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The Fall of the House of Usher: The Masque of the Red Death

"You are consequence, Perry. And tonight, you are consequential."

No surprise that they used this image everywhere in the marketing. It's gorgeous. I want that cloak.

"The Masque of the Red Death" has always been one of my favorite Poe stories. I love the use of color and the idea of a masquerade party at the end of the world. I was thrilled to see it as one of the episode titles, and this adaptation did not disappoint.

Was it exactly the same? No. Instead of a group of nobles quarantining from from a horrific plague known as the Red Death and subsequently dying horrifically when the Red Death appears in the midst of their masquerade party regardless, we have a group of celebrities at an exclusive orgy who die horrifically after acid rains down on them from the sprinklers. But I'm not upset about the chances made. The spirit of the story remained.

I really liked Perry. He was very clearly a violent and hedonistic young man with a chip on his shoulder the size of the Usher family fortune, but he was fascinating to me. He wasn't incompetent. Young? Yes. Unaware of how to act appropriately in most settings? Yes. But there was a clear intelligence there, and a drive to succeed. I was not expecting the blackmail plot, but it made sense. All Perry wanted was power and respect, both things that he felt were wrongly withheld from him.

All bastards are not created equal. At least Perry had a close relationship to Leo. It was possibly the only somewhat healthy and uplifting relationship in the entire episode. Tamerlane is outsourcing romantic date nights with her husband to a prostitute dressed to look identical to her, Camille has all kinds of weird power dynamics with her two assistants, and Morelle is lying to her husband and daughter in order to go sneak out to her brother-in-law's orgy.

I don't think that she actually wanted to sleep with Perry, though. Not really. I think that she was tempted, but it was more a symptom of her feeling trapped in a kind of midlife crisis. She spent the entire party by herself. She didn't touch anyone, didn't do any drugs. She just danced awkwardly off to the side. But your marriage still isn't in a good spot if you're going to an anonymous orgy in the first place. If only she listened to Verna and left when she had the chance.

What exactly is Verna? She gave Perry a chance to stop and avoid the acid rain. It made his death (and everyone else's) the consequence of his own actions. The acid rain was built up to very well. There was almost a Final Destination vibe to it. One of the lawyers said very quickly that one of the sites had highly acidic waste. We watched Perry order them to hook up the sprinklers to the tanks on the roof. It was all very explainable. You could easily see why Dupin believed it to be just a tragic accident. Of course, Verna was standing on the roof in a red coat, catching Perry's attention and making sure he that saw the tanks. It wasn't completely unguided.

At the same time, she went to staff members and to Morelle and warned them to leave. She still manipulated the outcome, despite letting the consequences play out. It speaks to a kind of code of honor. The staff were paid to be there; presumably they did not have a choice in the matter. And Morelle very clearly didn't belong there either.

Beyond the frame narrative between Dupin and Roderick, and beyond the recounting of each Usher death, we also have the rise of the Usher dynasty. This week, we met Annabel, Roderick's first wife and mother of Frederick and Tamerlane. She's very sweet. It's very obvious who the angel on Roderick's shoulder was, as well as who the devil was.

I continue to be enthralled by Madeline, especially the younger version played by Willa Fitzgerald. Annabel said it best when she said that when Madeline gets going, she just goes. There's an incredibly ruthless edge to her. It was interesting how she said that she hadn't spent a lot of time with Annabel. Frederick had to be somewhere in the five to seven years range, so it's not like they were newly married either. Was Roderick keeping the two women in his life separate? Madeline was also surprised that Annabel knew about their father. Clearly, that as supposed to be some kind of secret.

I was surprised to see Dupin show up in that timeline, too. He has been hunting Fortunato for a lot longer than I had expected, even if he wasn't hunting the Ushers at first. We got to see the start of their drug empire, though, with Roderick's pitch to the excellently slimy Rufus Griswold. Of course, the very medical device that Roderick dismissed back then could be exactly the device that he needs now. It's very thematic that his heart is killing him. It all goes back to the idea of choices and small decisions that lead up to life altering consequences.

One of the most interesting things was the use of color. Each Usher had their own color. There were flashes of them last episode, but it's more apparent here. The color shows up in their clothing, their cars, their environments, and arguably most importantly, when they die and their ghosts appear to Roderick. Perry's color is red. Fitting, given the episode's name. But even beyond that, red is generally associated with passion, sexuality, anger, and danger. It can be a warning, and Perry's death certainly provided that.

And so we end with Perry just like how we began: in the middle of of a pile of flesh. Only instead of it being pretty, soft, and beautiful, it's ugly. Rotten. Dead.

Random Thoughts

Loved Pym repeating the company line along with Frederick.

Hated Fredrick's little ponytail. It fits his character.

Perry's mom was a blackjack dealer.

Do Poe's stories exist in this universe? I mainly ask because the poem Roderick quoted to Annabel was, predictably, "Annabel Lee." I'm curious if it's a quote in-universe or if he's supposed to be something of a poet.

Annabel and Juno are two very different women. Juno is (was?) a heroine addict, and acts very different from how she looks.

Interesting how Perry also corrected "mole" to "informant," just like Lenore did last episode. Coincidence?
An Honest Fangirl loves video games, horror movies, and superheroes, and occasionally manages to put words together in a coherent and pleasing manner.

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