Episode 2, Whitey’s on the Moon, is a tale of two quests. The mission of the Black travelers – Tic, Leti, and Uncle George is to find and rescue Montrose Freeman, Tic’s father & Uncle George’s brother, from his white kidnappers. The mission of the white antagonists, Samuel and Christina Braithwhite is to open the portal to the Garden of Eden so Samuel can gain immortal life.
The first mission is one of honor and heroism and the second mission is one driven by ego and selfishness. Throughout this episode, those on the noble mission are tested and terrorized by the seemingly well meaning white folks and are reminded of invaluable lessons. The travelers quickly learn that those ‘kind’ white people have much more nefarious motives.
Episode 1 ended with with Uncle George, Tic and Leti arriving at a castle- like mansion in Ardham, Mass. An impeccably dressed WASPy (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) man named William answers the door and welcomes them in with no questions asked even though they are covered in blood.
***Are you sure you want to keep reading? There are Ep. 2 Spoilers below!***
Lesson learned: Don’t let your guard down even when you think you are safe.
This episode begins with the famous theme theme song from the Jeffersons “Movie On Up” by Ja’net Dubois. The Jeffersons was an iconic Black American TV sitcom that lasted 11 seasons. It featured the story the Jeffersons who had moved from Queens, NY to Manhattan, NY into what they believed was the good life that so many Black Americans in the 1970s and 1980s sought to achieve. However like Leti and Uncle George, the Jeffersons would learn that even with all their beautiful lodging they were still Black in a White America and would continue to encounter hardships because of their race.
“Fish don’t fry in the kitchen;
Beans don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta tryin’
Just to get up that hill.
Now we’re up in the big leagues
Gettin’ our turn at bat.”
Episode 2 begins with George and Leti living their best lives. Dancing to their internal joy. George is studying a bookshelf full of his favorite books
and Leti is in her room modeling the perfectly tailored clothes found in her bedroom’s wardrobe. Both Uncle George and Leti are blinded by their joy and fail to realize the strange conicidence that their favorite items just so happen to be in this white house.
Leti and Uncle George are unaware that they are under a spell that has blocked their memory of the traumatic events the night before. Tic is the only one who has retained the memories of the attacks by the terrifying Shoggoths.
At breakfast Tic attempts to explain to Leti and Uncle George that their memory has been blocked. He reminds them that they had to escape murderous sheriffs as well as the shape-shifting monsters. He told them he even had to kill a sheriff who turned into a Shoggoth.
“I shot the Sheriff!Tic
“You shot the Sheriff?!”Leti
“I had to shoot the Sheriff!”Tic
Is it just me or did you giggle at this scene remembering the classic Warren G song.
Rather than engaging in a debate over the alleged memory loss and magical monsters, Uncle George reminded Tic and Leti to be mindful of their surroundings.
“We are being watched. Sit down. We are not splitting up. We are staying together and we must be discrete.”Uncle George
Even if Uncle George may not fully believe Tic’s version of last night’s events, Uncle George is acutely aware of his surroundings. He is aware that white people are never this friendly without an ulterior motive. He knows that they cannot let their guard down.
While walking into the village, Tic overhears Leti and Uncle George questioning Tic’s mental sanity and wondering out loud if this is a result of shell shock from Tic’s time at war.
Symptoms included fatigue, tremor, confusion, nightmares and impaired sight and hearing. It was often diagnosed when a soldier was unable to function and no obvious cause could be identified. Because many of the symptoms were physical, it bore little overt resemblance to the modern diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/shell-shocked
Tic very sternly reminded them that none of this makes sense. That he is in fact not suffering from Shell Shock and that it is Leti and Uncle George who have been blinded by the distractions of their favorite books and perfectly fitted outfits.
Lesson learned: Always stay on alert even around white women.
While traveling in the village, Tic, Leti, and Uncle George encounter barking dogs and their white female dog owner. The travelers are immediately taken aback by the snarling animals and their white owner. Black Americans have had a tenuous relationship with dogs when they are in the hands of their white owners. Dogs have been used as an enforcement tool of white supremacy.
