Going into the third episode, I wasn’t entirely sure how the show would continue the narrative, which is a good thing. Following the events of “Whitey’s on the Moon”, we see the remaining characters dealing with the fallout of George Freeman’s death. The focus of this episode is death, specifically those who are left behind and those who cling to this world after the end.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the episode.
The episode picks up three weeks after George Freeman’s funeral with Leti visiting a church. The congregation is hopping, with many parishioners dancing in a fever pitch. They’ve got the Holy Ghost and are feeling joy and reverence. But not Leti, who sits with a distant, vacant expression. Leticia is still reeling from both George’s death but more so her own death and resurrection. This episode focuses primarily on Leticia, giving Jurnee Smollett a chance to shine and does she ever. Throughout the episodes I’ve watched so far, Jurnee is captivating, able to switch between the vibrant effervescence Leti possesses and the deep well of pain and sorrow that drives her to make the decisions she makes. Leti isn’t a saint by any stretch but she is a good person at her core. Like Atticus, she is a product of a dysfunctional home and those scars never fully heal.
A mysterious inheritance from her mother prompts Leti to purchase the Winthorp House in the North Side of Chicago, a primarily white section of town. Her plan is to creating a boarding house for her community, a safe place for black people to have a home outside of the confines of the South Side. Within a day of moving in, the white neighbors stand outside with bricks tied to their car horns, pickets are placed in the front lawns declaring this as a whites-only neighborhood, and the police drive by slowly as the harassment starts, letting everyone know that not only will they not do anything to stop it, they approve of the measures taken. At this point, the virulent racism on display by the white characters in this show doesn’t surprise me but it never fails to shock me, which is a credit to Misha Green as the showrunner and producer. Just when you think you’ve reached the bottom of the well, you find out there’s more to be revealed.
Hippolyta’s journey in the episode is also worth noting. She is grieving the death of George but she also knows that Leti, Atticus, and Montrose aren’t telling her the whole story. You can see the pain in her eyes as she destroys the copy of Dracula, George’s favorite story, in the morning as she’s getting ready for the day. Atticus’ attempts to help Hippolyta and Diana are coming from the right place but you can tell when Atticus looks at Hippolyta that the guilt of George’s death is weighing on him.
The most telling scenes for me are in the middle of the episode, during the housewarming party. Leti and Atticus’ brief sexual encounter in the bathroom is anything but sexy, which is exactly the point. Atticus is driven by unspoken desire for Leti (mixed with some jealousy) and Leti is just looking for something that makes her feel like she’s alive again rather than the hollowed-out shell that she is at this point. I don’t subscribe to the idea of losing one’s virginity as being an important event but my impression of the scene is that part of Leti wished that this had been a different experience to some degree.
And then we get the burning cross in the front yard of the boarding house. Driven by rage and her recent losses, Leti confronts the neighbors, smashing the windows of the parked cars and removing the bricks, with Atticus and others from the party wielding shotguns in case the neighbors try to stop Leti. Ruby, Leti’s half-sister, quickly gets her car going and opens the trunk, giving everyone a chance to get rid of their weapons before the police arrive. The implication here is that if they had retained their weapons, the cops would have shot them dead in the streets with zero repercussions. As the police approach, they kneel on the sidewalk with their hands behind their heads. We then see that Leti has filed multiple complaints regarding the harassment of her neighbors, which are conveniently not recorded. The power structure of this setting is one where an upstanding black American like Leti has to deal with both the cops and her neighbors being on the same side: against her and her people for nothing more than a difference in skin color.
As the episode reveals, the house Leti bought is haunted by the spirits of black men and women who were killed in horrendous experiments by the previous owner, Hiram Epstein. Epstein and the ghosts of his victims are tied to the house, haunting those who reside there. Epstein in particular is none too happy about a large contingent of black people moving into his home. Leti is the one who figures it out, piecing together the history of the house, with Atticus faithfully assisting without questioning Leti’s sanity. It’s a testament to the kind of person Atticus is that he takes Leti’s word at face-value.
The exorcism was quite frightening, particularly as the priestess calls on Mama Oya to draw the spirits out and remove them from the house. Mama Oya is an African goddess who stands for femininity, strength, and justice, all characteristics that Leti believes in and brings to the world. That Leti is the one to complete the exorcism, restoring the spirits of the people Epstein killed and destroying the malevolent ghost of Hiram Epstein, is a testament to how far this character has come since the first episode. Unfortunately, not everything goes well for Leti, as her relationship with Ruby disintegrates when Ruby finds out where the money to buy the house came from.
I have to say that I have so far enjoyed every episode of this show up to this point. Misha Green has compiled an impressive array of talent for this show and makes every moment spark with tension, horror, and soul. If you haven’t taken the time to watch this show, I cannot recommend it highly enough.