The sixth episode of Lovecraft Country travels abroad.
It seems that every prestige television series has its iconic bottle episode–the odd entry that is disconnected in tone and mood from the rest of the series, and exists as a sort of self-contained short film.
In Westworld Season 2, it was “Kiksuya.” In Breaking Bad, it was “Fly.” In Girls, it was “One Man’s Trash.” And now, in Lovecraft Country, it’s “Meet Me In Daegu.” We finally get insight into Tic’s time as a U.S. soldier in South Korea, where he committed monstrous acts. And he finds a twisted, tragic kinship with a literal monster, who’s eaten 99 men’s souls and is looking for the 100th.
Here are all the Easter Eggs and references we noticed in Lovecraft Country: Meet Me In Daegu. And if you liked this gallery, take a look at GameSpot Universe’s in-depth breakdowns of Lovecraft Country, which airs Sundays on HBO. Check out the rest of our written Easter Egg recaps:
1. Meet Me In St. Louis
The movie that Ji-Ah is watching at the beginning of the episode is Meet Me In St Louis, a 1944 film about a year in the life of the Smith family. It stars Judy Garland, most famous for her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Ji-Ah is singing “The Trolley Song,” which became a popular American standard after the movie’s release. But the movie’s most famous song is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” which is still sung around the holidays.
The episode’s title, “Meet Me In Daegu,” is a direct play off of this movie.
2. Hollywood Artifice
Judy Garland is a tragic example of a child actor who was taken advantage of by Hollywood’s relentless machine. The studio gave her amphetamines to keep her awake and barbiturates to help her sleep. Drug addiction plagued her for the rest of her life, and it led to her tragic, fatal overdose at the age of 47.
Similarly to Garland, both Ji-Ah and Tic feel trapped by the expectations of people in authority. For Ji-Ah, it’s her mother, who vicariously enacted revenge through her daughter–making her a truly horrific sort of stage mom. For Tic, it’s following the orders of his army superiors to commit war atrocities; escaping one awful parental figure merely meant taking on another.
3. Banmal (반말) vs. Jondaemal (존댓말)
When the nurses gossip about meeting men, one of them mentions that a man had skipped past speaking “jondaemal and gone directly to speaking “banmal.” This refers to two different ways of speaking in Korean. The first is more formal and includes more honorifics; it’s the type of formal speech you would use with strangers. The banmal manner of speaking is stripped of honorifics, and is thus more casual, typically used between people who are the same age or social status. Thus, the nurse is commenting on her man’s directness and lack of pretense, which she appreciates.
Ji-Ah is a Kumiho, which exists in Korean folklore as a nine-tailed fox. In South Korea, a fox is considered a bad omen, and a Kumiho often disguises itself as a beautiful woman in order to seduce men and eat their organs.
In Lovecraft Country, we see a grotesque interpretation of the creature, which has nine “tails” coming out of its orifices: two nostrils, two ear canals, two eye sockets, mouth, anus, and vagina.
5. Korean War Atrocities
One of the most disturbing parts of the episode is when Tic shoots an innocent Korean nurse in order to root out a North Korean spy. We later see the spy being tortured via tooth extraction.
These instances, unfortunately, are rooted in fact. Despite helping to protect South Korea during the Korean War, American soldiers were guilty of numerous war atrocities. Most infamous was an incident at No Gun Ri, in which up to 400 South Korean refugees were killed by American soldiers, who feared North Korean infiltration and made no effort to distinguish them from the enemy.
Sexual violence was also a major problem, and U.S. occupation resulted in increased rates of sexual assault. Korean “comfort women” were viewed by many as a source of protection; if the soldiers were able to satiate themselves on the prostitutes, then perhaps they wouldn’t feel compelled to rape civilians.
6. Movie Adaptation
One of the most amusing moments in the episode is when Ji-Ah discusses the ending of The Count of Monte Cristo. But she gets it wrong, because she’s talking about the movie adaptation rather than the book. This emphasizes the earlier theme of Hollywood artifice, where it changes or hides the genuine, original work, often at the original’s expense.
It can also be taken as a meta-commentary on America’s sanitized view of the Korean War, which invariably poses our armed forces as noble liberators, without wrestling with the complexities or hypocrisies of that narrative
7. Judy Speaks
Lastly, there’s a woman’s voiceover that plays over the episode’s final scene. This is adapted from an audio collection known colloquially as “Judy Speaks.” Recorded from 1963-1967, it was supposed to help an older Garland write an autobiography. Instead, it’s become a document of an artist in decline; she spends her recording time lashing out at people in Hollywood who wronged her. At times, she sounds slurred and incoherent.
It underlines Ji-Ah’s plight. After having followed her mother’s demands and making herself monstrous, she finds herself alone and broken.
Disclosure: ViacomCBS is GameSpot’s parent company