Spoilers ahead for Lovecraft Country Episode 2. Leti (Jurnee Smollett), Tic (Jonathan Majors), and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) knew Ardham would be dangerous, and tragedy strikes when they attempt to flee the grounds with Tic's father Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams). Trapped within the town's boundaries, they become locked in a battle with Samuel Braithwhite (Tony Goldwyn), the leader of Ardham's Sons of Adam cult. Samuel shoots both George and Leti in the stomach, and it appears that George is dead in Lovecraft Country by the end of Episode 2. Is he really gone forever, though?
Some of the confusion may come from the story introducing magic in Episode 2, a potential deus ex machina that the viewer doesn't know the limitations and rules of just yet. After the trio escapes Ardham's terrifying "guard dogs," they meet Samuel and his daughter Christina (Abbey Lee), (grand) wizards who are looking to open a gate to God's original Garden of Eden. The Braithwhites can create monsters and barriers around town, as well as fill a mansion full of George's favorite books and clothes that fit Leti perfectly. Samuel even has the ability to heal Leti after he shoots her, and only fails to help George because he's killed in the final ceremony — ostensibly by the ring Christina gave to Tic. Now, Samuel is gone and the Ardham lodge is in ruins, but Tic's Braithwhite lineage suggests that he can possibly wield magic, too. If Tic were to learn the right spells, would he be able to reverse time, or raise George from the dead? It's not yet clear.
And for those who are familiar with the source material, George's death represents a significant departure from Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country book. George is very much alive throughout the entire novel, which is split up into distinct anthology-like chapters. The third chapter, "Abdullah's Book," focuses on a Montrose and George adventure, and the book ends with George saying goodbye to Montrose, Atticus, and his son (in the show, his daughter) as they head off on another Safe Negro Travel Guide research trip.
This happy family structure is by design, according to Ruff. During a 2016 Barnes and Noble interview, Ruff said that "Lovecraft Country actually started out as a riff on The X-Files," except instead of white FBI agents, "the protagonists would be a Black family who owned a Jim Crow−era travel agency and published a Safe Negro Travel Guide ... their paranormal adventures would combine classic genre tropes with a realistic exploration of American racism."
And in a 2018 interview with Rise Up Daily, Ruff seemed to suggest George was the first character he conceived. "I thought it would be really interesting to have a story where my Fox Mulder character was a field researcher for one of these [green book] guides, whose job it is to drive around looking for hotels and restaurants that will take him in," Ruff explained. "At the same time, he has both paranormal adventures and more mundane encounters with Jim Crow America."
With George seeming to be such a central character for Ruff, does that mean he's going to make it back into the show somehow? Maybe. But show adaptations are ultimately not beholden to their source material. In a New York Times interview, showrunner Misha Green said that Ruff told her that the story is "[hers] now" so "go for it.” Even though Green noted that Ruff's novel was very "feminist-forward," she "wanted to see more" prominent female characters in her show. The novel is very male-centric, after all, so Green changed Caleb to Christina Braithwhite, and George's son Horace to Diana Freeman.
Writing out George early on is a bold move, but perhaps in doing so Green is making more space for Diana and her mom Hippolyta, Leti, and Leti's sister Ruth. Though we'll still have to wait and see if George comes back in some form in future episodes, it's interesting to see how Green has taken Ruff's 2016 story and spun it into its own unique beast.