Monday, September 21, 2020

REVIEW: 'Lovecraft Country' - Ji-Ah Grapples with Her Self-Identity After Meeting Tic During the War in 'Meet Me in Daegu'

HBO's Lovecraft Country - Episode 1.06 "Meet Me in Daegu"

In the throes of the Korean War, nursing student Ji-Ah crosses paths with a wounded Atticus, who has no recollection of their violent first encounter.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of HBO's Lovecraft Country.

"Meet Me in Daegu" was written by Misha Green & Kevin Lau and directed by Helen Shaver

Jamie Chung's Ji-Ah has appeared fleetingly in the series to date. The audience recognized that she must have importance somehow because Chung is credited as a series regular. However, she has appeared in several forms. She was the red alien in the opening sequence of "Sundown." She was the soldier Tic fought against in "Whitey's on the Moon." She is also the woman on the other end of the line when he makes a call to South Korea in "Strange Case." Those are all projections of her. She is otherworldly but terrifying. Tic is in awe of her majestic presence while understanding she wants to kill him. That thesis is expanded upon here. The narrative makes its biggest adjustment to date by spending the episode in South Korea with Ji-Ah. It's awhile before Tic becomes a part of the story as well. It is all eventually connected back to the story taking place in Chicago. But it also highlights a new culture, a new exploration of identity and a new sense of monstrosity. Early on, Ji-Ah comes across as a woman coming of age in a time where her country is at war with communism. It's a conflict that invades every portion of her life. She is trying her best to bring honor to her family. However, her actions never seem to satisfy her mother. She looks at her best friend, Young-Ja, with either jealousy or desire. She is a woman made to feel different and like an outsider even at home. And then, it's revealed that Ji-Ah is actually a kumiho, a creature from Korean lore that takes over a woman's body in order to kill men who have done heinous actions. The price for such a transition is even more death. Ji-Ah's umma believed she was making the best choice to stop her husband from raping her daughter. It was a way for her to take action to protect the soul she loved the most in this world. Her daughter was taken away as a result of that too. The kumiho has spent years having to pay off the debt of collecting and killing a hundred souls. After that, this family can be reunited. It's selfish to believe that any other outcome can occur than that. That is the goal that must be achieved. As such, Ji-Ah is admonished whenever she has a different thought. She is essentially learning how to live as a woman in this world. When she looks at Young-Ja, she is essentially mimicking the mannerisms and learning how to exist. She wants to be more than the monster her umma constantly labels her as. She is made to believe as if that is all that she can be. She is a monster and that's the end of the discussion. She has to fulfill that promise in order for something potentially better to happen once more. That's the transaction. It's simple in the eyes of some. And yet, Ji-Ah is experiencing a whole life. She adores Judy Garland movies. She wants to dance and sing along to them. She is training to be a nurse. Her skills are called upon during the world. She suffers loss. Young-Ja is taken away from her. It's an act of protection for her friend. That's the introduction of Tic into this story. He walks up as a representative of the American government willing to kill whomever in order to root out a communist spy. Young-Ja uplifts Ji-Ah's sense of identity and self-love. And then, she is taken away and probably killed because the world at large doesn't wish to support those outside ideals. It's a cruel and alienating place.

Ji-Ah feels those same impulses. When she sees Tic land in the hospital, she wants to kill him. She wants to finally give her umma all that she has ever wanted. She will take her hundredth life. She changes her mind because she comes to understand and know Tic. She sees him as the book lover with a sensitive soul. He is so much more than the heinous action he committed on that fateful day as a solider. He signed up for this war. That was his active decision. He regrets it. He fears what he has become. However, he is still given the opportunity to be more. He is allowed to find love and connection. He forms that bond with Ji-Ah. She trusts in the development of true feelings as well. She believes she can resist the urge to kill him. She does so successfully as well. Their connection thrives because they recognize that their monstrous deeds are only parts of their identities. Sure, those actions can't be ignored or understated. Ji-Ah's life may always be destined to be consumed by death. That is the path she must accept as a kumiho. Meanwhile, Tic's journey may be destined to end with him dying. It wasn't from sleeping with Ji-Ah and falling prey to her tails though. That's a gruesome image. Instead, it may be from some contraption he's strapped to in the future. Ji-Ah is worried about him. That showcases how she cares. Those emotions and feelings have developed. Her umma can see that and even sympathize with it. They return to the shaman seeking answers and clarity. They only get a warning about the future. More death will fall upon these characters. That may send Ji-Ah on her own journey to Chicago and back into Tic's life. He wasn't willing to hear her warning about his future because he felt that he would die if he stayed with her for one more second. And now, the world has only gotten more insane and crazy. Tic noted that things ended weirdly with Ji-Ah. He may be in a place to better understand her path in life and what has contributed to her sense of monstrosity. But it may always fundamentally connect back to the idea that people are made to feel like they don't belong. As such, they have to wrap their minds around how to survive and thrive in a place where they can never truly experience all that they rightfully deserve. That's deep while still providing the show with gory visuals that can unexpectedly go in so many different directions in each episode. The change-up in tone and perspective each week can expand the world and the concerns for these characters. This is the farthest reach too date. It issues a dire warning. That proclamation may not come to pass. The audience knew Ji-Ah would never succeed in killing Tic. However, that foreboding sense of death still radiates off the action. It offers the sense that Tic's agency may be nothing in comparison to what the universe demands of him.