Martin Carr reviews the penultimate episode of Lovecraft Country…
For the best results inter-dimensional time travelling gateways combined with alien life forms is a home run. Throw in mechanised planetary McGuffins, concealed key reveals and just a dash of good old fashioned science fiction before leaving to simmer. It sounds good so far but what show runner and co-writer Misha Green has done with ‘I Am’ is go one step further. By focusing on Hippolyta Freeman and her journey from grieving widow to intimately evolved individual, Lovecraft Country offers up something evolutionary.
Aunjonue Ellis shines in an episode she almost singlehandedly dominates. There may be revelations regarding Montrose and his relationship to Atticus, while Christina Braithwhite appears briefly but Hippolyta is gifted the majority. From the title it is clear episode seven explores notions of self, ideas of identity and individual subjugation. Given the time and place it is too easy to limit that repression to matters of race or prejudice, which is why Misha Green casts the net wider.
‘I Am’ taps into the theory behind multiple dimensions and innumerable versions of one person which co-exist simultaneously. For that reason Hippolyta experiences different iterations of herself evolving through moments in time. There are hat tips to Fritz Lang, throwbacks to Sixties television science fiction as well as strong opinions voiced around emancipation both in relation to gender and identity.
J.J. Abrams comes through in the ostentatious visual flourishes, which work to complement the soundbites concerning equal rights laid beneath. This is where the influence of Jordan Peele can be so tellingly felt, as his ability to meld social commentary and mainstream entertainment come to the fore. If you were to extend the analogy into literature you could include Argentinian post-modernist Jorge Luis Borges, who discusses the notion of self in his story Borges and I. This may seem like a tenuous link but that is the hallowed ground upon which Lovecraft Country dares to tread from today.
That it explores this through Hippolyta whilst distracting with a VFX light show centred round a feminine entity, only underpins her inherent sense of empowerment. ‘I Am’ is not just about self-discovery but also about making a choice to remain in one place. Narrative tricks which surface late on allow audiences to go full circle, re-evaluate and appreciate things from a different perspective. A conscious choice to drop civil rights activist, entertainer and French Resistance fighter Josephine Baker into this heady mix only raises more questions. By comparison the problems of Leti and Atticus pale into insignificance alongside the celestial journey undertaken by Hippolyta Freeman. A time traveller, tribal leader and emancipated symbol of empowerment enlightened beyond measure.