After one of the season’s best episode, I Am. didn’t really work. This was an episode that couldn’t reach the high concept it attempted. Honestly I’d rather a show take daring risks and miss the landing rather than stick to a safe, basic formula.
The biggest problem is the timing of the episode. It really needed to be a complete focus on Hippolyta. But with last week’s departure from the main story to flashback on Ji-Ah and the home stretch of the season, this episode had to accomplish a lot.
Tic and Leti realize they are having the same dream about Hannah emerging from the fiery inferno at the Braithwhite compound. Leti noticed Hannah holding the Book of Name, but ignored or didn’t share she was clutching her stomach like she was pregnant.
Thinking they’ve got a new lead, Tic and Leti head to Montrose’s only to see Sammy leaving. Tic drops the f-word that’s not father and has the kind of angry, confused reaction we rarely see on TV shows, which immediately have every character go into full acceptance mode.
Recognizing a road trip will do him good Tic heads off to meet up with a good friend of one of his cousin Ethel. The biggest revelation here is she had a similar mark on her arm that Tic has on his back.
Leti apologizes to Ruby and over the course of the episode starts showing signs she’s pregnant in the real world too.
Ruby has an abbreviated conversation with Christina, which doesn’t do the best job of explaining her actions. At least we know what was in the basement now — the bodies of William and Dell.
Christina got Ruby curious at least and she wants to know everything. Of everything that’s gone on this season, Ruby’s reactions have been the most puzzling. Christina has lied on a deeper level than Leti yet Ruby doesn’t act nearly as betrayed and hurt.
All of these subplots has to get addressed to keep their momentum rolling for the season finale.
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The heart of this episode was Hippolyta’s Journey. She’d gotten the orrey to work and she was following coordinates to an exact location in Kansas. In a nice subtle moment, Hippolyta sees a black woman riding a motorcycle and geeks out as she zooms off blazing a trail for her as black women fully capable of steering their own paths.
Hippolyta finds a device and starts working out numbers and coordinates like a member of the Hidden Figures team. At this point Tic gets the heads up from Leti that his aunt found the orrey and could be in danger.
It proves more of a revelation however. After an encounter with two police officers and Tic apparently tapping into magical powers to arrive in time to help. This seemed like a rare preventable goof as there’s no way Tic could have arrived in time without being able to teleport. He had to take a bus and unless he tapped into Uber he wasn’t going to get there in any remote time to be of any use. Depending on what Tic did off camera the rest of the episode I question if he was even necessary here. Regardless, the fight with the cops leaves one shot dead and triggers the device unleashing a portal and Hippolyta goes on a fantastic voyage.
She’s thrown off at first when greeted by a woman with a masterfully geometric Afro but adapts quickly enough. Given the opportunity to say where she wants to be Hippolyta naturally responds dancing with Josephine Baker in France. Why not?
This is an odd sequence and long for the point — Hippolyta felt restrained and had to play along to make white people happy. Sometimes she wishes she could just use that anger more constructively.
This leads her to another adventure as a warrior, who eventually becomes skilled enough to lead an all women army against Confederate soldiers. Let’s play along and since there’s such a rabid Confederate fanbase even in 2020 I’m fine with reminding folks they lost and were a failure as a franchise.
In her third stop, Hippolyta has a conversation with George where she eventually gets him to apologize for allowing her to shrink for his selfish purpose of having a family and pursuing his business.
I’m not sure how this could have played out later, but there were so many layers to George that killing him off in the second episode feels even more premature now. I didn’t love this exchange as Hippolyta could have gone after George for stifling her and making her the force behind the guide books while he got to explore. This made Hippolyta look somewhat resentful she had Diana and that she had little say in the decision.
Having addressed that long festering issue in her marriage, Hippolyta can assume her final identity as an explorer. This comes via a sci-fi world where she and George discover various new life forms decked out like the vintage versions of Flash Gordon and Dale Arden.
But eventually the party has to come to an end — after all that burdensome daughter Diana still needs her mother to raise her.
Hippolyta goes home, but not back in Kansas anymore. Tic also went through a portal or his own. Maybe this was Tic’s encounter from the first episode? Either way he’s back and holding a book entitled…Lovecraft Country. Bizarre.
He hurried out and missed Diana’s comic near the dead officer. Between the one left at the Braithwhite compound and this one there’s a lot of evidence against this aspiring comic creator.
This wasn’t my favorite episode of the season as it had to cram too much of Hippolyta’s journey into the ongoing story at a point where it’s time for more answers than questions.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: HBO