The lash and shackles remain the major symbols of physical degradation fixed in historical memory on slavery.5 Yet, as recounted by witnesses, including slaves themselves, the dog was perhaps a more effective tool for managing labour or even inflicting horrific pain or death on those who defied their masters’ commands.Slave Hounds and Abolition in the Americas by Tyler D. Parry, Charlton W Yingling https://academic.oup.com/past/article/246/1/69/5722095
The travelers do not heed to the multiple warnings by white people throughout the episode to return to the manor before dark. As they are walking back to the house at night in the woods they find themselves attacked once again by the ugly and terrifying Shoggoth monsters. Before the Shoggoth’s kill the Black travelers, Christina comes to the rescue blaring the whistle that send the monsters away. As quickly as the monsters disappear so does the memory of the encounter in Uncle George and Leti.
Christina explains to Tic that the spell is for anyone who encounters the Shoggoth and survives the attack. We also learn that the Shoggoths are magical monsters owned by the Braithwhites that are kept as their personal guard animals. Tic’s lack of memory loss is because he shares a common ancestor with the Braithwhites.
Christina says to Tic “not all us white folks are out to get you.” This could not be more further from the truth.
Throughout Episode 2, Christina Braithwhite, the daughter of Samuel Braithwhite attempts to endear herself to Tic. She positions herself as a friend to Tic. Tic rebuffs her attempts because Tic is a Black man in America in 1955. He understands that white women have been just as complicit in the enforcement of white supremacy over black people and their bodies.
This is highlighted during Tic’s various interactions with Christina. Tic requests Christina lift the spell off of Uncle George and Leti. He thinks Christina has acquiesced to his wish to lift the spell but quickly learns that she has now trapped each traveler in their respective rooms to live out another terrorizing experiment as white lodge members watch gleefully the Black travelers in mental and physical anguish.
Later in the episode as she watches her father shoot Leti and Uncle George, Tic screams for Christina to help him. Christina stares silently not moving one inch to assist him despite her earlier statements that she is not a bad actor.
Christina proves the age old Black addage “Do not trust white women.”
Later in the episode, Christina reminds Tic that she as a woman is still afforded less rights than he a Black man. Because Tic is a direct descendant of Titus Braithwhite, he can still be a member of the fraternal order and he can be ‘a son among sons.’ As Tic puts on the Braithwhite ring on his finger, Christina says “I could have never earned one of these no matter how hard I try and you can earn one just by being born a man – not even a white man at that.”
Her statements are often mirrored in today’s dialogue on the intersections of race and gender when white women in particular bemoan their struggles against the patriarchy and reiterate that Black men were still given certain American rights. The most famous of this was the right to vote.
What Christina and many white women fail to understand is that through their alignment with white men they were and still are able to wield power against Black bodies be they men or women. Even with the passage of the 15th Amendment and subsequently the 19th amendment, the government enacted a variety of poll taxes on both Black men and women from being able to cast their votes.
While the women’s suffrage movement had its roots in the anti-slavery movement, early suffragist leaders including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony would later split off from their alliance with abolitionists. They were outraged that, under the 15th amendment, Black men would get the vote while white women were still denied.https://www.npr.org/2020/08/26/904730251/yes-women-could-vote-after-the-19th-amendment-but-not-all-women-or-men
This false narrative espoused by Christina that Tic is better off as a man is also highlighted in the continued racial wealth gap that existed in the 1950s and continues to exist today.
There is a greater gender wealth inequality when looking across individual racial lines. Per the 2015 Asset Funders Network report, the median wealth of White single women was $15,640. Yet, the median wealth for single Black women and Latina women was $200 and $100 respectively, about one cent for every dollar of White women’s wealth. On the other hand, while White men’s wealth was $28,900; Latino men’s wealth was $950 and Black men’s wealth was $300, about three cents and one cent on every dollar of White men’s wealth, respectively.https://inequality.org/racial-wealth-divide-snapshot-women/
Lesson Learned: Trust yourself
After the spell is broken giving Leti and Uncle George their memory back, they are each confronted with a realistic yet still imaginary encounter.
