Spoiler warning: The following story contains spoilers for HBO's Lovecraft Country.
Set in the era of 1950s Jim Crow racism, Lovecraft Country's beginning follows three Black protagonists, Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors), Letitia Lewis (Jurnee Smollett), and George Freeman (Courtney B. Vance), as they embark upon a road trip to Ardham, looking for Montrose (Michael K. Williams), Atticus' father and George's brother. On their way, they come into contact with villains and monsters—both natural and supernatural.
In a Men's Health profile back in June, Majors described the antagonists of the show in unique terms—"Our monsters, our villains, are both human and otherwise." That idea is fully on display from Lovecraft Country's very first episode.
Our heroes, Atticus, Letitia, and George, are constantly harassed by racists as they pass through cities and "sundown towns". Atticus can't mind his own business and laugh in a gas station without being mocked for the banana he's eating. The trio can't eat lunch in a diner without being threatened with violence. They can't drive on the highway without being harassed by police. And when the sun goes down, an entirely different kind of villain becomes their primary concern: literal bloodthirsty monsters.
The monsters in Lovecraft Country are called Shoggoths.
It's only touched upon briefly, but about 50 minutes into the first episode, when their car is pulled off to the side of the road, Atticus and Letitia are discussing their trip when they hear a rustling from the woods. "What was that?" Letitia asks.
"It's a Shoggoth," Atticus replies, thinking he's joking around at this point. Earlier in the episode, Atticus picks up a copy of H.P. Lovecraft's book The Outsider and Others while in Uncle George's office. He then makes a direct callback to the horror writer's work: "It's a monster from one of Lovecraft's stories." When Letitia asks what they look like, he continues, "Massive bubble blob with hundreds of eyes."
"Oh, well, that's not scary at all. We can outrun a blob," Letitia says, playing along with the joke.
"Uncle George can't," Atticus says—and he's right. As shown earlier in the episode, George has two busted knees, and has trouble even walking at full speed, let alone running from a monster.
It's not much later that these words, thoughts, and jokes become a reality. Atticus, Letitia, and George are being harassed and violently threatened by the racist police just around sunset when suddenly our human heroes and our human villains have more pertinent problems: monsters. Creepy beasts with sharp teeth and a hundred eyes appear, and anyone who was paying attention will know exactly what these are: Shoggoths.
Sheriff Eustace Hunt, the racist who nearly killed Atticus, Letitia, and George, and who earlier was said to have an entire folder full of NAACP complaints against him, is bitten by one of the monsters. George's favorite book is Dracula, and the show uses this reference to have a little fun; Shoggoths are given some Vampiric qualities and Hunt transforms into yet another of the monsters.
As the transformation begins to occur, George and Atticus realize what's hapenning and encourage the patrolman to shoot the sheriff. He doesn't, and the now-transformed sheriff/monster rips the patrolman's head off.
The Shoggoths depicted in the show are also shapeshifters, just as Lovecraft wrote them. They're primarily blobs with a million eyes, but as we see during the attacks, they're able to stand on hind legs like a human, and even form what resemble heads atop their bodies—that's where those super-sharp teeth come in.
The Lovecraft Country book explains Shoggoths even further.
While Shoggoths appear throughout Lovecraft's mythos—first in the novella At the Mountains of Madness—the Lovecraft Country book even further explains their relationship to the rest of our story here. Atticus, just like in the series, is a massive fan of sci-fi literature, and at a certain point discovers the writing of Lovecraft. He's enamored with Shoggoths—protoplasmic monsters enslaved by gray, barrel-shaped alien beings with wings called the Elder Ones. The jaded Montrose tries to convince Atticus that Lovecraft's story is nothing more than a metaphor for white people enslaving Black people; a claim Atticus dismisses until he finds a Lovecraft poem that simply cannot be dismissed.
The book never explicitly finds the main characters running into Shoggoths, but given the blob shape, the color, the eyes, and the sharp teeth, it's clear that Misha Green's series has taken the jump to move things in that direction.
You Might Also Like