Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

The Fall of the House of Usher: The Pit and the Pendulum

"I am the Usher ascendant."

I'm pretty sure none of the Ushers are ascending. It would kind of contradict the whole title of the show.

Frederick has been a very slow burn. As the last child standing, he has had the most time to simmer and show his true colors. I don't think that there's any debate that he was the worst of the lot. Vic had no respect for medical ethics and Camille seemed to have zero empathy at all, but Frederick took it to a different level.

What he did to Morella was just horrific. I both loved and hated the detail of her bandages getting progressively dirtier as the episode went along. And then the wedding photos plastered all over the walls! And the teeth! I'm not squirmy when it comes to gore, but I was very glad that the actual remove took place off screen. Just the suggestion of it was enough. The worst part is that I don't think he wanted to kill Morella. Just make her suffer as penance, and then once that was over, they could be a family again.

It made his eventual demise all the more satisfying, although it probably would have been my favorite anyways. We came full circle by returning to the site of Perry's orgy. In fact, he may have gone to the exact spot that Perry had been in when he died. He was finally ready to destroy the factory, something that he should have done long before now. And it killed him.

Well... not quite.

Verna has taunted the Ushers before, namely Camille, Leo, and Tamerlane, but not like this. She only ever nudged them, provoked them with words. She always offered them a way out, or at least a less painful alternative. That was not the case here. Even she admitted that she didn't normally influence things so much. I had noticed that moment where Frederick seemed to zone out, but I didn't really think anything of it. I just wrote it off as either a side effect of the drugs or an indication of just how unstable his mind had become.

It was incredibly satisfying to see that it had been Verna influencing things. It was equally satisfying that we got to see that Morella knew exactly what was happening and the joy that it gave her. Really, everything about Verna explaining to Frederick what was about to happen was a joy. It was in the little details, like how she made sure to turn his head so that he would see the pendulum as it swung down towards him, or the repetition of "But then you had to bring her home..."

Their marriage was the only relationship that seemed to be built on a genuine foundation. There was nothing transactional about it. Morella only talked to Frederick for the first time because she thought that he needed a friend. That was it. Unlike literally every single other relationship in the show (outside of Annabel Lee and probably Jules), it wasn't created with an ulterior motive in mind. That still wasn't enough to save it. Ushers are toxic, and they ruin everything that they touch.

The only exception is Lenore, who is living up to her namesake as a radiant being on par with angels. It would have been easy enough to just listen to her father and ignore her intuition that something was wrong, but she didn't. She listened to her gut, realized that what Frederick was saying didn't match up with what she was seeing, and took action. She absolutely saved Morella's life because of it. Good. It would have been a little too depressing if she suffered so much just to die at the end of it all.

To quickly wrap up Frederick, let's talk about his color: blue. It's something that is very associated with corporate America and positions of authority, which is why we have both the blue power suit and why police officers are traditionally in blue. It also conveys trust, honesty, and faithfulness, all things that Frederick championed repeatedly to his wife, although we know just how much he twisted them. Honestly, that might be the best way to describe him. Unlike his sister, he was more than old enough to have some idea of what was happening between his dad and Dupin. He was the only Usher child who would have had concrete memories of his previous life. Anything good that Annabel Lee might have left him was just twisted along the way.

Annabel Lee truly was a good person, too. It wasn't an act, despite what Madeline thought. She always wanted to do the right thing, and the only thing that she asked in return was for Dupin to look after Roderick when everything hit the fan. Just like Dupin, she fooled me too.

I was shocked when Roderick turned on Dupin during his testimony, even though I should have seen it coming. I had been so swept up with the fun banter as they practiced and in the moments of seemingly genuine connection between them as Dupin came out that I forgot that Roderick had cost Dupin his job. I had ignored that moment of anger that Roderick directed to a young Frederick for simply being a kid and making noise. I had completely disregarded the face that Madeline always made all of the decisions for them, and she was far too logical to let her brother destroy his livelihood and what she saw as their birthright. I fell for it, and it was a sucker punch.

Roderick was never a good person, was he? Madeline had been ruthless from the start, but Roderick always hid it better. I had just assumed that all of his power and wealth had slowly corrupted him, but no. He had been rotten from the start. He had been rotten before he and Madeline made whatever deal they did with Verna. No wonder Annabel was horrified. I would be, too.

He relied on her to convince others that he was good. Hell, maybe to convince himself as well. I almost teared up when our normal ghostly jump scare was tweaked. Inside of only half of Frederick, we got a full Annabel holding a young Frederick, just like how they were before he betrayed Dupin. Roderick so desperately wanted it to be real, and his horror when his son's bottom half slipped away was far more effective than if we had just continued the pattern.

The only remaining question really is what deal did the twins actually make? Judging by what Madeline said at the end, it involves them dying together. Or maybe just Roderick's death. Of course, after trying and failing to psych himself up to commit suicide a few episodes earlier, he was only able to do it with Madeline's help and approval. The way that she just kept repeating about how he was a king and how he was saving them all was chilling. It was so clearly manipulative, but at the same time, isn't it exactly what you would want to hear in those moments?

It would have worked too if Verna hadn't shown up. There's truly no escaping her, whether by negotiation or by force. Besides Frederick's death, my favorite scene had to be Verna and Madeline's conversation together. Not only did it make me jump with the sudden neck snap (ruthless!) but there was something incredibly sad about it. At least when it came to Verna. In the flashbacks, she seemed to like Madeline a lot more than her brother, calling her things like a queen and "My Cleopatra." Madeline just wanted to renegotiate. I guess there are no take-backs, though. Not after all these years.

Random Thoughts

Roderick was supposed to be a poet. I guess the various "Annabel Lee" stanzas were meant to be an original work and not a quote.

Frederick was supposed to be a dentist. I can see why that would annoy Verna.

We didn't learn what Madeline was supposed to be.

Good for Juno for standing up for herself and walking away. She's always felt rather superfluous, but this was a nice moment for her.

More mentions of how badly Madeline wants to create an immortal AI. That definitely will not end well.

The poem that Verna recites to Madeline is a lightly condensed version of "The City in the Sea," by Poe. Hauntingly beautiful, but I didn't get a lot of clarity from it either. I suppose I just need to let it sit for awhile.

An Honest Fangirl loves video games, horror movies, and superheroes, and occasionally manages to put words together in a coherent and pleasing manner.


  1. Fangirl, I've been trying to read your reviews while skipping over the gory parts, and not succeeding. I love Poe, especially his poetry, but this sounds like a show I might not be able to handle. :)

  2. Yeah, this is definitely Flanagan's goriest work by far with Netflix. He's usually a lot more restrained when it comes to that.

  3. And, Billie, you saw the stuff about the cat right?


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.