Leti is consoled by Tic. He kisses her and comforts her as she is coming to terms with her recent travel traumas. He reminds her that he will never abandon her as we know Leti has a fear of abandonment that stems from her relationship with her mother. As Tic attempts to have sex with her she pushes him away but he refuses to stop.
As a viewer I knew this was not Tic and was terrified for Leti. But one thing we have learned from Leti is that she is a fighter. As fake Tic takes off his pants off showing a literal snake ready to strike Leti, she is able take control of the situation by grabbing a knife and fighting for her life. Leti is a survivor and she survivors this attempted attack.
As Leti is fighting for her life, Tic is engaged in hand to hand combat with the same Asian woman we saw in Episode 1 dressed as a princess in Tic’s dream sequence. We still do not know who she is. But this version of her is attempting to kill Tic and he is in a battle for his life wrestling her on his bedroom floor.
Tic strangles her and cowers in terror and sadness hoping and praying this is all but a dream.
Meanwhile Uncle George sees his true love Dora, Tic’s mother. Unlike Leti, Uncle George knows immediately that this is not real. Yet he still dances with her. He talks with her but eventually pushes away because he knows this is not real.
Uncle George is a wise man.
We see that the white dinner guests of Sam Braitheite have been watching the travelers in amusement as they are each trapped in their respective rooms.
Once they are let out of their rooms, a traumatized Tic attempts to explain what happened at war in Korea. Uncle George reminds Tic and Leti to never forget who they are.
You know who are are. You were a good boy. And you are an even better man. Don’t ever let them question yourself. They want to make us scared and terrorize us. But we don’t get scared!”Uncle George
Lesson Learned: Literalism is for the simple.
Tic and Uncle George are invited to dinner with Samuel Braithwhite and the other members of the Order of the Ancient Dawn. As dinner is served, Samuel notifies his guests that he is serving them them a piece of his rib to consume as Adam gave his rib to Eve in the story of creation. Uncle George firmly tells Tic to not touch that food.
Uncle George confronts the members of the Ancient Dawn with information he was able to acquire while in the manor’s library.
He learns that Tic is a direct descendant of Titus Braithwhite, the founder of the Order of the Ancient Dawn. Tic’s mother’s ancestor was a slave named Hanna who escaped her master’s burning house. Hanna was pregnant when she left the house. There were no other survivors. The man who owned Hanna was Titus Braithwhite.
Earlier in the episode, William states to the Black travelers that Titus was known to be notoriously “kind” to his slaves. This was code for the fact that he, a slave owner, was having sex with his slaves. Today we would more accurately call rape and not kindness. Language matters when assessing the ills of history.
Southern women often marry a man knowing that he is the father of many little slaves. They do not trouble themselves about it. They regard such children as property, as marketable as the pigs on the plantation; and it is seldom that they do not make them aware of this by passing them into the slave-trader’s hands as soon as possible, and thus getting them out of their sight.Harriet Jacobs on Rape and Slavery, 1860, https://www.americanyawp.com/reader/the-cotton-revolution/harriet-jacobs-on-rape-and-slavery/
Uncle George continues with his history lesson by teaching the members of the fraternal Order of the Ancient Dawn about the founding of the Prince Hall Freemasons. Uncle George is a member of the fraternal Order of the Prince Hall Freemasons. He stated that the founder of his fraternal order, Prince Hall, a free African-American man attempted to join the white Boston’s St. John’s Lodge after the Revolutionary War but was rejected because he was Black. Prince Hall went on to create his own Freemason Lodge which was founded on September 29, 1784. The Prince Hall Freemasons remains the oldest and largest Black fraternal order in the United States today.
Although Tic Freeman could not join the Order of the Ancient Dawn because he was a Black man, he could still join because the rules allowed automatic entry to to the order because he is a son among sons, a direct male blood descendant of the founder, Titus Braithwhite. In fact, Tic is the last living male heir to Titus Braithwhite.
Samuel Braithwhite wants to be Adam. He believes that he is entitled to go back to the dawn of time so that he can step into his rightful place. However, he cannot do this alone he needs Tic’s Braithwhite’s blood to complete his spell.
Samuel’s straightforward plan fails to take into consideration the power and magic in Tic’s blood.
