This episode opens with George and Leti having a good ol’ time enjoying the hospitality of rich white folks. George has a ton of books in his room, and Leti has lots of fine clothes. But the whole scene is set to the open theme song to The Jeffersons, a good way to give a light touch after the twin horrors of racism and monsters.
But then we see Tic is sitting in his room, worried, and the music cuts out. He can’t enjoy this scene the way his uncle and friend can. So, let’s talk character development.
I know when I write these, they tend to be heavy on plot summary. But there’s a lot of plot to cover in this episode, so I’m going to instead focus on how the episode works to develop the African American characters at the center of the story. Yes, we get a bit of Christina Braithwhite, her blatantly racist father, and his cult of followers, but I think what this episode does instead is give us a good look at the protagonists.
For starters, Christina cast a spell (yes, a spell) so that Leti and George don’t remember the monsters, forgetting everything that happened seconds after the creatures disappear into the woods after both the first episode’s confrontation and one in this episode. Tic insists the spell be lifted, and he is in a position where he can make demands because old Samuel Braithwhite needs Tic because Tic’s blood might be the key to immortality. Or something. It’s implied Samuel’s ancestor raped a slave woman who escaped, but never stated directly unless I missed a line somewhere.
So, what we get instead is George, Leti, and Tic doing some investigation and exploration to find Montrose Freeman, Tic’s father and George’s brother. They get a good idea where he is, suspected in part by the racist woman in the village with the two dogs who appears to be the local equirvalent of the sheriff, and they later turn out to be right. Christina also magically traps each of the three in their respective rooms, and each sees something that appears to be haunting them. And that’s where we get to see what we need to of each of them.
Tic gets the most attention. He’s loyal to his friends, self-sacrificing, and as a Korean war veteran, he can fight when he has to but generally doesn’t want to. His vision is a Korean woman that attacks him and he reluctantly kills in self-defense. He says something about doing it again. He has a better relationship with his uncle than his father.
George is the smart one. He figures out where Montrose is (Tic agrees), is proven right, and his vision is a woman, presumably his late wife, for a final dance. Also, he and Montrose have a secret they’ve kept from Tic for…some reason.
Leti just kicks ass. She follows Tic and George in secret and is able to clobber the sheriff when she threatens the two men. Her vision is Tic, getting amorous until the giant snake comes out of his pants.
And yes, we get a bit of ornery ol’ Montrose. We know he’s gonna be a strong character because HBO has Michael K Williams on speeddial, and after The Wire, The Night Of, and Boardwalk Empire, I know the character is going to be compelling and awesome. For starters, it looks like he’d almost rescued himself by then. For another, he really isn’t happy to see the others, especially Tic. And then there’s the part about the secret he and George are hiding.
Mental note: finish Boardwalk Empire some day.
Well, that’s good stuff. Of course, the original novel was more a group of interlocking short stories, so how does this all go down?
OK, the group tries to escape but can’t. Leti is shot and dies, but Samuel reverse death to revive her if Tic helps with the ceremony. Tic agrees, in part because other George will also die of a gunshot wound. But then something goes wrong at the ritual. Tic sees what look like a slave woman, not the promised Garden of Eden, and then the whole building starts to collapse. And it’s a big house in the middle of nowhere. All the men in robes turn to stone and dust, Tic runs away, and then he, Leti, Monstrose, and the wounded George make a run for it.
Sadly, George doesn’t make it.
So, that’s the first story, and it’s off to a good and mysterious starts. There are probably still some nasty magic cultists out there, and there’s still lots of racist cops. And, quite frankly, racism is and should be scarier.