Veteran and pulp-fiction aficionado Atticus Freeman travels from the Jim Crow South to his South Side of Chicago hometown in search of his missing father Montrose. After recruiting his uncle George and childhood friend Letitia to join him, the trio sets out for “Ardham,” MA, where they think Montrose may have gone looking for insight into Atticus’ late mother’s ancestry. As they journey across the Midwest, Tic, Leti, and George encounter dangers lurking at every turn, especially after sundown.
Atticus wakes up scared from a dream about monsters. A woman sitting across from him in the back of the bus to Chicago tells him that they made it to the promised land. The bus breaks down and the whites get ferried to the next town but Atticus and the woman have to walk, so he offers to help her with her luggage. Walking along the highway, the woman asks Atticus about the book he was reading so he tells her about it. He tells her that he didn't join the army for adventure, but to get away from his father and that his father is the reason he's back in Chicago.
George and Hippolyta are in bed having an intimate moment. Hippolyta proposes that she could make the next trip for the guide instead of him, telling him that she has written more than her share of reviews based on his notes and to imagine how good the reviews could get if she could take notes of her own. George refuses because "it's too dangerous out there for a woman." Hippolyta turns away disappointed, but George asks her to stay with him in bed but warns her that the walls are thin.
Diana, their daughter, is drawing a comic version of her mother in the living room and hears her parents having sex, so she escapes to the kitchen. She's startled by Atticus standing at the window when she opens the blinds. George and Hippolyta run out of their room thinking something happened to Diana and welcome Atticus happily.
Atticus goes to George's store to talk about Montrose going missing. He tells George that his father wrote to him about his mother; he had found where his mother's family came from and wanted him to come home to Chicago so they could go there together. Atticus reads the letter for George, who remarks "that's strange and doesn't really even sound like your Montrose." Atticus says that he hasn't even gotten to the strange part - his father wanted Atticus to go with him to a place in Lovecraft Country named "Arkham." George reminds him that Lovecraft is not real and asks to see the letter. He puts the letter under a bureau lamp and notices that the town is not Arkham with a "K," but Ardham with a "D." George takes out a book to see if he can glean any clues about the "secret legacy" Montrose wrote about.
Atticus goes out to Denmark Vesey's Bar to find out when his father was last seen there. At the bar, Tree steps in front of him saying that they're "closing early", but eventually recognizes Atticus and tells him that Sammy is out back when Atticus asks. In the alley at the back, he catches Sammy getting a blowjob and turns to go back to the front of the bar only to pause when Sammy asks if he is Montrose's son. Sammy tells him that Montrose hadn't been in the bar for about two weeks when he'd left with a white man Sammy guessed was a lawyer driving a silver sedan.
At a block party on the South Side, Letitia takes pictures of her half-sister Ruby while she's performing. Ruby asks the crowd what they want to hear before she gets off the stage, Letitia screams out "Whole Lotta Shakin'" and gets on the podium to sing with Ruby when the crowd cheers her on. Atticus, using a tool from George's garage, opens a fire hydrant on the corner to the delight of the kids playing nearby. Off the stage, Letitia asks Ruby if she can stay for a while, but Ruby only offers her two nights.
After the party Atticus joins George in their living room, looking at Diana's drawings in the guidebook and asks if George was able to find Ardham. He tells Atticus that all that he could find was its location over two centuries ago which puts it somewhere around Devon County, Massachusetts. While Atticus continues to look through the guidebook, George decides that he's going with him to look for Montrose. In the guidebook Diana has drawn a sunset on the page for Devon County.
Atticus goes to Montrose's apartment to look around for clues. In the bedroom he takes a box out of the closet with a gun in it. He sits down on the bed and makes call to South Korea. An unidentified woman picks up the phone and asks if it's him, and telling him that he shouldn't have gone home. Atticus hangs up.
The next morning at the garage, Atticus and Letitia reunite with a hug. Diana gives George her travel comic and hugs him before he leaves. In the Midwest at a gas station, some white kids make faces and harass them. Letitia pulls Atticus before he can punch the boy. In the morning they freshen up in the woods, George tells them that he has a tip about a diner called "Lydia's" in Simmonsville. Arriving at the diner they see that the name is actually "Simmonsville Dinette." They walk in and the white people look surprisingly at them. The take a booth and the customers walk out without finishing their food.
They asks the waiter some coffee and he walks to the back. Atticus is worried about being there but George responds that they have every right to be there. Letitia walks to the bathroom and hears the waiter on the people talking about them. Atticus scans the diner and notices its walls are white. He asks George why the White House is white and while George is replying Atticus discovers burn marks on the ground as Letitia rushes out screaming that they have to leave. As they drive away they are chased by white men shooting at them. Letitia gains upon a silver sedan that was on the other road and the silver sedan stops in the middle of the road causing the car chasing them to mysteriously roll over the silver sedan. Christina gets out of the silver sedan and look at Atticus and the others and Atticus tells Letitia to keep driving.
