In the first three episodes of Lovecraft Country, we’ve been introduced to horrific creatures, the evils of humanity and bigotry, and magic spells, leading one to wonder — what else could this season possibly have in store for us. Episode four, “A History of Violence,” gives one answer to that question as we go on a quest of Indiana Jones-type proportions.
This episode does a further deep dive into the time machine introduced in the last episode, as well as giving us a bit more of a glimpse of the power of Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee) and the long-armed reach of the lodges. The episode opens with Leti (Jurnee Smollett) finding Christina on her doorstep and the learning she’s the real source of her “inheritance.” Christina lets on that she has a vested interest in the boarding house and its previous owner — leaving one questioning how powerful she really is and what her true motives are. Leti also finds out Atticus has been making moves without her knowledge that could jeopardize everyone’s safety.
As the episode continues, Leti goes to confront Atticus (Jonathan Majors) and finds out that not only was he planning on killing Christina, but he was also planning to return to Florida without telling her. After things transpired in the previous episodes between the two, you can’t help but think that Atticus is scared of the possibilities and his feelings, meaning he wants to try and keep his distance by running away. However, after doing some library sleuthing into the crucial text, Atticus decides to travel to Boston with Leti to search for the missing pages.
Leti enlists the help of Atticus’s dad, Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams), much to Tic’s chagrin. After telling the two this is a fool’s mission, she reluctantly decides to go along — and invites Uncle George’s (Courtney B. Vance) wife and daughter (Hippolyta and Diana), and an annoying neighbor, along for the ride. While billed as a normal trip to the museum in Boston, Hippolyta’s (Aunjaune Ellis) intuition tells her that something is up with the group, and feels as if they are hiding something about George’s death.
Once the group arrives at the museum, Montrose enlists the help of a security guard, and they hatch a plan to search for the missing text after hours, despite the two-hour window in which to find it. The trio embarks on the quest to find Titus Braithwhite’s (Tony Goldwyn) vault, using coded messages, ancient maps, trap doors, riddles, and the blood of Atticus, all while giving National Treasure and Indiana Jones vibes.
The group manages to escape the clutches of death by beating the rising water in the underground tunnels and a ticking clock. Along the way, Leti and Tic are surprised Montrose seems to know an awful lot about the riddles when he divulges that Uncle George passed him a book before his death. Luckily, or so it seems, the trio stumbles upon and wakes up Yahima (Monique Candelaria), who can help in the decoding of the ancient text. But she gives Atticus an ominous message when he apologizes for the evil of his ancestors by saying, “[he] is not guilty of [his] forefather’s sins because she doesn’t know [his] spirit.”
While the three are barely escaping their demise, Hippolyta and Diana stumble across a clue on Uncle George’s map that leads the two on a journey of their own. Meanwhile, back at home, Leti’s sister Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) is dealing with the disappointment about a job she didn’t get when a mysterious and alluring white man saddles up to her at the bar. While unknown to Ruby, he’s a familiar face to viewers as William (Jordan Patrick Smith), one of Christina’s associates. Ruby drowns her sorrows and talks about the challenges of being a black woman, all while the sexual tension between the two bubbles right under the surface. One thing leads to another, and we see a very steamy scene with the two. It’s very reminiscent of Interview With a Vampire, and we even get a couple more clues about William, who he is, and his underlying motives — leaving viewers wondering where her entanglement with the handsome stranger might leave her.
Just like in prior episodes, “A History of Violence” is a good mix of mystery, drama, suspense, action, sex appeal, and a little humor thrown in for good measure. Leti’s still a complex badass. There are even a few tender moments between Tic and his father — maybe there’s hope the two after all. As usual, this episode has a great use of contemporary music, which illuminates the characters’ feelings and personalities with aplomb. Although this episode is somewhat campier that previous episodes (except for maybe the first episode, “Sundown“) and the special effects are slightly cheesy, it’s still enjoyable to watch. The surprise ending leads to more questions and makes us curious to see where the paths that each of the characters is on might lead to.
Episode 5 airs on HBO and HBO Max on September 13th at 9 p.m. ET.