beating the softness out of him as a child. Whilst Tic deserves empathy, calling Montrose a “f*ggot” doesn’t make him any less homophobic. Instead, this is a necessary depiction of how fragile masculinity on both sides has complicated their relationship.
On the road, Hippolyta she meets the original #CarefreeBlackGirl Besse Springfield wielding a monster of a bike. The most appropriate ode, Besse was the first Black woman in Jim Crow America to ride across all 48 states. Hereafter, she arrives at the observatory and sets eyes on her prize, a giant telescope. Before she can make a playground out of the machine, police arrive at the scene and Tic follows suit. After an intermediate fight sequence, the machine rips tears in the universe. The portals to the other worlds have been opened and Tic and Hippolyta are mercilessly sucked in.
Hippolyta awakens in a bizarre wasteland and notices surgically implanted chips on her wrist. An 8-foot woman known as Beyond’ Cest (get it?) welcomes her into the unknown and asks her in a matter-of-fact manner who she wants to be. After much trial and error at escaping the room, Hippolyta discovers that perspective is invaluable. She could choose to be a prisoner of her reservations or embrace this a place of endless possibility.
Her encounter with Josephine Baker is Hippolyta’s foremost opportunity to unburden the weight of a white supremacist world off her wearied shoulders. When she lands on stage, feet first, her timidness is symbolic of her discomfort in her own skin. She would rather marvel at Baker’s dancing from the sidelines than share center stage with her. In conversation with Josephine, the two’s similarities are unearthed. They unpack white supremacy’s ability to rob us of our imagination and that confronting this reality can spiral the most creative of us into depression.
Next, Hippolyta is teleported to Dahomey, which we now know as present day Benin and trains with the King’s guardsmen known as the “the Mino”. She is defeated by the lead warrior in successive battles and picks herself up again each time, perfecting her technique. When she finally wins, she leads her fellow fighters into an epic battle scene against French soldiers. Hippolyta embraces her inner warrior by learning that being emotional, a typical “feminine” trait, isn’t a bad thing. Only when we surrender to this madness can we relinquish the monopoly our emotions hold over us and ride them.
Hippolyta’s quest hits close to home as she proclaims herself as George’s wife and finds herself lying in bed with him. Previously, when George travelled to find destinations for the guide, Hippolyta would lend a listening ear and be the beneficiary of his stories. In a curious inversion of events, it is now Hippolyta’s turn to share her revelations with him. She challenges George’s complicity in making her feel small. That though he fell in love with the vastness and sheer brilliance of her mind, he shrunk her into the confines of their marriage because he preferred her when she was waiting at home. With George’s apology the resentment Hippolyta held fade’s into the abyss and the two embark onto the imaginary world of Diana’s comic book character Orinthia Blue.
In her final form, Hippolyta the Discoverer explores Mars’ craters and roams with green minion-like creatures. With her lover as her trusty sidekick, we see her experience joy at an unprecedented scale. Beyond C’est presents her with an option to stay in the realm forever or return to earth. Whilst the chance to stay boo’d up in Mars is otherworldly, she reveals that she is content and must go back because Diana needs her. Her transformation is complete. Her identity is just that of a mother. But a woman with hopes and dreams too.
Tying this episode to the wider framework of the series, Sean T. Collins, notes that this episode has strayed from the series’ overarching horror theme. It is understandable why white male audiences may have missed this element of Hippolyta’s episode. As an ambitious Black woman who is at the periphery of adulting, I can confirm why monsters don’t scare me. The terror is in the monotony of life. And that’s pretty fucking scary.