Every week, Lovecraft Country has delighted its fans by daring to venture into new sci-fi and horror elements with subsequent episodes often more bizarre than the last. These tropes — ghosts, sloggoths, time-travel etc. — are filled with fictional horrors, but truly, the series’ largest horrors have never come from the fantastical.
Instead, its biggest scares come from the very real horrors that Black Americans faced in 1950s America. This was the decade of Emmett Till’s murder, Rosa Parks’ bus boycott, Brown v. Board of education and the start of the larger Civil Rights movement that would take place in the 1960s.
While the fears of that time have been explored heavily, “1921 Rewind” takes us even further back in history to the Tulsa Massacre, a race riot where the United States National Guard and white rioters destroyed Black Wall Street.
Of course, the episode didn’t start there. It started with our heroes, Tic (Jonathan Majors), Leti (Jurnee Smollet), Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) and Montrose (Michael K. Williams) standing over a cursed Diana (Jada Harris), who’s in terrible condition following the conclusion of last week’s episode.
They’re all angry at each other for various reasons. Ruby blames the other three for allowing Diana to get hurt, Montrose is angry at Leti for trading away her pages of the book of names for invulnerability and Tic is furious with himself for letting his family down.
After a bout of bickering, they put aside their differences and call the only person who can help them: Christina (Abbey Lee Kershaw). They’re quickly disappointed, though, because since the spell is wrapped up in Captain Lancaster’s magic, she’s unable to fix it without the book of names and blood from her closest relative.
Without the book of names, Tic intends to use Montrose’s blood. However, that plan is soon deflated with the revelation that Tic is actually George’s son. This puts a wedge between two men who had just begun to reconcile last episode, but later in the episode, they find a way to make up.
With options exhausted, then enters Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) who arrives with a burning passion to save her daughter and help her family. She brings the heroes to the observatory where she now has the abilities to open another portal due to her time travel romps and sends them back to the Tulsa Massacre, the day of the attack.
The following bits of the episode are a rough walk down memory lane for Montrose. We learn that his dad was abusive, that part of his guilt around his homosexuality is because a boy he had feelings for was killed on that day and he would live with the memory of watching him die for the rest of his life.
Their relationship is repaired because when a mob of white men attack Montrose and kill the boy who he’d had feelings for, Tic is the one who saves them. He runs in with a baseball bat and knocks the hell out of the villains, saying “Gotcha kid,” at the end, just like Jackie Robinson in his dream.
On the other side of town, Leti gets the book of names from Tic’s grandmother, Hattie (Nana Taylor). They share a prayer as Leti’s invulnerability spell kicks in, shielding her from the flames of the riots and Hattie says, “When this great-grandchild is born, he will be my faith turned to flesh,” right before she burns alive.
Leti, Montrose and Tic return to the portal but not without powery imagery of Leti walking through bomb flames and an opera score as the soundtrack. When they return, Christina is able to use Hippolyta’s blood and the book of names to undo the curse. It’s in good timing because Diana is starting to look like one of the apparitions from last episode.
Ultimately, the episode was powerful because it was about generational sacrifices and mending generational trauma. We finally got the clear picture of Montrose’s trauma and lineage while Leti is already birthed into Tic’s family, quite literally by flames, as she was made to stand where his family once burned.
“1921 Rewind” is the first episode to match the searing quality of the premiere and has viewers looking forward to the series’ finale next week.