Lovecraft Country season 1, episode 8 recap – “Jig-A-Bobo”

October 5, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
HBO, TV Recaps
4.5

Summary

“Jig-A-Bobo” takes some huge risks and almost all of them pay off in an hour of magic and monsters framed by the murder of Emmett Till.

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4.5

Summary

“Jig-A-Bobo” takes some huge risks and almost all of them pay off in an hour of magic and monsters framed by the murder of Emmett Till.

This recap of Lovecraft Country season 1, episode 8, “Jig-A-Bobo”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.


“Jig-a-Bobo”, notably directed by Misha Green, who has written or at least co-written every episode thus far but finally gets behind the camera here, is another one of those Lovecraft Country episodes that shouldn’t work in about a hundred different ways. And yet it plays like gangbusters all the same, much like the wondrously nutty premiere which it shares a lot in common with, from the uncomfortably close proximity of real historical horror and fantastical genre excess to the late appearance of Lovecraftian shoggoths messily dismembering racist, white law enforcement. Sprinkle in some memorable body-horror and dark magic from elsewhere in the season and a strikingly creepy bit of business resembling the tethered in Jordan Peele’s Us, and you have an episode that takes some major risks – almost all of which pay off.

Earlier in the season, the blurring of the lines between human and supernatural horror was the show’s strongest element, and that’s the case here, as the murder of Emmett Till frames the episode. Everyone has to grapple with the untimely death of Bobo, but none more so than his friend Dee, who is very much the focus of “Jig-a-Bobo”. Later, she’s disgustingly cursed by Captain Lancaster while being held in place and choked: “I can’t breathe,” she gasps, which would be powerful anyway, but is much more so given the recent murder of George Floyd. There is no way this obvious evocation of recent real-life tragedy is a coincidence, especially not in an episode that situates it so close to another real-life tragedy that seems as likely today as it was 65 years ago. Black people continue to be killed for no reason beyond being Black.

The brilliance of Lovecraft Country episode 8 is that it’s able to reflect modernity in its period setting by making such great use of genre. Even if the show weren’t about incredibly important cultural issues, it’d still work as whatever flavor of horror or science-fiction it has deigned to become each week. Most of the scares in “Jig-a-Bobo” are experienced by Dee, who after becoming cursed begins to be stalked by monstrous, dancing, fourth-wall-breaking little girls who are among the scariest monsters the show has conjured thus far. Young Jada Harris, staggeringly good here, plays her fear to the hilt, but also her determination to fight back and her internal conflict over the death of her friend. Everything about this works perfectly.

The same can’t necessarily be said about the stuff involving Tic, who has decided to trade Hiram’s key for Christina’s help in casting the invulnerability spell after learning that the in-universe Lovecraft Country book will be written by he and Leti’s unborn child George Freeman and the implications it has for Leti, especially once Ji-Ah arrives to warn Tic of his impending demise, as seen – albeit unclearly – in her vision. Leti’s anger with Tic over the fact he didn’t mention having overseas sex with a nine-tailed fox monster is a bit weird in context. Yes, you’d think that’d be the kind of thing that’d get brought up given their own experiences, but this is also a show in which people have had encounters with slobbery Lovecraftian creatures and then tried to carry on more or less as normal. It reads more as Leti being jealous of Tic’s relationship with Ji-Ah, to be honest, which is understandable but also technically none of her business given when it happened. Tic is a fine character, but his relationships with other characters are consistently a bit weird and inconsistent. He and Leti can generate lust in copious quantities, but genuine romantic affection seems a much scarcer resource, and his hot-and-cold treatment of Montrose is weirder still.

Speaking of weird, Ruby goes to have sex with Christina-as-William in a lasting bit of body-horror as her fake white skin sloughs off halfway through. It’s a grisly image that serves a greater purpose – she wants to learn magic from Christina, but also can’t quite reconcile that, and the sexual adventures, with Christina’s obvious lack of empathy and understanding when it comes to Till’s murder and the plight of Black life in general. This is perhaps what leads to the riskiest sequence of “Jig-a-Bobo”, during which Christina facilitates her own murder in the same manner that Emmett Till was tortured and killed; beaten, choked with barbed wire, and drowned. Re-enacting this heinous crime of such historical importance and casting a white woman as its victim is undeniably provocative, but to what end? Christina can’t be killed, of course, so when she emerges from the water unscathed only seconds after being dumped in it, her attempts to experience something akin to Black suffering are thwarted by the privilege of her magical powers – and her white skin. Not only would such a crime never happen to Christina or anyone like her, but she can’t even begin to imagine living a life in which it could. The experience is closed-off to her.

If this entire sequence is a bit inscrutable, the same can’t be said of the one that closes the episode, which is potent catharsis and a messy if refreshingly uncomplicated bit of payback against further disregard for Black life and the law that is supposed to protect it. Here, Lancaster, upon discovering that he is magically barred from Leti’s house, tells his men to simply open fire on the building. Leti is protected inside, which she realizes, but she rushes outside where she’s vulnerable when Tic arrives, which is one of the better examples of their bond that we’ve seen thus far. But Tic is protected too. As the bullet from a police officer’s gun races towards an unarmed Black man once more, a shoggoth bursts from the ground and sets about the officers with gory relish. It’s a bloody, chaotic moment, but a great one, especially once the heroes, in a telling final shot, bring the beast to heel.

There is so much going on in “Jig-a-Bobo” that could have gone wrong in so many ways that it’s impressive it holds together at all; that it works so well is a near-miracle. I like to imagine that if I, like Misha Green, had been given a choice of one episode to serve as a directorial debut, I’d have chosen this one.


Thanks for reading our recap of Lovecraft Country season 1, episode 8, “Jig-A-Bobo”. For more recaps, reviews, and original features covering the world of entertainment, why not follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page?

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