In the closing scene of the episode, Montrose Freeman (The Wire’s Michael Kenneth Williams), father to hero Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors), slits the throat of a two-spirit indigenous person who is trapped in time by racist magic. It’s the greatest betrayal yet of Lovecraft Country. However, if you pay close attention to Montrose’s behavior over the course of this installment, you can see a clear path towards his ultimate murderous treachery.
So much happens over “Violence” that you would be forgiven for immediately forgetting its cold open. Let me remind you: The episode begins with Montrose drinking, sobbing, and reading The Bylaws & Precepts of the Order of the Ancient Dawn. This is the book Montrose’s brother George (Courtney B. Vance) stole from the Braithwhite mansion before it went up in flames during second episode “Whitey’s on the Moon.” Before his death, George urged Montrose to take Order of the Ancient Dawn — which obviously holds the rules of the Braithwhite’s Sons of Adam cult — to protect Tic.
The book is harming Montrose more than it is helping him. “Adam named,” Montrose begins reading from the book (thus explaining Samuel’s previous odd obsession with Adam naming the biblical animals). “Eve fucked. God brought forth Monsters. Monster devoured. God smites Eve.” As Montrose takes in these chilling words, he listens to Cold War propaganda over his radio. “The only way for us to defeat the Reds is to destroy their stockpile,” he hears.
Montrose burns the book. We are meant to assume that Montrose believes eradicating the “stockpile” of the Sons of Adam or the Order of the Ancient Dawn is the key to saving his son.
Montrose’s problem in “History of Violence” is that Tic is becoming more fixated on the dangerous magic of his ancestor Titus Braithwhite (Michael Rose) as the series continues. Now, Tic wants to obtain a few spells of his own to protect himself from Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee) and her machinations. After a tense conversation with Christina in the prior episode “Holy Ghost,” Tic knows there are two remaining deciphered pages from the Book of Names. That book — as opposed to Montrose’s burned Bylaws — is the key to mastering the magic of the Sons of Adam. One set of pages is connected to Hiram Epstein (Miles Doleac), the original owner of Leti’s home and a rogue Sons of Adam follower. Christina suggests Hiram’s hidden pages are connected to his orrery — or solar system model — which was secreted away in his home. What Leti Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) and TIc don’t know is that George’s wife, Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis), has the orrery.
This issue leads our protagonists to the other set of pages still in existence: the ones hidden by Titus Braithwhite in a secret vault. Montrose eventually tells his son that the vault is likely in the Boston museum that was under Titus’ patronage in the 1800s. Montrose is correct. This is terrible news for Montrose, since he begs Tic to let go of his quest — not lose himself even further to Christina’s game.
Still, the entire Freeman clan ends up at Titus’ Boston museum. Only Montrose, Leti, and Tic know they are there to break into Titus’ vault, wherever it is, despite Montrose’s objections. As the group walks around the museum, Tic sees a large map in the Titus Braithwhite Wing that details Titus’ “voyages” around the world from 1807 to 1818. He notably only traveled to Africa, the Caribbean, and South America, which were all bloody hotspots for the slave trade. Using their pooled knowledge, the group figures out that Titus founded the Sons of Adam in 1813, three years after he returned to Boston from the Caribbean. Somehow, that trip inspired him to create a cultish secret society obsessed with biblical magic. Montrose is horrified.
As the group explores the tunnel to the vault, Montrose spells out his outlook on the terrible situation in front of his family. “My brother told me to protect our family. That was his dying wish. And I did it the night I burnt that damn book, closing Pandora’s Box once and for good,” he says.
Only this Pandora’s Box is so much bigger than Montrose realizes. When the trio finds Titus’ “vault” it is actually a petrified version of his ship. The vessel is filled with the corpses of indigeous people, whom we are supposed to assume Titus held captive. One of the corpses — a two-spirit indigeous person named Yahima (Monique Candelaria) — explains how everyone ended up imprisoned for over a century. Yahima came from what sounds like a Caribbean island. Titus arrived on her island looking for someone who could read his book (which is definitely the Book of Names). Yahima recognized the book’s symbols from drawings in a nearby cave and started to help Titus decipher the book. Once Yahima realized the depths of Titus’ evil, they stopped. Titus responded by trapping Yahima in the vault/ship with the dead bodies of their people.
This is the gruesome origin story of Titus and his ability to create the Sons of Adam. By the end of the episode, Tic is in a very similar position. After escaping Titus’ vault, Tic possesses the lost pages and Yahima, who can decipher them. Montrose is, once again, petrified about what this development could mean for his son. He kills Yahima to keep Tic from ever translating the pages.
At the beginning of the episode, Montrose detailed the horror of being “The Reds” during the Cold War: “Outnumbered, outgunned, fumbling to catch up.” Now he is just as bloodthirsty as the monsters in his mind.