This episode fucking broke me.
This recap is going to be a bit different from the previous two. I’m going to break my cardinal rule and address this episode scene-by-scene, but only to interject my comments and interpretations – not to hold your hand by recounting every single little thing that happened.
Remember, don’t read this recap if you haven’t seen the episode yet. It is dark and full of spoilers.
The special effects were, of course, awesome. The witty banter between True, Penance, and Annie was clever and highly enjoyable. And True and Penance both getting high on exploded opium? Priceless.
But…did you see the moonwalking bear?
For those of y’all who don’t know: that question is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a viral video about a UK Public Service Announcement attempting to raise awareness for cyclists on London roads. Apparently, several years ago, lots of cyclists were getting hit by drivers, and the “Moonwalking Bear” video not only aired on public broadcasting, but also went viral on the internet. Not to toot my own horn, but the very first time I saw the video, I did notice the moonwalking bear. But it was one of those things that my brain filed away as unimportant because it didn’t make sense – and a split second later, I had almost completely forgotten it – until the end of the video. Then I was all:
In the case of this episode, I legitimately believe that “the thunder” – referenced in passing by a very, very high Penance and True – is the show’s moonwalking bear. You think it’s not important because of all the chaos surrounding its appearance; but (I believe) it is, in fact, very profound.
Penance – while completely tripping balls on opium – talks about “the cloud that wanted thunder but was too gentle to hold it” and “did you feel the thunder that wasn’t?”
“I feel it all the time,” an equally high True responds.
That bit of dialogue ain’t no accident, folks. Does anyone remember what happened at the beginning and end of the first episode? Cuz I ‘member. I remember it very clearly. The main characters were each shown in their element in the first few minutes, and the scene ends with a loud crack of thunder making everyone turn their heads to the sky. In the last three minutes of the episode? Those minutes show exactly what happened after the thunderclap. That’s when the alien(?) ship descended from the clouds, turned lots of people special with magical unicorn sparkles, and fell into the ocean. Then the second it was gone, everyone – including the touched, with the exception of Maladie – completely forgot what had happened.
I think that, subconsciously, the touched (and maybe even the non-touched) remember what happened. And I think this scene strongly foreshadows them finding that out.
The Next Morning Scene
We start out with True sitting at her vanity, getting ready for the day, staring at herself in the mirror. She traces her fingers across her face – and, in my opinion – along scar lines which are no longer there. She then slaps herself hard in the face in order to get herself out of her own head and stop ruminating on past, unpleasant thoughts.
- The woman who sheds her skin – this feels like even more evidence that this wasn’t a random, cryptic metaphor from Maladie. Why is she drawing lines down her face if she isn’t tracing scar tissue that was there before but no longer exists? Is that even her real face? She said it wasn’t. Maybe she was telling the truth…
- I have WAY too much in common with Amalia True – I have way more in common with Amalia True than I feel comfortable discussing in a public space. Suffice to say, it’s most likely going to cloud my judgement about her in these recaps going forward. But if I’m right, it’ll also provide some valuable insight as to what is actually going on in her head (as written by someone who knows). So be on the lookout for that.
Also (clears throat, pulls out bullhorn):
I CALLED THAT. I CALLED IT IN MY FIRST RECAP. I TOLD Y’ALL THAT TRUE AND HORATIO WERE KNOCKIN’ THEM VICTORIAN ENGLAND BOOTS!
(Ahem) sorry. My ego just wants a moment of recognition/validation.
“I’m sorry I can’t be more generous about being your mistake.” Dude, I’ve been there and felt that. But here’s some hard truth which most people who have been cheated on don’t want to hear that I’m gonna say out loud anyway: it wasn’t a mistake (at least, not between these two). Relationships are messy and complicated. And the fact that we have to stuff ourselves into convenient little monogamy boxes in order to fit in with society’s expectations – as well as the emotional insecurities of those we care about – leads to situations where (unethical) non-monogamy happens and sometimes hurts people. But, obviously, Horatio and True were vibing on a level that he and his wife weren’t. You can tell based on the tension in their conversation that there’s still some passion there. And the fact that they’re so professional and understanding in every single other conversation they’ve had in this series so far shows that there’s still mutual respect there. Maybe even something more than respect and unsatiated passion.
