Lovecraft Country (Sky Atlantic) has been one of the most imaginative and insane TV dramas of this year. Perhaps of any year. Its blood-spattered, twist-packed finale didn’t stint on the strangeness either and delivered a viscerally powerful, narratively satisfying resolution.
Over the series, we’ve had Lovecraftian monsters, Native American spirits, Amazonian African warriors, mythical Chinese creatures, time travel, reanimated corpses, Frankenstein-esque DIY surgery, and magic potions that enable people to switch gender or skin colour.
As our hero, war veteran Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors), handily reminded us: “Look what we’ve been through. Monsters, ghosts, curses and a magical treasure hunt. The past and the future. We can’t stop fighting now.”
The soundtrack has incorporated poetry from Sonia Sanchez and speeches by James Baldwin. Fictionalised versions of Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington and Josephine Baker popped up. There was an episode set entirely in South Korea, a vivid recreation of the 1921 Tulsa massacre, a real-life Mississippi lynching and an exploration of Chicago’s South Side.
If all this makes it seem preachy or worthy, it wasn't. Based on the cult novel by Matt Ruff, it’s been an exuberant carousel of a series, packed with pulpy thrills, song, dance and steamy sex.
Tic took quite the road trip across segregated 1950s America. At first, he was searching a creepy corner of Massachusetts for his missing father, Montrose (Michael K Williams). In doing so, he stumbled across his secret bloodline and connection to a Klan-style society of sorcerers known as The Sons of Adam. “It seems the KKK aren’t just calling themselves ‘Grand Wizards’ any more,” said Tic.
Steered with flair by showrunner Misha Green, each episode felt like its own mini-movie, combining 21st-century production values with period detail and brooding atmospherics. The central premise - melding supernatural horror with black history, meaning our heroes were battling both Jim Crow-era racism and baroque beasts ripped from the pages of an HP Lovecraft paperback - was admirably ambitious.
It has simultaneously explored the cult sci-fi writer’s fictional world and subverted his white supremacist views, while staying wittily self-aware. In the year of the Black Lives Matter protests, its resonance rang out loud and clear.
The climactic episode, titled “Full Circle”, saw Tic and his Scooby Gang of pals preparing for a last showdown with power-crazed occultist Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee). She was planning to sacrifice Tic at the autumnal equinox to become immortal. A bad moon was rising. The white witching hour was almost upon us.
Tic had a plan, though, which was to exploit his lineage, hijack Christina’s spell and turn it against her. “The answer is in your blood,” he was advised by the spirits of his slave ancestors. In saving the world, however, the freshly baptised Tic sacrificed himself after all. As he was strapped to a steampunk machine, bleeding from slashed wrists, the Biblical imagery was unmistakable. Lovecraft Country has been partial to a spot of resurrection but not this time. The black saviour died “to protect our family, to protect us all”. White folk were stripped of their unnatural powers. “Magic is ours now,” Tic’s kickass girlfriend, Leti (Jurnee Smollett), told a dying Christina.
Leti and Tic’s unborn son will go on to write the book Lovecraft Country and, ultimately, this was an ode to single motherhood, found family and the healing power of love. Yet there was still time for one last comic book flourish involving a robot arm and a monster howling at the moon.
It has been one helluva performance from Majors, who combined statuesque physicality with an affectingly expressive face. He added heft to what could have tipped into cartoonish fantasy. Tic’s farewell embraces with his dead mother, redeemed father and true love Leti were heartbreakingly tender. Among a strong supporting cast, Smollett and Williams were also superb.
Way back in episode one, bookish Tic explained his love of genre fiction to a fellow passenger in the “coloured section” of a bus. “Stories are like people,” he said. “Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You just try and cherish them, overlook their flaws.”
It was an apt way to consider this haunting finale. It was rushed and clumsy in places but still exuberantly enjoyable. Packed with ideas and poignant moments, it felt timely and urgent, righteously furious at real-world racial turmoil - but with a hefty dose of thrills, chills and gory schlock-horror.
There’s no word on whether a second series has been commissioned. If we were to leave Lovecraft Country there, it would be a fitting final destination. Not always brilliant but bold and bonkers until the end.