Strange Case was Lovecraft Country’s biggest mind screw episode yet with its own creative spin on the monster genre within a la Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
It was also about emerging from cocoons to a metamorphosis some of the episode’s principal characters realized they so desperately needed.
Ruby wakes up in an unfamiliar body to her, but one that’s very familiar from earlier as she’s in Dell’s body. More specifically Ruby is wearing Dell’s skin. It’s a jarring and unsettling experience made even weirder as she returns to Southside and gets a taste of the other side of life as cops assume a young black boy was harassing her.
William already reached out to the cops to bring Ruby back so he could reveal his backstory as an apprentice of sorts of Hiram Epstein. That explains a lot. By now Ruby’s body has reverted to normal, but the taste of the privileged life is seductive and she uses William’s potion to enjoy a day with the only currency she needs: her whiteness.
Ruby knows nothing in life is free and wants to know William’s angle. He’s got a female friend that will need a favor at some point. For now, Ruby is free to do whatever she likes.
Interestingly that involves using her white alter ego to get a job at the department store she’s been fixated on since the first episode. Adopting the name of Hillary Davenport, Ruby is over qualified and the eager manger makes her an assistant manager complete with a sexual harassment orientation. William didn’t warn Ruby when the potion wears off and Ruby has a near mess in the manager’s office.
These transformations are painful and bloody with Hillary’s skin literally falling off. It’s a disturbing visual, but coming out of the cocoon isn’t exactly the most aesthetically pleasing event. Also of note, we’re never shown Ruby putting on the Hillary skin so the pain only comes for Ruby when she’s removing something that’s not her own. Ruby enjoys this new life as Hillary even scolding the black employee Tamara for her lack of qualifications and drive.
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It’s fun for Ruby being accepted and having fun with her white co-workers instead of being ostracized like Tamara until they start talking about taking a safari on the Southside. William does have that favor ready from Christina: Ruby has to plant something in the police captain’s desk while he sucks up and plays presidential-type for the lodge members.
Ruby avoids being detected by sneaking into his closet an interesting metaphor in this case as this is an instance where Ruby’s problems won’t just magically go away by becoming a white woman again.
But she’s not alone in the closet (literally and figuratively this episode). The captain placed an informant in there after beating him to get some info. The man is still alive and not happy to have another guest with him, but the captain ignores the muffled screams.
Hanging with her co-workers at Sammy’s bar isn’t that much fun for Ruby who knows exactly what they think about folks who look like her. This is cultural appropriation tourism where her co-workers happily dance to the black music, with the black men and drink at the bar, but are all too happy to return to the “safety” of their homes after living on the “wild side.” Ruby catches her manager trying to harass Tamara in the alley.
It’s enough to make Ruby destroy the potion and be completely done with this charade once and for all. Until a conversation with Christina about using magic to do whatever the heck she wants inspires her to visit the manager one more time for a humiliating moment where she put her stiletto heel…there. Repeatedly. Ouch! This was Ruby’s big moment and she was happy to let the manager know a black woman did this to him.
Ruby had an eventful day, but it wasn’t over when William returned and seemed surprised to see her. He was in a rush, but couldn’t get away fast enough before his potion wore off…to reveal Christina! That actually does check out. Christina and William were never around at the same place and she continually mentioned the lack of equity from men and women. But what about those brands on William’s chest earlier or like Dell, is there a William around and Christina adapts his identity at times? So many interesting questions.
Tic and Leti mostly took a backseat this episode. His big moment came when he attacked Montrose, who in his own way, confessed to killing Yahima. Tic read between the lines, but Leti didn’t understand what he was saying until Tic told her later.
Leti’s response was interesting as she wanted nothing else to do with magic and anything else involving Titus, the Braithwhites or the Book of Name. This is even before knowing what happened to her sister this episode.
Leti argued it was all bad especially if it would prompt Montrose to do something so sinister. This logic was hard to argue against but Tic is spellbound in his own right now stating he wants to use the magic to protect his family. It’s not a long argument to suggest Tic’s actions have put his family more at risk since he started trying to crack this mystery. What do you think, Uncle George? Oh, right.
It was a little disappointing that there was no follow up to Hippolyta and Diana’s road trip after last episode. Or were they just taking the really scenic route?
I also wanted more about Montrose’s decision to kill Yahima. It felt like having Tic and Leti explain his actions wasn’t enough in this circumstance. Still, he had a full episode where he learned to accept himself and not be ashamed so he, like Ruby, could fully emerge from his cocoon.
In his case that was being true to his sexual identity. Like the gossips (aka Tree) speculated, Montrose was hanging out with Sammy for exactly that reason. After getting beat down by Tic, Montrose went to Sammy’s to work out his frustrations with some sexual healing. This wasn’t about about love as he’d yet to actually kiss Sammy — a fact mentioned while Sammy and Montrose were hanging out with Sammy’s friends who were preparing for a party where half the attendees were dressed in drag.
Michael Kenneth Williams did an excellent job showing Montrose’ apprehensions and fear slowly melt away as he initially stood as a distant observer at the party before gradually coming out — a blatant metaphor — to the center of the dance floor to join the revelry and ultimately kiss Sammy.
It was a big triumphant moment for him, but…it felt a little weird given last episode he killed someone and didn’t really have to face any consequences. This isn’t a situation where his relationship with Tic could get much worse.
Tic was pulling another all-nighter studying when he deciphers something from Leti’s photographs of the scrolls and calls someone asking if they knew. Clearly this was someone Tic should have brought along with him to Chicago before he began this entire expedition. Hopefully next episode we’ll get some more clarity about Hippolyta and Diana as well as getting more answers on the Christina/William dynamic.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: HBO