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  • Writer's pictureNoah Yard

A Tale of 9 Tails: Lovecraft Country 1x06 Review

As this is the first time on this site that I’ll be reviewing my new obsession ‘Lovecraft Country,’ I might have to do a quick summary of the shows premise and central characters before I jump into this week's review of episode six. Originally it started as a dark fantasy and horror book published in 2016 by Matt Ruff but was recently adapted into a show for HBO. It follows Atticus ‘Tic’ Freeman, an African American man living in 1950’s Chicago, and the search for his missing father, who left him a cryptic note with clues to his whereabouts. This leads he and his partner Letitia ‘Leti’ Lewis down a dark and horrible path. It combines the horror stories of legendary author H.P Lovecraft with themes of overt and violent racism faced by African Americans at the time.

In the past few weeks we’ve uncovered the horrors of Jim Crow, sundown laws, and violent segregation. We’ve also had monstrous pig beasts with 100 eyes, a mansion full of sorcerers, ghosts, and body swapping. The two halves of the show combine almost seamlessly and create this amazing hybrid that has captivated me every week. Now if all that interests you and you don’t want spoilers, go ahead and watch, catch up, and then come back to watch this week’s review!

This weeks Lovecraft country took a trip back in time, to Tic’s time in Korea as a soldier for the US army in 1950. Here he meets Ji-Ah, the mysterious woman who he hallucinated in the sorcerers mansion, and who prophesised his death over the phone a couple of weeks back. The episode, while thematically daunting and beautiful, is also probably the most aesthetically pleasing of the season as well.

Turns out, her origin story as a Korean nurse tending to US soldiers during the war is hauntingly beautiful and horrifying. It does slightly lean into, however, the POC as inhuman trope which is kind of eh but in a show about monsters and racism, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened sooner.

By day she is a timid nurse who adores Hollywood movies, especially those starring Judy Garland. She fantasizes about singing along in the isles. By night however she is revealed to be cursed, a kumiho, or nine-tailed Korean fox spirit, brought into the world to avenge the wrongs done by men.

To break the curse and reclaim her soul, Ji-Ah must consume the souls and memories of 100 men, that is the price agreed to by her mother. You see Ji-Ah’s stepfather did something horrible to her when she was a child, so her mother called upon a shaman to avenge her daughter, which ends up costing her daughter’s soul.

Or does it? It is revealed throughout the episode that Ji-Ah takes no joy from her task and that she does have feelings of joy and sadness and love despite what her mother tells her. It brings up the questions of predestined fate, of taking control of one’s own narrative and not letting others tell you who you are. This is actually a debate played out by Tic and Ji-Ah as they talk about a book Tic Is trying to read while he’s in hospital.

Their relationship is tragic, and sort of, for me at least, cheapens the bond that Tic has built with Letitia, after he told her he’d never felt the way he feels about Leti with anyone else. NOT TRUE.

Tic and Ji-Ah's love story is possibly even more tragic and dramatic than the events that brought he and Leti together. Short version, Ji-Ah was a nurse at the hospital he ended up at AFTER he blindly shot her best friend coldly for being a communist. She intends to make him the last victim of her curse, but in time that history falls away and they bond and make love. It’s also sad because it shows Tic in his soldier context for the first time, and the horrors he himself committed.

He and his troop mate of Asian descent talk about fighting on the side of a country that doesn’t want them, hates them, kills them. It’s a debate that continues today, that in America and a lot of other western countries POC and black people in particular are seen for what they can do, not for who they are- for sport, for war, for service- Lovecraft Country really does make you think about these things in a very real way and I really love that about it.

It also has a habit of having these important conversations, based in real, lasting trauma and then whooping you with its second hand, brutal horror.

The kumiho rips through men with its nine tails when Ji-Ah has sex in a very graphic, tentacly way ending in a Tarentino blood splatter as her victims are completely annihilated. Her mother scrubs the blood off the floor like she spilled some of her kimchi on the floor and counts down the bodies until the kumiho has taken 100 souls like a kid waiting for Christmas. It’s jarring but there is also beauty in the shots throughout the episode.

Ji-Ah, dancing and swaying in front of the movie screen, then her face, covered in blood. There’s Tic and Ji-Ah standing close and kissing for the first time, then there’s the shot of him floating above her as she tries not to take his soul. There’s the BEAUTIFUL shots of Ji-Ah and her mother confronting the shaman in the snow, watching a red fox off in the distance, then Ji-Ah being told she has seen Tics death, and she would see thousands more.

The beauty of this show is in the literal aesthetics and the amazing characterisation, and then the horrors of what those characters, and monsters, can do. This episode was a really good blend of those two halves

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