Spoilers ahead for Lovecraft Country’s “I Am” episode
Astronomy aficionados rejoice! This week’s Lovecraft Country episode finally catches back up with our favorite star gazer Hippolyta. She finds the location of the Ardham house and cracks the orrery‘s code. This leads to a solo adventure near Mayfield, Kentucky to find a lock for a special key. Hippolyta is looking for answers about George but she finds herself in the process. Hippolyta’s been shrinking herself for years and her newfound power and clarity make for a powerful magical story that’s relatable to many women.
The show’s debut episode introduces Hippolyta as George’s celestial loving wife and Dee’s mom. She wants to head out on the road to expand the Safe Negro Travel Guide but George says the road “no place for a woman.” She doesn’t push back on this, which isn’t surprising considering the time period. Many women often followed their husband’s requests. Yes, it was truly dangerous for anyone Black to be on the road. But it wasn’t fair for Hippolyta to contribute so much to the guide and not be able to experience anything firsthand.
We learn bits and pieces about Hippolyta in subsequent episodes like how she named a comet in a contest. She tells Dee that the credit went to a little white Swedish girl because Hippolyta is Black. Dee even asks her why she didn’t fight it and Hippolyta simply says it’s enough that she knows the real truth. Hippolyta later found the orrery in Leti’s home and became determined to make it work. She also slowly began to realize that there’s something deeper behind George’s death.
“I Am” goes three days back in the past. Hippolyta and Dee arrive at the Ardham Lodge. She discovers a piece of Dee’s comic book, confirming George was at the location. She also sees a symbol she recognizes from the orrery. Hippolyta finally fixes the orrery and obtains a key along with coordinates to a Kansas observatory. She heads there and places a key into a machine. But, before she can fully figure out how it works, two police officers (and Tic) arrive. A battle ensues, the machine starts to function, and Hippolyta goes into a portal to another dimension.
It’s here where she meets a godlike mechanical figure who presents as a Black woman. The figure tells her that she is not in prison and she can name who and where she wants to be. Hippolyta says she wants to dance onstage with iconic performer Josephine Baker in Paris and she instantly finds herself there. It seems like an offhanded request but it actually says a lot about Hippolyta’s character.
For many women (especially Black women), Josephine Baker is a prime representation of empowerment and freedom. She left a racist and segregated 1920s America to skyrocket to fame in Paris. It became a place where Baker could be freer and find more success. Assuming Hippolyta is in her 40s or 50s, she perhaps would have grown up idolizing and envying Baker’s carefree lifestyle. Josephine Baker didn’t conform to what societal expectations were of a “good” woman with her provocative performances and open bisexuality. She’s essentially the woman many would be if patriarchal standards didn’t hold them back.
Hippolyta soon finds herself enjoying a more carefree lifestyle—smoking, dancing freely, and experimenting with her sexuality. It was probably her first time getting to break from conforming to expectations of being a more docile person. Baker and Hippolyta talk about feeling like a literal star in space and finding their inner light. Hippolyta opens up about what she lost from not having freedom and the space to be her authentic self.
“Being here has only shined a light on that old dead feeling. Now that I’m tasting it… freedom like I’ve never known before… I see what I was robbed of back there [in America]. All those years I thought I had everything I ever wanted only to come here and discover that all I ever was was the exact kind of Negro woman white folks wanted me to be. I feel like they just found a smart way to lynch me without me noticing the noose… Sometimes I just… I wanna kill white folks. And it’s not just them. I hate me. Hate me for letting them make me feel small.”
Eli Joshua Ade/HBO
At this moment, Hippolyta begins to tap into her inner power and transports to another place. She becomes the leader of warriors slaying a white male army. At this point, she fully lives up to her name as a bonafide queen. Hippolyta gives her all-woman army an impassioned speech, telling them they are free to hate, be angry, and kill when they must. She boldly declares “I am Hippolyta” before setting off once again.
She goes back to the moment that viewers first saw her and George together, except it’s on another planet Earth. Hippolyta tells him about her experiences. However, the main thing he takes away from it is that she also named herself as his wife. This gives Hippolyta a further epiphany about what’s been bothering her for years. She opens up to George about her simmering anger over shrinking herself most of her life. She cites the moment that she named the comet and didn’t get credit as a catalyst for making herself smaller and smaller in the world.
“By the time I met you, I’d already gotten so small. And I thought you knew how big I wanted to be. I thought you saw me but you just stood by and let me shrink myself more for you… I tried [to tell you] so many times.”
George realizes that she’s absolutely right. He did help her minimize her goals, dreams, and need for adventure so they could have a family and she could hold down the home front while he travels. He apologizes for causing her pain and says he sees her now. Hippolyta turns to him and says she is a discoverer before they join hands and go off to an otherworldly place. Interestingly, she looks a lot like the Orithyia Blue, the space traveling protagonist from Dee’s comic book. This was probably an intentional choice by Hippolyta but maybe Dee created this character in the image of her very cool mom. Dee may see Hippolyta in a way that she never saw herself.
This conversation may not have happened with her actual George but it was such a healing moment for Hippolyta. She had been burying her feelings and true desire to live a more fulfilling life. The truth is, there are so many Hippolytas in the the world, even in today’s times. Some women put their aspirations on the back burner to place other’s needs and wants before theirs.
They have trailblazing power, but they stay in a proverbial box because it feels safe and, in some cases, is the celebrated and expected choice. They choose silence when they really want to fight, stifle their righteous anger to avoid name-calling, and live in the margins when they deserve to be center stage. And, sometimes they become mothers and wives and lose a large piece of themselves in the process. They check the boxes of what supposedly makes for a happy life but they aren’t happy at all because they don’t have balance.
Eli Joshua Ade/HBO
This is certainly Hippolyta’s story in this series until now. She didn’t get to be much outside of the silent contributor to the travel guide and the grieving widow whose concerns are repeatedly dismissed. She exists in a society that mistreats her for being both Black and a woman, but she’s expected to be a pillar of strength during a devastating loss.
Everyone around Hippolyta underestimates her ability to handle the truth about Ardham. They assume her curiosity isn’t great enough to put pieces together on her own. Sure, they know she loves the stars but they may not even be aware of the depths of her exceptional brilliance. Tic, Montrose, and Leti don’t consider that her science and math knowledge could be extremely beneficial in their ongoing investigation. Imagine how everything could have been vastly different if Hippolyta felt the confidence to never stifle her own growth.
In the end, Hippolyta wonders how she could ever go back her Earth and timeline after becoming so great. But, she decides to go back home because her daughter needs her. It’s a logical choice considering Dee can’t afford to lose both parents. However, it wasn’t easy for her considering how small and mundane she felt before this adventure.
We see Tic return to the observatory with a book called Lovecraft Country by George Freeman (gasp!) but there’s no sign of Hippolyta. Did she transport right back to Chicago? It’s highly likely since that’s how the device on her wrist worked. Sure, Woody got left behind but she’s probably under the assumption that Tic can drive it home. Will she remember her experience?
It would seem like a waste if she didn’t have the chance to expand upon the lessons she learned on this adventure. And things are going to get more complicated in the future. The final shot shows the officer whom Hippolyta shot to death on the floor with his blood all over Dee’s comic book. This will probably lead to some serious drama.
She got to be a part of a magical, multi-dimensional experience but truthfully the magic was already in Hippolyta. She just needed a catalyst and the space to tap into it.
Featured Image: Eli Joshua Ade/HBO