Imagine a show that juggles tones of horror, comedy, allegories for the real world and indescribable imagery. HBO’s new show “Lovecraft Country” which premieres on Aug. 16 is a show for this modern socially aware age. The story follows a Korean war vet (Jonathan Majors) traveling across the U.S. in the 1950s in search of his missing father (Michael K. Williams). That premise doesn’t even scratch the surface of what this show is doing. In taking a basic mystery premise, a show like this is essentially doing something we don’t normally see in cable network-based television. In the five episodes given to the press by HBO, each one does something entirely different than the last.
Throughout each episode (no spoilers) they juggle different subgenres of horror. Tones and subgenres here vary all the way from a road trip, mystery, haunted house, adventure and body horror. Juggling this much is certainly not an easy feat, but when you have such a talented ensemble in front of and behind the camera, they pull it off. The show’s cast, Jonathan Majors (Da 5 Bloods), Jurnee Smollett (Birds of Prey), Courtney B. Vance (People vs. OJ), really sells some of the more cerebral material. With each performance, the more out there moments—and trust me when I say—are unlike what I’ve experienced. In each role, there’s a fine line between genuine fear and surprising comedy which should earn them all awards praise. I also want to give a huge notice to those who are behind the camera.
Creator Misha Green (writer of Underground and Spartacus) and producer Jordan Peele (Us, Get Out) have done something quite special here. If anyone knows Peele’s and Green’s style, we get an amalgamation of two very different tones. We get a show of violent horror thrills and allegories to the real world. Each episode is designed with moments that accurately convey both of these themes and ideals. While Peele only wrote the show's first episode, you can feel his stylistic choices through all five episodes. Mix it with Green’s sharp dialogue and we get some of the most compelling and addicting TV I have seen in quite some time. The combination of these things is why I have and always will consider HBO to be the benchmark of cable television.
After this first half of the season of “Lovecraft Country," I can clearly say this is one of HBO’s best shows in recent memory. That’s largely due to the talent in front of and behind the camera, with a serious understanding of the material. I’ve never read Matt Ruff’s original story but watching these five episodes have made me want to visit it. With the shifts in tone, there is a thrilling element of surprise in each episode. Every episode has great twists and turns, and an incredibly unique score that makes it one of 2020's best shows so far.