Lovecraft Country's fifth episode was a body horror episode, so grotesque it was slightly nauseating. But its point was well taken: In the United States (and most of the world, TBH), your skin color marks you, automatically assigning you a status level beyond your control. Lovecraft Country dug into that reality by having Black characters use the Braithwhite magic to wear white skin, though the way the spell (and the skin) wore off was gross. But in the episode's final moments, it was revealed that changing the color of your skin wasn't the only magic involved here, and Lovecraft Country's twist about Christina and William's identity was a reminder that gender is also a barrier in many aspects of life.
Warning: Spoilers for Lovecraft Country follow. In Episode 4, Ruby was seduced by William, a character who, at that point, seemed to either work for or be the lover of Christina Braithwhite. William appeared to be working to help Christina gain control of the Sons of Adam and the Lodge, a goal she's stated she wants to achieve. But Christina has also said she's working on getting William that position, because a woman can't hold it.
Either way, William's seduction of Ruby felt like an assignment on Christina's behalf, perhaps to help gain entry into Leti's house. But in Episode 5, it seemed like there were more plans for Ruby beyond that. In the new ep, William introduced her to a potion that changed her into a white woman, creating a disguise of "Hillary." A major drawback: When the potion wears off, the skin literally sloughs off, leaving Ruby naked, covered in blood and entrails. Naturally, the potion wears off at the least convenient of times.
And yet, Ruby's desire, and then disgust with experiencing the "superpower" of whiteness for short bursts, wasn't the only magic. By the end of the episode, she learned she's not the only one drinking potion to move up the power chain: It turns out, William is no more a real person than Hillary. He's a skin, worn by Christina so that she may pass as a white man.
Considering William and Christina never appeared in the same place together on screen, fans are probably not too surprised by this revelation. Moreover, Christina's evident anger that men get privileges she is not afforded was another hint William was merely a useful disguise. Moreover still, revealing how unhappy Ruby and Christina are, posing as what they are not for gain, played as a counterpoint to Montrose's boyfriend Sammy, who showed Montrose how freeing it is to be who you really are.
It also left so many questions for the rest of the season. Was William ever a real person? (Ruby's "Hillary" disguise is a dead ringer for Dell, the woman Leti, Tic, and George meet on the Braithwhite land in Episode 2, suggesting someone who looks exactly like "William" at least once existed). Christina gave Ruby this potion for a reason, but fans still don't know her ultimate plan for Leti's sister. Ruby now knows Christina's secret, which ties her closer to the Braithwhite's intrigue. She also knows quite a bit about Chicago's police captain Lancaster, including the creepy man locked in his house. And she's seen the rune, the same one Leti and Tic are tracking.
How exactly Ruby and Leti find their way back to each other so these pieces of information can be gathered together in one place remains to be seen. Until then, fans can only hope Christina doesn't kill Ruby for knowing the truth about William.
Lovecraft Country continues Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.