Lovecraft’s seventh episode is titled “I Am.” Finally we get Hippolyta Freeman starring as the heroine of an episode, and her journey thru not-quite-time-travel is strange, magical and super inspiring. The final half hour was everything that many feminists viewers could ask for in a show like Lovecraft Country. Because “I Am.” is what happens when women have space to explore each facet of themselves and are allowed to embody even ugly parts of who they are.
In this seventh episode, Hippolyta visits the ruins of Ardham Lodge and discovers that George was there. Then when Hippolyta returns home to Chicago, she works out how to use an orrery and finds a hidden key. Christina shows Ruby the corpses of William and Dell, and she asks for Ruby’s help. Leti and Tic discover they’re both dreaming about Hanna, Atticus’ slave ancestor, and deduce that Hannah escaped with the Book of Names. Tic discovers that his father is gay.
What’s driven each episode of Lovecraft Country has been discovery of the secrets about the Freeman family business—its past, present, and future—and we get alot of that in this episode. In “I Am.” we see that family business driven by the show’s female characters. This was another episode featuring the ladies of Lovecraft Country seeking answers. Starting in the opening of this show, when we get the backstory that one week earlier Hippolyta had returned to Ardham to unearth the truth about George’s quick and mysterious death. Five minutes later, viewers have gorgeous Ruby telling Christina, “I wanna know everything. Right now. No more secrets, no more half-truths. Every fucking thing” (6:25).
There is only one place where Lovecraft could be framed and culturized. Only one city could create the show’s bold context, and that place is the South Side of Chicago, which is how I judged this episode. Because August 2021 marks my first year in the Chi – almost exclusively on the South Side – and it can be really rough down here. You’ve gotta be tough. Remember Michelle Obama’s side-eye during Donald’s inauguration? That there was South Side shade. The South Side is a powerful Black community where Black women are supported, seen, and encouraged / expected to boldly be themselves. …I was taking a walk, when I saw a big sticker on a building wall that read “I said what I said,” which immediately struck me as very South Side ‒ if there were a second part to that sticker, it’d easily be “Did you not hear me? (sass and hands on hips)” This seventh episode that was mainly focused on Hippolyta’s self-realization just felt so completely South Side, and honestly what we South Siders cherish about our slice of diverse Chicagoland.
In line with the South Side incubating Black women and herstory, this episode of Lovecraft Country had a number of shero cameos. There is a 20-second cameo of Bessie B. Stringfield riding a motorcycle past Hyppolyta on a highway. Stringfield is in and out, and in general “I Am.” feels like a revolving door of main characters having quick interactions, peppered with the appearance of other historical figures. Later in the episode, Hippolyta bonds with Josephine Baker.
Especially for Black American women, “Josephine Baker is a prime representation of empowerment and freedom. She left a segregated 1920s America to skyrocket to fame in Paris. It became a place where Baker could be freer and find more success. Assuming Hippolyta is in her 40s or 50s, she would’ve grown up idolizing and envying Baker’s carefree lifestyle.” In “I Am.” time spent dancing and bonding with Josephine in Paris is the beginning of Hippolyta accessing her own independence and inner power. About forty minutes into the episode, Hippolyta shares this with Josephine:
“Being here has only shined a light on that old dead feeling. Now that I’m tasting it, freedom like I’ve never known before, I see what I was robbed of back there [in America]. All those years I thought I had everything I ever wanted only to come here and discover that all I ever was was the exact kind of Negro woman white folks wanted me to be. I feel like they just found a smart way to lynch me without me noticing the noose. Sometimes I just, I wanna kill white folks. And it’s not just them. I hate me. Hate me for letting them make me feel small.”
Hippolyta is played the actress Aunjanue Ellis, who has been nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series. This actress and her gentle yet moving portrayal of Hippolyta will be my main motivation for tuning into that awards ceremony in one month on 19 September. Whether she wins or not, I think the nomination itself is acknowledgment that Ellis brought to life a character that resonated with Black feminists. Personally, in my conversations about Lovecraft, when I’ve been speaking with a Black woman in her 50s or 60s, she’s exclaimed something like “And what about the Hippolyta episode!” Because this was the episode for older women who grew up bearing the weighty chains of patriarchy in ways I cannot even imagine. (For me, being a Millennial, Josephine Baker is an “of course” ‒ not an “I wish.”) This episode in particular opened up some heart-to-hearts with older women, chats I could never have anticipated. Female bonding inspired by Aunjanue Ellis. Fingers crossed she wins her first Emmy!