“It’s not fun. Watching you throw yourself at danger like you think it’s gonna propose. Coming here, to patch you up over and over-” I mean, sure, you could argue that Horatio is making this statement because he’s annoyed that she’s causing him extra work. But let’s be real. That’s not how people who don’t give a shit about each other mince words. You don’t go back and forth – trying to get in the last word while also making sure the other person knows the pain you’ve caused them – if you don’t care at all whatsoever.
Of course, Harriet overhears this entire exchange…
The Piano Scene
In a common area of the orphanage, we see Mary/Ariel (“Mariel”) playing the piano and leading the others in a song which gets interrupted when True comes down for breakfast. Honestly, I’m not sure why everyone gets discouraged and shuts down when she shows up. Amalia even goes to great effort to let them know that she is not there to disturb their fun and encourages them to keep playing. Why is everyone treating her like she’s a wet blanket raining on their parade?
And: “I slept”, “you always were a lightweight” is such a cute exchange.
Mary’s Meeting With Amalia
Amalia shows a great amount of empathy in this scene. But it is slightly lost on Mary because of her recent kidnapping and the trauma that stems from it. True exposes herself (and potentially shoots herself in the foot) by admitting to Mary that “every woman keeps secrets. Every touched woman keeps a great deal more” when Mary tries to ask her about what her real plans are for the touched.
Then True pivots and shares (or overshares?) a bit more of herself to try and earn Mary’s trust: “I also drink when I shouldn’t, fight when I needn’t, and fuck men whose names I do not learn…when I meet someone, the first thing I think of is how to kill them.” Biiiiitch, @me next time before you steal my life story you coward.
It was interesting to find out that Hugo is a feet guy (not that there’s anything wrong with people who like feet; no kinkshaming allowed here). As someone who considers herself a sexually liberated woman, I sincerely appreciate how he tries to help the woman he’s having sex with achieve her own orgasm by stimulating her clitoris while he is “auditioning” her. Good guy Hugo. I have a bad feeling I won’t be calling him a “good guy” for long, though.
I also appreciate the fact that Dominique, a sex worker, emphasizes that she is being paid to do what she wants to do instead of Augie’s narrative which believes she is being used or manipulated in some way. Thank you once again, show, for showing sex work in a positive and empowering way instead of contributing to the shame and stigma that society still wants to project onto a perfectly natural practice which is also one of the oldest professions in the world.
Also, as someone who has an innate sixth sense for what time it is, I feel for Dominique. I really, really do.
Finally: are we really surprised to learn that Hugo lied to Augie about when he filed the paperwork? Like I said, Hugo is going to show some true colors coming up that I feel most of the audience is not going to like.
Lord Massen’s Estate
This scene is very, very interesting if you pay attention to the subtle details.
For starters: look at the dates on the gravestones. Pause if you have to. Apparently, his late wife died in the same year that his daughter was born. That strongly implies that she died during childbirth. And his daughter was the last thing he had (or…has?) that remained (or remains?) of the woman he loved.
Also, even though this isn’t technically in the same scene, I highly doubt that the macabre little dungeon cell – which the audience is led to believe is occupied thanks to ominous, swaying shadows under the door – is actually inhabited by “dogs”. I’m calling it now: Lord Massen’s daughter is locked up in that cell. We saw her receive some unicorn sparkles in Ep 1, so we know she got touched. We also know from seeing some of the other touched (Primrose, and also the unnamed girl with blue skin who was hiding during Mundi’s raid of the orphanage) that some turns can and will change a person’s physical appearance. I’m guessing that her turn has changed her appearance (and I’m sure Douche Massen would argue “disfigured” her) so much that he lied about her death in order to protect his family’s reputation from public shame.
