Science fiction, fantasy, and horror have often been utilized as vehicles to explore social issues. One of the first interracial kiss on television, for example, happened on the original Star Trek, a show that, just a few weeks later, would air an episode about a race war on a planetary scale. It’s a tradition that’s continued, and in grand style, in the epic TV show Lovecraft Country. And while the Blu-ray and DVD editions of Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season are missing some key extras, these discs are still the best way to watch this thrilling and thought-provoking show.
Oh, but first, I’ve been asked to include the following:
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-rayTM I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.
In Lovecraft Country,
a Korean War veteran named Atticus Freeman [Da 5 Bloods‘ Jonathan Majors] returns home to find that his father [The Wire‘s Michael K. Williams] has gone missing. Joined by his uncle George [Courtney B. Vance from Law & Order: Criminal Intent] and his friend Leti [Jurnee Smollett from Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn)], Atticus traces his dad’s path to Ardham, Massachusetts, only to have the horrors of racism they experience as black people in 1950s America compounded by the cosmic horrors of Lovecraftian monsters. As the show progresses, Atticus, Leti, and their friends and family learn that some white people are magic, but also racist, which is why, up to now, only white people could be magic. And this ain’t the worst of it.
Inspired by Matt Ruff’s novel of the same name, Lovecraft Country presents a series of interconnected stories that ultimately culminate in the last couple of episodes, not unlike what Marvel did with their movies. It also runs the gamut of sci-fi and fantasy; from alternate dimensions and time travel to occultism and Japanese folklore. And it does the same with America’s racist past (and, sadly, present and future). In the first episode, for instance, the show explores sundown towns, which were racist, white-only towns where black people had to vacate by sundown or face incarceration and / or violence.
Of course, in the hands of lesser creatives, Lovecraft Country would’ve collapsed under its own weight. Thankfully, the show’s construction is handled deftly — though without kid gloves lessening the impact — by creator, executive producer, and showrunner Misha Green. Which is why this mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and real-world social issues is on par with what the somewhat similar Watchmen did last year.
Lovecraft Country also benefits…
from having a first-rate cast. Journee Smollett is delightful and believable as Leti; Jonathan Major has a deep emotional well from which to draw from; Aunjanua Ellis [Quantico] is fearless and steals focus without even trying; while Abbey Lee Kershaw [Mad Max: Fury Road] is as arresting in her cold delivery as she is in her icy stares.
As for watching Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season on either Blu-ray or DVD, well, not only is the picture crisp and clean, but the episodes look better on the former format than they do on HBO Max. Plus, it’s easier to rewind when something whizzes past the camera and you’re like, “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!?!”
While the episodes are the main reason to buy the Blu-ray or DVD of Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season, both editions do come with some fun extras. For starters, in “Orithyia Blue And The Imagination Of Diana Freeman,” members of the cast and crew — including comic book artist Afua Richardson, who draws the comic books in the show — spend nearly a dozen minutes discussing how the show fully embraces multiple aspects of science fiction and fantasy, as well as how the characters (and real black people) embrace these genres.
Next, Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season has “Lovecraft Country: Compendium Of Horrors,” which talks about Matt Ruff’s novel, its connection to H.P. Lovecraft, the origins of the horrible creatures in the show, and how the creatures were presented in the show.
Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season then spends nearly half-an-hour exploring how the show came together in “Crafting Lovecraft County,” including how they changed things from Matt Ruff’s original novel (much to his delight).
This is followed on Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season…
by “Exploring Lovecraft Country,” eight very short featurettes on the main actors and their characters.
Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season then wraps up, extras-wise, with “Lovecraft Country The Craft,” four short featurettes on four of the interesting people who helped make the show: storyboard artist Eric Yamamoto, effects artists Carey Jones, prop person J.P. Jones, and the aforementioned Richardson.
As is often the case with making-of featurettes, the ones in Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season do a good job of mixing cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage to present the show, but not in a film school kind of way. It also smartly puts all of these extras on the last disc, where such spoiler-y stuff belongs.
But as entertaining and informative as those featurettes may be, the Blu-ray or DVD versions of Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season still feel a bit thin. Though extras are just that, extras, there are some noticeable absences in this seasonal set. There’s no episode commentaries by the cast and creators, no deleted scenes (though, admittedly, there may not be any), and (most egregiously) nothing on the costumes, which were often stunning and really helped set the mood (and I say this as someone who’s currently wearing sweatpants and a Star Wars t-shirt; no matter when you read this, that’s what I’m wearing: sweatpants and a Star Wars t-shirt).
Despite coming up short on the extras, though,
the Blu-ray and DVD versions of Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season are still the best way to watch this series. And what a series it is: exciting, eye opening, and engaging. Or, to put it another way, yet another example of science fiction, fantasy, and horror turning its eye on the real world.