Earlier this week, Twitter-famous actress Natalie Walker tweeted, “I watched Lovecraft Country! … Courtney b Vance is so good at acting and i dont want him ever to die. if you have read the book please do not TELL me if [his character Uncle George] dies I will not like that at all.”
Hopefully, Walker has not yet watched Sunday night’s second episode of Lovecraft Country, “Whitey’s On the Moon.” Because Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) is dead by the time credits roll on the episode. To add to the devastation of the moment, the character’s death is the kind of confusing twist that will leave you screaming in your living room, “Why did Uncle George die in the first place?!”
Thankfully, if you pay close attention to one fairly quiet scene, Lovecraft Country’s most shocking tragedy yet begins to make sense. You just have to listen to Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee).
“Whitey” throws out an overwhelming amount of plot over its 58-minute runtime. The major takeaways are as follows. Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors), Leti (Jurnee Smollett), and George find themselves in the gaudy Ardham mansion of Samuel Braithwhite (Scandal bae Tony Goldwyn), a racist Richie Rich and skilled practitioner of white supremecist, patriarchal magic. Samuel — like all the men in his family, going back generations — is a member of the Sons of Adam, a secret society determined to use the magic from The Book of Names to maintain the structures that keep their lives comfortable. The ultimate goal of the Sons is to return to the biblical Garden of Eden. Samuel believes he needs the blood of a direct descendant of Titus Braithwhite — his antebellum era cousin and the founder of the modern Sons of Adam — to make it to ancient Utopia.
This is where Tic comes in, along with the threat to Uncle George’s life.
Tic’s great-(probably-great-great-)grandfather is Titus Braithwhite. Titus was famous for being “kind” towards his slaves, as mansion weirdo William (Jordan Patrick Smith) says. “Kind” is a dark euphemism for “sexually violent.” Titus raped Tic’s great-ancestor Hanna (Joaquina Kalukango) in 1833, leaving her pregnant; roughly 100 years later, Tic was born. Titus also nearly opened the portal to Eden, but the dangerous ceremony caused a fire that consumed the first Braithwhite lodge. Samuel is convinced that Tic’s blood — the blood that he shares with Titus — will give him the best chance to open the portal and live in Eden forever.
Tic is not interested in serving as Samuel’s supernatural guinea pig and attempts to flee Ardham with Leti, George, and his dad Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams), whom the group finds escaping an abduction situation in nearby Simmonsville. Unsurprisingly, Samuel is infuriated that Tic attempted to leave Ardham before the ceremony, which is supposed to happen in a matter of hours. So, Samuel shoots Leti and George to punish Tic and manipulate him into helping the Sons.
This is where viewers likely get confused. Because, Leti wakes up alive and well soon after she dies from her gunshot wounds. Her resurrection is clearly caused by Samuel’s magic. Yet, Uncle George does not heal in the same manner. Although we see George awake in the final 20 minutes of the second episode, he is nursing his gunshot wound and obviously losing a lot of energy and blood along the way. George knows he is not coming back from this trip.
Christina explains why George isn’t healing in the scene directly before the Sons of Adam ceremony. As Tic is prepared for the event, he sees Leti wake up from her deadly slumber. “For what it’s worth, my father is a gentleman of his word,” Christina begins. “He will heal your uncle as well.” Tic understands there is a catch to this agreement: “Once I’ve willingly participated in the ceremony,” he counters.
That means Samuel revived Leti to get Tic in the room for the ceremony. Samuel kept George’s health in limbo to ensure Tic would go through with the entire process. But, like Titus Braithwhite before him, Samuel’s plan fails. Hanna’s spirit seemingly sabotages the ceremony, turning the portal to Eden into a fiery blaze. Hannah then gives Tic the strength he needs to destroy the Sons of Adam members in the room. Samuel is turned to stone — and likely permanently killed — and the volatilite magic of the spell destroys the Braithwhite lodge once again.
It is cathartic to see Tic obliterate a group of white supremecists so willing to sacrifice his life for their own power. But, this moment comes with a cost: the death of Uncle George. George’s life was Samuel’s ceremony insurance card. Because Samuel died before the end of the ceremony — and Tic did not follow Samuel’s horrifying rules in the first place — Samuel was not able to reverse George’s fatal gunshot wound. Considering the fact Samuel planned to jump into Eden at the close of the ceremony, it is likely the promise to save George’s life was always an empty one anyway. This is how Tic finds his uncle dead in the back seat of his beloved station wagon, Woody.
George’s death — revealed to the tune of Leon Bridge’s stirring classic “River” — is the most emotional moment of Lovecraft Country so far. While George may be gone, it’s unlikely he’ll disappear from the narrative. Instead, a short conversation between George and Montrose suggests the former is actually Tic’s biological father, rather than the later. It’s even possible Samuel sensed this fact, which inspired him to shoot George in order to keep Tic around.
Lovecraft Country is bound to explore this Freeman family mystery over its remaining six episodes. As we learn in “Whitey’s On the Moon,” nothing is more powerful than bloodlines.