Arrived at Marvin's, he tells them at the dinner table that the county seat, Bideford, is named after a town in England where one of the last witch trials was held and that Bideford was founded by witch hunters who don't like outsiders. He also tells them that travelers have been attacked in surrounding woods by animals and that there have been a missing persons as well, some of which might be due to the current sheriff, Eunice Hunt . Ardham was settled around the same time as Bideford, but local history doesn't say by who. Marvin shows them a map with Ardham which is in the middle of nowhere and without guide stops.
George calls his family before going to bed. He talks with Diana about her travel comic and then asks Hippolyta to go with him on the next guide trip. She tells him that she would like that. He takes out a picture of Dora out of his wallet and looks at it with tears in his eyes. Letitia and Marvin argue about her not attending their mother's funeral.
George walks out joining Atticus, he then asks George if his father told him what happened last time he was home and George answers with no. Atticus tells him what happened. George tells him that his father was younger than George and took the brunt of their home situation and that he should've protected him more. Atticus tells him that he was younger but George didn't do anything to protect him from his father and asks him if he regrets that. Atticus considers intervening in Letitia and Marcus argument, but George tells him that is not his business as he looks at George with a sad face and walks away.
In the morning they drive to Devon County. Arriving, they drive through the woods all day searching for a road to Ardham. Atticus tells George to stop the car and gets out to search for the road. Letitia follows him and they stop and look at the trees and talk. Atticus spots a police car arriving. Eunice gets out of the car and tells them to walk to the back of their vehicle. He then questions them and tells them that where they are is a sundown county and that they have seven minutes to leave the county. Atticus asks him if it's legal to make a U-turn. Eunice responds he would usually consider it a violation but will allow if Tic asks him nicely. Leaving the county, the sheriff follows them as they drive without speeding. The sheriff bumps them twice with his car and Atticus tells Letitia to get the gun. With thirty seconds left before sundown they make it out of the county. Once they cross the county line, however, they realize that the sheriff's deputies have blocked the road and they are heavily armed.
The sheriff and his deputies try to pin a string of local burglaries on the trio. Before Hunt and his deputies resort to violence, a mysterious creature leaps out to attack, taking off the arm of a deputy and sending the group scattering. Atticus and Letitia run away then realize George isn't with them. They take shelter in an abandoned cabin with Hunt and one of the deputies. George walks thru the woods with a flashlight and makes it to the cabin. Atticus tells them that they need to find weapons to fight the monsters. George mutter out a quote from Dracula: "Children of the night what music they make" and tells them that none of the monsters attacked him, because they are afraid of the flashlight's light.
Atticus offers to get the car to provide more light, but Hunt stops him aiming the shotgun at him and tells them that Letitia needs to get the car. He doesn't want to let her go, but she reminds him that she was a track all-star in high school. He tells her to run as fast as she can and not to return back if she hears any gun shots; she tells him that she is terrified. Leti makes a run for the car, while Sheriff Hunt turns into one of the monsters and attacks and kills his deputy. Leti crashes into the cabin with the car and saves Atticus and George before they are attacked by Sheriff Hunt. She and Atticus light flares and drive the monsters back a bit, but then a high-pitched piercing whistle-like sound pierces the night causing all of the monsters leave.
In the morning Atticus, Leti and George, bloody and bedraggled, find the road to Ardham, arriving at a sprawling mansion with the silver sedan in the driveway. A blonde man with blue eyes opens the door, calling Atticus by name and saying they’ve been expecting him and says pleasantly to Atticus “welcome home,” leaving the group thoroughly confused.
Notes and Trivia
- The episode title "Sundown," refers to "sundown towns," which are all-white neighborhoods that practice a form of racial segregation by excluding minorities through discriminatory local laws, intimidation, and violence.
- The narration in the opening dream sequence is from the 1950 film The Jackie Robinson Story.
- The voice-over Atticus, Letitia and George listen to during the “Midwest” travel montage is James Baldwin speaking during his debate with William F. Buckley Junior in 1965.
- Jamie Chung is the Martian gloriously descending from the spaceship in the opening dream sequence and the voice from Tic’s ominous call to South Korea.
- The car Atticus, Letitia and George are travelling with is a character of sorts — the characters call it Woody.
- Per HBO, the “Lovecraft Country” debut tallied 1.4 million total viewers across all platforms including HBO Max.
Behind the Scenes
|"Sundown" • "Whitey's on the Moon" • "Holy Ghost" • "A History of Violence" • "Strange Case" • "Meet Me in Daegu" • "I Am." • "Jig-A-Bobo" • "Rewind 1921" • "Full Circle"|