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The Fall of the House of Usher: The Black Cat

"We're at battle stations. I'm the commanding officer. I don't want to hear anything but 'Sir, yes, Sir.'"

What a good kitty cat.

Out of every episode so far, this one had the strongest horror sequences. It was full of body horror, which always gets the strongest instinctual reaction from me. It's not my favorite by any means, but it never fails to make my whole body cringe away and just go Nope! The repeated eye stuff was gross, but it was nothing compared to watching Frederick unwrapping Morella to try and unlock the phone. That made me squirm a lot.

It just can't end well. I feel like he almost definitely is going to kill his wife. His slide into paranoia and drug-fueled fixation is clearly only going to get worse. There were moments of levity to it, namely his scene with Leo. (Loved Leo talking about drugs like they were a suit or an article of clothing, and his decision that Frederick needed something classic.) The bluntness made me laugh, as did Frederick awkwardly leaving as Leo screamed in pain.

There were a few very funny, very quick moments, like Tammy's uncertainty over whether or not Juno was in the will or the zoom and enhance banter, or even Leo looking for a very certain kind of pussy cat. It kept things from getting too bleak and kept the episode moving.

Which felt especially important because a lot of this episode felt like set up for the next four episodes. It seemed like we barely had any time with Leo even though this was his episode. I wanted to spend more time with him, especially after that opening scene where he learned the news about Camille.

Leo's color was yellow, which has a couple of interesting associations with it. Obviously, it's a very bright and happy color. It's warm, optimistic. But it's also the color of fear, as in a yellow-bellied coward, and of deceit and duplicity. It's a very two sided color, and it fit where Leo sat within the family.

Out of all of the Ushers, Leo always felt the most like a real person. Or maybe I should say that he felt the most like a normal person. He visibly and publicly grieved his siblings, to the point of snapping at his dad to write him out of the will as long as he was able to grieve Perry and Camille the way that he wanted to as opposed to the approved way.

I kept thinking to myself that he didn't deserve to die. Verna's warning felt particularly unfair compared to the ones that she gave Perry and Camille. Leo was being punished for insisting on a certain cat even though he was going to donate a ton of money to the shelter? But then I remembered that, no, Leo brutally killed Pluto while in a drugged haze. I give Rahul Kohil a lot of credit for making me forget that.

Except... Leo didn't kill Pluto. We saw Pluto at the very end there, complete with the Gucci collar. The cat had just gotten out like Jules had been worried about. He hallucinated all of it. Even the cat he got at the shelter was a hallucination, given the fact that no one else every saw it and the dead animals in the tub disappeared. No animals died here.

I was very glad that Jules survived as well, considering that the wife in the story wasn't so lucky. I was expecting him to end up in a wall, but instead we had Verna's hallucinated corpse there instead. He hadn't done anything to deserve death, even if he was very permissive with Leo's extracurriculars. Leo's reaction when he started to push back against that was very interesting. He told Frederick that the boyfriend had just 'resigned,' which is a very heavy word to use.

Most of the Ushers describe their sexual and romantic relationships in terms of transactions and business maneuvers. Camille had her assistants sign literal contracts, and Leo treated his partner as a position that can be resigned from. Even Juno and Roderick have an air of politics and PR about them. I believe that Juno genuinely cares for Roderick, but his line about her being his perfect proof and the best response to anyone who questions his drugs was very creepy. Their marriage has always felt creepy, but that put an extra sharp point on it.

The only romantic relationship so far that doesn't really feel like that is Roderick and Annabel. She humanizes him a lot. She's proof that he was a good person at some point. She so clearly loves her husband, and they both so clearly love and care for their kids, that it's amazing to contrast it with how Roderick is now. Sure, Roderick says all of the right things. He has his doors open to any and all children, and he speaks towards hope for their future and that they would have a better life than him, but when push comes to shove, his true colors come out.

Everything that he said during that family meeting was identical to what Gris said to him when he questioned the forged signatures, right down to the 'Sir, yes, Sir's. When did that shift happen? And how much of a hand did Madeline have in it?

I continue to adore her and find her absolutely fascinating. In the present day, she's always incredibly in control. She solves problems. Brother has a terminal heart condition? Okay, she'll go through treatments and find a way to keep his heart beating. Mysterious woman is killing her nieces and nephews? Okay, she'll track her down and hunt down leads to figure out where the bullets are flying from. And she'll do that after creating a space where her family is allowed to vent and be emotive before they need to fall in line and build a wall. All she does is problem solve. I'm very, very curious to see her lose some control.

There's a bit of that in the past timeline. Younger Madeline has so much vindictive, vengeful rage about her that it radiates with every movement and every word she spits. It's mesmerizing, honestly. Why the hell is Roderick CEO instead of her? She's the one with the drive and all of the ideas. I can only imagine that she chose to be COO instead for a reason.

Random Thoughts

I was wondering when we would hear banging in the basement.

Roderick also heard some metallic clanking behind a wall in the basement of Fortunato. That as a name feels more and more relevant.

Dupont's series of deductions about the Ushers was very in character for his literary counterpart. I was glad we had a moment like that.

Of course Leo (as in lion) got the cat story.

I expected Leo to land on his car. I don't know if I'm disappointed or not that that didn't happen.

Something I only caught on a second watch: Jules mentioned that Leo's ability to handle drugs with no ill effects was like 'magic.' That's a fun detail to keep in mind for later episodes.

Verna has a soft spot for short timers.

Also, Carla Gugino has just been killing it all season, but I want to especially point out her body language when telling Leo about how cats were predators. She was stalking him.

Three kids down, three more to go. Into the second half of the series!
An Honest Fangirl loves video games, horror movies, and superheroes, and occasionally manages to put words together in a coherent and pleasing manner.

1 comment:

  1. A cat focused horror episode (my cat is also black all over) was really delightful, especially since no actual cats died.

    I think it speaks to Leo's goodness that he was so destroyed by guilt about possibly killing a cat that he went crazy. In a way, that's love.


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