The Beggar King Scolds His Soldiers
The most important thing in this scene, for me, was YET AGAIN more fantastic foreshadowing from the show. The Beggar King makes another vague reference to Odium and water. This time, it’s “taking a walk along the Thames”. In a previous episode, it was about how “you can’t drag him into a bath” to save his life. And we’ll find out later in this episode why that’s significant…
Horatio and Maladie
I’ve suspected since Ep 2 that “the colonel” has the ability to persuade people into believing whatever he says. He’s almost the opposite to Desiree in that respect. She can force people to tell the truth; he can force people to believe a lie.
Maladie and I are of a similar intellect, because it doesn’t take much for her to figure out that Amalia and Horatio are/were getting busy. But it was interesting to learn that she, Horatio, and Amalia all go as far back as their mutual time in the asylum – Maladie and Amalia as patients, and Horatio as “a black in a doctor’s coat”. And that wasn’t the only uncomfortably racist statement during this scene. The part where Maladie cryptically celebrates his job well done by saying “new moon has made me a virgin” is all sorts of messed up.
Last – but not least – why does Horatio’s turn leave people so itchy?
Mundi, Hugo, and the Sexual Speakeasy
“What’s your preference? We only got two on tap” could be code to check whether or not the customer is there for gay sex or is straight. This bar is basically a sexual speakeasy for gay/bisexual/etc men. And you know what? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that such establishments existed back then. Hell, I’d be eager to hear stories about the IRL ones and learn about that history.
Getting back to the actual show: well, well, well. Mundi and Hugo, sitting in a tree…doing way more than k-i-s-s-i-n-g. It’s one thing when Mundi makes excuses, saying he was “blind drunk”. But when Hugo fires back a few minutes later with “…only the first time, Frank”, boy howdy, was that an interesting revelation.
Hugo also calls into question in this scene whether or not Amalia has a genuine interest in creating a safe refuge for the touched – or whether her intentions are different and, possibly, more sinister. We also learn that Mundi agrees with him. Honestly, I think this is more subtle foreshadowing that True has more than one turn (a theory I’ve discussed before).
PS: the “panto Moriarty” line is an obscure reference to some classic Sherlock Holmes literature. Thanks for that fun little Easter egg, show.
Into the Spider’s Web
Probably the most important thing to note about this scene is how True has no idea that Bidlow is playing both sides: funding Amalia’s orphanage, and also running the decoy “safe house” that she uses to lure in the touched (like flies into a spider’s web) so that they can be experimented upon. In her own way, True is another piece of potential prey caught on the outer spokes, but she doesn’t know it yet. Lavinia lies about the fact that it’ll take her a few days to identify the owner of the building, even though she knows damn well who it is.
I also noticed that Bidlow referred to Mariel’s song as a “siren’s song”. Obviously, sirens are from Greek mythology and use their song to lure sailors to their deaths. But that’s not what Mary’s song actually does. However, it’s very telling that Livinia thinks that of her.
The Interrogation That Turned Stomachs ‘Round the World
After watching this scene – and getting more info on Lucy’s backstory – I felt like someone had gut-punched straight into my chest and ripped my heart out. And this isn’t even the worst thing that happens in this episode…but we’re slowly working up to that.
I think this scene creates a perfect opportunity to talk about the religious under (and sometimes not-so-under) tones in the show. Penance is obviously an avid churchgoer who cares very much about scripture and “good sermons”. Her name is Penance, for christ’s sake, which is “a Christian sacrament in which a member of the Church confesses sins to a priest and is given absolution.” By the way, that’s not foreshadowing at all, is it, show? (I’m being sarcastic, of course. It’s obviously foreshadowing).
And it isn’t just Penance. Lord Massen has also mentioned more than once in the past few episodes that everyone whom he believes to be a threat to the Great British Empire (the touched, rebellious women, dock workers on strike, the infirmed, etc) are all either abominations or “acting against the will of God”. And last – but certainly not least – is Maladie, who believes she’s on a mission from God to “kill angels”.
This scene evokes christianity once again when the lady who runs the faux orphanage confesses to murdering her daughter. The daughter could turn any liquid into water, including wine (which was the opposite of what Jesus did) and purify any polluted water that wasn’t safe to drink. Because she was the opposite of Jesus, that meant she was under Satan’s influence in her mother’s twisted mind, And her mother drowned her in the bath one day – despite the fact that her daughter was pregnant. So much for “pro life”.
