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The Fall of the House of Usher: The Tell-Tale Heart

"You strike me as a queen without a crown."

Vic's turn!

Part of me wonders if the plot structure is hurting this show. It's not just that we already know how it's going to end. There can still be plenty of tension to be found in the journey towards a known ending. It's that there's very little variation in how an episode plays out. Even though there's different flavors of horror, at this point, it's feeling a little repetitive. Or maybe I'm just a little miffed that all of the Ushers that I was most interested in are dead already.

That's not to say that this episode was bad by any means. It was excellent, and I definitely enjoyed it. But I also felt incredibly little for Vic as a character and so wasn't as invested as I wish that I had been. Which is a shame because there were some very interesting character moments that I wish had been expanded upon.

I always saw Frederick and Tammy as completely separate from the bastards, so the fact that Vic made a dividing line between the three of them and the 'Littles' was a curious one. Especially since her siblings very clearly disagreed. Annabel Lee was talked about as an almost sainted figure, but there's something of a disconnect between that and how Roderick actually treated her.

Do I think that they were happily married? Yes. Did that stop him from kissing a random woman to form an alibi? No. He didn't even protest the idea. For a second, I thought that maybe she had died or that they were separated by that point, but Dupin made it pretty clear that the pair were still together. That doesn't exactly fit with a loving husband.

Still, she was the only one that he married before Juno came along. He didn't marry any of the mothers. (God, seeing them sitting there in the pew was very awkward.) So why marry Juno? It has to go back to her being 'proof,' right? It's a PR stunt. Unless he genuinely loves Juno, but I have trouble believing that he genuinely love anyone... except maybe Madeline.

It would fit the reoccurring theme of every romantic relationship the Ushers have being very transactional in nature. Not only did Vic heavily imply that she and Al were only together because of the money, but Tammy made it incredibly clear that Bill was nothing more than a commodity. Sheesh. The idea that she not only headhunted Bill to be the face of her brand, but pretended that their meeting was completely accidental was cold as hell. It was inhuman, actually. That's a better word for it. Poor Bill. He didn't deserve that. No one does, but he clearly loves Tammy and was heartbroken by what she said. None of the Ushers' partners deserved to be treated like they are.

Now, I'm pretty genre savvy. As soon as we had that hard cut after Vic threw the ornament, I knew that Al was dead. (It also helped that the newspaper clipping back in episode one mentioned that it was a murder/suicide.) The flashback still managed to be incredibly painful and effective. It was just one moment of anger. A mistake. It was tragic, and I felt genuinely sad as Vic panicked and trembled as she tried to call 911.

And then she paused, and the scene took on a very different tenor. She didn't just do nothing, but she actively lied and sent help away. The initial act might have been manslaughter, but she turned it into murder.

The sound design of the ticking, tell-tale heart was great. It wasn't immediately obvious what it was, but the squeaking of dead flesh actually got stuck in my head a little. I kept hearing it even after the episode ended. I was also super excited when Roderick could hear the ticking. I thought that was a fun twist, the idea that he could share in his children's torments. Of course, then it was revealed that the only reason why he could hear it was because Al's body was in the other room, which was a little less fun. At least the reveal gave us a great moment of gore.

Roderick is really getting punished, isn't he? Not only through the hallucinations of all of his dead children, but in actually seeing Vic kill herself in front of him as well. I actually felt bad for him when he tried to placate Vic and told her that she was fully funded. Just a little. Either way, he's clearly bearing a lot more suffering than Madeline is. Sure, she doesn't have any children to kill, but still. There's definitely an uneven distribution of pain here.

I can't even say that maybe Madeline wasn't involved in whatever happened with Verna, because she very clearly was. Maybe Verna just has a soft spot for her. Their conversation as the ball dropped was just electric. Cleopatra, huh? Sure, she was an incredibly powerful female ruler (and continues our reoccurring Egyptian motif) but she definitely had several men with power over her. Infamously so. Willa Fitzgerald continues to impress me. She's so much better than she was in Scream.

I did like, though, that there was at least a moment of Roderick acknowledging what was happening and considering how to solve it. His death would end it, huh? The suicide montage left me a little cold, even if it was rather pretty. I just didn't pity him enough. Of course, we also knew that he would never go through with it since he's talking to Dupin in the frame narrative.

... Unless he's a ghost too. Nah. No way.

Regardless, I had a difficult time summoning pity for someone who put out a bounty on his own children. I really didn't like that there was no informant, though. It felt like such a cop out. A mystery that ended up being meaningless. I wanted it to actually mean something, although I suppose it is the reason why Camille went to the RUE Morgue.

Vic's color was orange, and it's the first one that felt like it didn't fit for me at first. It is associated with optimism, enthusiasm, and warmth as positives, and superficiality and pride as negatives. I mostly got hung up on the positive associations, but I suppose those are all the things that Vic was pretending to be. She pretended to be a warm, enthusiastic doctor when all of that was completely surface level. In reality, she was a lot closer to Camille: practical to the point of ruthlessness and more than willing to cross every boundary in order to get what she wanted.

That included forging signatures for shady medical trials, just like what happened to Roderick. Everything repeats itself. At this point, if something shows up in the flashbacks, I expect it to happen in the present day as well. Whether it's words or actions, the Ushers copy Gris a lot. Even using demolition and new construction as a cover to destroy illegal things that they shouldn't have. It's one of my favorite parts of the show.

Random Thoughts

I loved Lenore's sweater and how it had everyone's color in it.

Who was standing in the balcony of the funeral? Verna? It was hard for me to tell.

There are a ton of animal references in this show. Ravens, chimps, horses, cats, lions... I don't know if it means anything but it's interesting.

Madeline asking Pym for Verna's eyes as a receipt was very ruthless. Also clearly not the first time she has asked for something like that.

I can see Frederick being identified with Roderick very easily. But Tammy never struck me as a version of Madeline. Does anyone else see it?

Speaking of Frederick... I'm already looking forward to his death. How he's treating his wife is creeping me out so much.
An Honest Fangirl loves video games, horror movies, and superheroes, and occasionally manages to put words together in a coherent and pleasing manner.


  1. I actually don't know how it ends! I'm not sure I've ever read this Poe tale. I only realized a few episodes ago that I'd been thinking of the Sherlock Holmes story Hounds of the Baskervilles.

  2. Enjoyed your recap and observations. I saw Tammy as closer to Madeline with her calculated machinations than Frederick to Roderick. He was such a bumbling idiot sometimes.

  3. So the informant was a bluff, as I kind of suspected--and contrary to what Roderick says, I doubt Camille would have been quite so desperate to get dirt on Victorine without it, so I think it did contribute to one of the deaths. Camille is actually the one that reminded me most of Madeline, maybe just her sharpness of wit.

    You pointed out another one of the characteristics that made Leo the most human of the Ushers--he seemed to be the only one in a relationship that wasn't purely transactional.

    Are they dying youngest to oldest?


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