Meanwhile, Tic is narrowly focused on is finding his father and getting his family and friend out of the Ardham Manor safely. He will do what needs to be done to save them.
After dinner, the Black travelers leave the mansion to find Montrose. Tic and George attempt to rescue their father in the basement of tower like structure in the village but are caught by the white woman with the dogs we met earlier but guess who saves them again – Letitia fucking Lewis.
They do not find Montrose in the tower because Montrose has saved himself by digging and crawling his way out of captivity like in the Count of Monte Cristo.
When they find Montrose it is then that Tic learns that his father was forced to write the letter and that he never expected Tic to come. We immediately feel like disdain that both father and son have for each other.
As the group of four now try to escape out of Ardham their car suddenly crashes into an invisible brick like wall totaling their car. Samuel and Christina arrive on the scene with Samuel holding a gun. Samuel shoots Leti without hesitation. We see Leti die in Tic’s arms.
Uncle George is then shot. Tic is given a choice – to save Leti and Uncle George and participate in Samuel’s ceremony.
Samuel intends to use Tic to open the Garden of Eden so he can walk into the garden and gain immortal life. Samuel’s leverage is his ability to bring back Leti from death and to heal Uncle George with his magic so long as Tic complies with the ceremony. Tic witnesses Leti come back to life through a magical opening in the wall.
Lesson: Secret stay secrets
As Tic is preparing for the ceremony, and a traumatized newly resurrected Leti’s cries alone, Montrose and George discuss family matters.
The brothers speak of Dora, Tic’s mother. George ponders on why Montrose never drew Dora. Montrose told George that he stopped drawing after their father “beat the black off his ass” after he was found at the bus station the summer before high school drawing pictures of the Negroe League players. George was saddened by this story. He didn’t know that happened to Montrose.
“That’s the problem I’ve been shutting up far too long” George had an intimate relationship with Dora so George knows that Tic might not be Montrose son. This is a secret that Montrose is not yet willing to confront even as George is knocking on death’s door.
Montrose has many secrets that he is not yet willing to share with his brother, his son, and the viewer. I suspect that we will come to find out many more of Montrose’s secrets throughout this season.
Lesson: The White man’s fantastical dreams will be achieved even in the midst of the suffering of Black people.
As we see Tic’s body becoming a vessel to open a portal to the Garden of Eden, we hear the 1977 spoken word of Gil Scott-Heron ‘Whitey on the Moon.’
‘Whitey on the Moon’ speaks on the living in the land of two worlds that is the United States of America. As white America is lambasting the miracle of a white man on the moon, the narrator recounts his family’s struggle with poverty which includes paying medical bills for his sister who was bit by rat, paying for the high price of groceries, paying for the ever increasing rent as well as paying American taxes. Whitey keeps taking the Black man’s money even though the Black man has to struggle to survive off of his limited income. Whitey then takes this money and endeavors to go into space and walk on the moon all the while ignoring the pain of poverty amongst Black people.
As Tic is being used as a vessel for Samuel’s spell he sees his pregnant ancestor Hanna who looks at him. Tic channels the power of the magic in his blood and burns everyone in the room. The building around him beings to fall around him. Samuel’s body alongside the other members of the Order present become dust. Tic runs out and follows Hanna as she escapes out of the burning building. Their journey to the first door of the house mirrors each other’s escape from their respective Braithwhite’s burning mansions. Tic’s maternal ancestor guides him to safety just as the castle crumbles behind him into ashes.
Once again a Black woman saves the day and saves Tic. Where would Black men be without the heroism of Black women, both dead and alive? This moment reminds me that our ancestors are with us even if we do not know their names. They work through us. They are us. They have already saved us without us knowing their intrinsic value.
An expasperated Tic turns around to find Leti and Montrose alive, the same could not be said for Uncle George. Tic knows this without Leti having to tell him. Samuel Braithwhite died before he could heal Uncle George. Tic finds Montrose crying and holding his dead brother’s body in the back seat of their car as “River” by Leon Bridges plays in the background and the camera fades to black.
The Episode ends. Uncle George is dead and I like you am heartbroken!
Y’all that episode felt like a season finale and yet it was only the second episode!
What will episode 3 bring?