And how likely is it that Myrtle would have suffered a similar fate if she had stayed in her home with her crackpot evangelical mother who staunchly believed that “Satan [was] sittin’ on her tongue”?
Also, is it just me, or does anyone else remember when Primrose made that offhand comment about how Lucy wouldn’t “know anything about being a mother” in Ep 1? This makes that moment even more heartbreaking. God damn, I feel for Lucy in this moment and I wish she had the opportunity to shatter that bitch’s spine (the redhead who drowned her pregnant daughter, not Prim). And when the events of the interrogation spur Mariel into feeling ready to share her song…if you aren’t feeling some serious feels, I have no words for you.
Epic Fight Is Epic
I’m an MMA girl, so you know I have to comment on this amazing scene. But I also want to add that it was so bittersweet to see Amalia flip to the page with Elisabetta’s photo and gloves before Odium tossed her into the river.
Speaking of, we finally find out the significance of all those offhand comments about Odium and water: he is a Gerridae in human form, also known as a “Jesus bug” among many other names (remember how we talked about religious overtones earlier?). He literally cannot submerge himself in water. This leads to not just one of the most epic flying armbars I’ve seen on TV, but also Odium getting choked out by his own damn chain.
Honestly, though, this fight raises a different question for me: Amalia spends a significant portion of this fight scene underwater. Remember how I keep talking about some of the touched having multiple turns? And how Amalia was “touched” while literally trying to drown herself? Are we looking at more foreshadowing here?
The Part of the Episode That Fucking Broke Me
It’s not just that we learn, for sure, that Frank is not one of the touched in a silent moment of sadness that made you want to hug the man like you would a sad puppy. It’s not just that you could tell from the emotion on Mariel’s face that she truly believed in what she was doing. It’s not just the looks on all of the touched people’s faces when they hear her beautiful song, expressing hope and happiness and love and bliss. That’s not what broke me.
It was the fact that in that surprise, unexpected moment when that first bullet shot her directly through the heart, you felt that shit. I legit recoiled and gasped loudly enough that my neighbors probably heard it. And holy balls did that trigger the ugliest of ugly-cries, especially as the show adds insult to injury (and also eliminating any and all possibility that Horatio could swoop in and save the day) by the attacker turning Mary’s torso into swiss cheese with a dozen more follow-up bullets.
The transition to the next scene suffered from a noticeable instance of discontinuity for me. All of a sudden, they go from being in the park in the late afternoon/early evening to a back alley at night? Maybe the show didn’t need any exposition between Mary’s body being taken away, True & Company getting a message from Bonfire Annie, and everyone deciding to meet her at that specific meeting spot. Although I can understand why it was left out, it was pretty jarring. Regardless, the episode ends with Annie – joined by dozens of other touched, Dominique included – raising her flaming palm in order to illuminate the scene, acting as a literal beacon of hope. This is not only some poetically beautiful symbolism, but some interesting character development for our friend(?) Annie.
Questions, Comments, and Concerns
- Penance and the robot guard at the faux orphanage – will they let Penance examine him/it? That would be interesting to follow up on.
- That prison cell scene with the dude dripping puss from his arm? Eww. Just…eww. That scene literally made me nauseous. And I’m glad Frank shot his fucking eyeball out the back of his skull (but I’m sure the actor who played him is a perfectly lovely person IRL and I’m glad he’s so talented that he made me hate that character so passionately).
- When Mary told Frank “I will never hate you for who you are”, I teared up a little. She’s such a sweet creature. What happened to her was just that much more devastating after this scene (and this whole episode in general).
- When Massen and his cohorts are reviewing paperwork relating to their new investments, you friggin’ know they’re talking about Hugo’s sex club. I desperately wanted to zoom in on and enhance (…Enhance…ENHANCE…) the documents they were reviewing; but either the show’s DP is very, very clever, or my monitors have craptastical resolution. I’m sure it’ll come up later, though.