by Josie Kafka
…in which we get answers that lead to more questions, and Syd gets to know a new side of her boyfriend.
About halfway through “Chapter Five,” Cary explains what is happening: the Devil with the Yellow Eyes is a “parasite” that has been lurking inside of David for most of his conscious life. David has powers, and, probably, schizophrenia. But the Devil has other powers. And now it has control.
At least, by the end of the episode, that is true: in the final set-piece, the Devil manipulated the reality of David’s childhood home to such a degree that we can’t say if it was reality at all. What we can do is consider the contrasts: when Ptonomy takes people on memory walks, their bodies stay in this reality. He transports only their minds.
The Devil, on the other hand, seems capable of shifting reality. He shut down all noise when Melanie, Ptonomy, the telekentic guy, and Syd made it to David’s childhood home. All noise and all communication: Melanie, a telepath, could no longer communicate with her team. The house was run-down, but it felt like more of a psychic space than a real location. Perhaps both—but I’ll come back to that later.
This episode opens hopefully. David, cool and cocky, tells Syd that he’s in control. And he demonstrates it by transporting her (mentally, not physically) to a beautiful white room near a beach. In that room, they can touch. It is a perfect pocket universe for the young lovers to do what all young lovers want to do.
It was creepy, though. David’s appeal is in his hesitancy and respect for Syd’s autonomy. That he took her to the room without warning was truly upsetting. When he said “I’m the magic man” I actually shuddered. (I have a real fear of someone messing with my brain.) But Syd seemed okay with it, once she adjusted. Maybe David’s confidence rubbed off on her.
Something did, as Syd seemed to mirror David’s cocksure attitude in their conversation with Melanie. Posed elegantly on the couch like models from a hip, louche advertisement, the couple projected a frightening certainty. Later, Syd told Melanie that David was “her man” and she would back him up. The sentiment was true, and the delivery was touching, but Melanie and Syd shouldn’t be at odds over David. It’s a sign that something is wrong.
As, in fact, it is. By the end of this episode, the rules have both clarified and shifted. David, despite his protestations, is not in control. The Devil is. In the words of the D3 guy, “It wears a human face.” Once we learn that, everything else takes on a new color: was it really David who created the heavenly white room? Was it the Devil? (Who was Syd sleeping with?)
The colors might be a clue: the white room was white at first. Then blue, when Syd tells her horrifying story of losing her virginity. Then pink—a subtle transition, as the pink light begins to seep into the room while Syd is asleep. And, finally, red in the bathroom, as Lenny tells David how to rescue Amy.
If forced to guess, and to parse the nuances of this show, I’d say that the white room is a joint product of David and the Devil (and David doesn’t know of the Devil’s contributions). It has the potential to be a place of safety, but its rules change depending on what David wants and how linked he is to the Devil.
The first time he took Syd to the white room, her body stayed at Summerland. In the haunted-house scene, when she begs to be taken back, her body travels, too. The in-between scenes are more ambiguous, but when David was playing the banjo (and the room was white although the bathroom was pinkish red), it’s clear that David is genuinely afraid. He is trying to hide that fear, and even hide Syd’s presence, from the Devil, who finds them, anyway.
So the white room is a place of safety, but it is not immune to the Devil. Or to Lenny, who might be an aspect of the Devil or link between it (the unobserved, forgotten parasite) and David’s powers. Cary described the Devil as a parasite, but that parasitism might work both ways: David may be drawing strength from it, just as it draws strength from him.
Regardless, everything disintegrates in the psychic space of David’s childhood home. When he and Amy walk into his bedroom, David looks in the mirror and touches his face like it is a new experience—“It wears a human face.” Lenny manifests out of the mirror, capable of physically touching David in a horrifically rapey moment, and capable of being seen by others in the room. The Devil, or David, or both. They’re getting stronger.
That’s all a lot of info about David, who is the core of this show and the dominant focus of our attention. But this was, in many ways, Syd’s episode: her first positive sexual experience, her first confrontation with the Devil, her fear in the psychic space of the childhood home, her dawning realization that her boyfriend may not be quite what she thought, for good or ill.
I love that Syd gets the last line of this episode, even though the context of that line is ambiguous: after all of the madness, after the white room and Lenny and David’s hair going all classic comic-book crazy—the Eye was even there for a while!—Syd and David transport to the white room, where she is attacked by the Devil. Then…
Zip! We’re back in Clockworks, the institution, at group therapy as a ping-pong ball bounces in the background. Melanie is there, and Cary, and Kerry—it’s practically the last scene of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy returns to Kansas. But Lenny is running the group session, and given the look on her face, I'm comfortable saying that Syd seems to understand what is going on better than I ever could.
The look on her face is one of control—real control, not David’s fragile veneer—and I’m excited to see what sort of “talk” she manages to create in next week’s episode. I like to think she'll take on Lenny, blonde vs. brunette, sane vs. demonic. I'm a little worried we're going to a "it's all in his mind" place, but I'm confident in Hawley's ability to understand narrative complexity a little better than that.
Without the Meds, It’s Really Hard to Keep Things Straight:
• I didn’t even get a chance to consider the beauty of Cary taking Kerry into himself, absorbing her wounds, and then letting her do what she does best.
• Excellent use of a new-to-me Radiohead song to accompany the slaughter at D3.
• Why did they leave the (admittedly creepy) Dr. Kissinger locked up?
• The Devil’s power to be forgotten reminded me of the Silence on Doctor Who.
• The white room that changed colors was evocative of Twin Peaks.
• Have you heard the “Rainbow Connection” song before? Because I never had. So all weird irony was lost on me.
• So, David was adopted! There’s an answer we can sink our teeth into.
Three out of four white rooms.
Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)