Lovecraft Country Episode 4: Easter Eggs And References In "A History of Violence"
The fourth episode of Lovecraft Country is an adventure serial in the vein of Indiana Jones.
Four episodes deep, and the formula behind Lovecraft Country on HBO is evident: Every episode will deal with a different type of American genre fiction. This week, it's a twist on the adventure serials from the 1930s--the paperbacks about swashbuckling explorers and treasure hunters. Those were reinvented in the 1980's by filmmakers like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, who created Indiana Jones. They were re-re-invented in the 2000s with movies like National Treasure and The Mummy, and have found new life in video games like Tomb Raider and Uncharted.
The use of Black characters in this genre adds a poignant element. These adventure stories are typically framed as a white protagonist traveling to a mysterious, foreign land, where they must deal with hostile natives or other treasure hunters in search of the same artifact. "A History of Violence" interrogates this narrative as an example of unexamined colonialism and outright theft.
Here are all the references and interesting bits we noticed in Lovecraft Country Episode 4: "A History of Violence."
You can read all of our episode reference guides below:
1. The Book
One trope of the adventure genre is that the hero typically has one incomplete clue or one artifact that will lead them to the next one, which then leads to another clue, and another clue, and ultimately the treasure itself. This is represented in the episode by the book The Bylaws & Precepts of the Order of the Ancient Dawn. In an act of subversion, Montrose burns the book to kick off the episode. Fortunately, he remembered the life-saving clue contained within it.
2. Tulsa Massacre
When Montrose burns the book, he pauses and says, "Smells like Tulsa." The HBO series Watchmen educated a lot of people about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, in which armed white civilians, with the assistance of law enforcement, destroyed the Greenwood District, better known as Black Wall Street, by killing hundreds of people and burning multiple buildings to the ground.
3. Civil Rights Hero
The photo on the wall of the library is of W.E.B. Dubois. An early U.S. civil rights activist who spoke out against lynching and Jim Crow, and advocated for black equality under the law, Dubois died one year before the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed into law.
4. Journey to the Center of the Earth
The boy who keeps shushing Tic and Leti is reading Journey to the Center of the Earth, a French science novel by Jules Verne published in 1964. It's about three men--a scientist, his nephew, and a guide--who follow lava tubes via a dormant volcano to the center of the Earth. There, they meet dinosaurs and also battle the natural elements. This foreshadows the below-ground adventures that occur in the episode's second half.
We've now seen this character in two episodes. As we discussed last week, he is most likely lynching victim Emmett Till, whose brutal murder and open casket funeral invigorated the Civil Rights movement. Bobo was Till's nickname.
Are we going to see some version of the Emmett Till lynching in a future Lovecraft Country episode? If so, that's both unprecedented and horrifying, to say the least.
6. Dr. Jones, I Presume?
The use of moonlight to locate the secret vault is an adventure trope that was re-popularized in 1981 by Raiders of the Lost Ark, in which Indiana Jones uses the Staff of Ra and a well-timed sunbeam to locate the Ark of the Covenant.
7. In Plain Sight
A common trope in the adventure genre is that the most important clues are hidden in plain sight —as innocuous artifacts or landmarks that people pass by every day. In National Treasure, for example, the code is written on the back of the Declaration of Independence, which is behind glass at the National Archives. In 2018's Black Panther, Killmonger takes a weapon, secretly made of Wakanda's vibranium, from a museum's glass case in London.
In these stories, the stealing of the artifact becomes an involved ordeal unto itself. But in Lovecraft Country, Leti simply busts the glass case open, subtlety be damned.
8. Goonies 'R' Good Enough
The exposition scenes where Montrose, Leti, and Tic are wading about in the water recall the underwater cave scenes from the 1985 film The Goonies, in which a group of boys searches for the pirate treasure of One-Eyed Willy.
The scene where our heroes cross a pit on a narrow plank of wood recalls a similar scene in the 1989 film The Last Crusade, in which Indiana Jones has to make a leap of faith over an enormous pit to retrieve the Holy Grail.
10. Jesse Owens
After jumping over a pit, Montrose compares himself to Jesse Owens. Owens was a black American track and field star who competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin and won four gold medals, including one in the Long Jump. Adolph Hitler, who wanted to showcase Aryan superiority at the Games, was angered and frustrated by the display.
The intersex Arawak individual is an example of what some indigenous people refer to as a Two-Spirit: someone who is queer or gender-nonconforming, physically or otherwise. In several non-Western cultures, non-binary gendered individuals are given ceremonial, cultural importance. The term Two-Spirit was actually not coined until the early 1990s, making its use anachronistic for this particular episode, but seeing as each individual indigionous tribe has their own definition and language dealing with the concepts of gender, Two-Spirit is often the most appropriate umbrella-term.
12. The Same Person?
One might speculate, based on this episode, that William and Christina are the same person. They're never seen in the same room together. Christina clearly knows magic. And there's an odd scene in the middle of the episode (the one where William beats up the cops following Christina), where Christina exits the frame, and William enters the frame after a 10-second delay. It would also explain why Christina is so interested in the Sons of Adam, despite being a woman. What if she can transform herself into a man?
It happens very quickly. So in case you missed it, the elevator at the bottom of the Boston museum teleports our heroes back to Leti's house in Chicago. The bodies of the people who died last week give it away. So now, in addition to monsters, ghosts, death cults, wizards, and possible time travel, we also have portals that can move people through space/time.
Disclosure: ViacomCBS is GameSpot's parent company