By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – February 9, 2020)
EPISODE 6: THE ONE WITH THE YIDDISH VAMPIRE
The very end of the episode was predictable and was set-up throughout, but outside of that particular sequence, which was full-on tension and one heck of a cliffhanger, it was an episode that actually felt like a bit of a step back in one key area.
We’ve now entered the stage where we’re smarter than everybody on screen other than Holly Gibney. When Ralph reacts the way he does, it’s frustrating, because Ben Mendelsohn’s character was behaving in a way prior that gave us hope he might remain more open minded. It was disappointing that he didn’t realize that the boy’s drawing of the hooded evil was so close to his wife’s. How did he forget that both drew the same half-drooped, disfigured face?
At this time, Andy is the only other person willing to buy in and look a little further, but Holly hasn’t delivered her entire theory. We have to pause our ire just a bit though, because we know so much that would otherwise be preposterous to US as an audience. Not only do we have all of Holly’s evidence before she lays it out to the room, we also know it’s Stephen King’s story, so we have to believe in the unexplainable and supernatural. The show is at a disadvantage because our mind says, “You idiots. It’s so obvious!”
If we were in that room with only what those individuals had seen and heard previously, how would we react? Probably like Ralph, if not like Glory Maitland, shouting expletives and storming out after hearing what we would consider to be stark raving lunacy and pure looney-bin stuff. Still, because we DO have that info, it drives us freaking crazy, especially when we know that as a result of their error, Holly’s life is officially in danger.
No one thinks she’s going to get killed, at least not yet, but putting her in a precarious position where she disappears and Jack is nowhere to be found is what may get us where we need to be, and a woman we didn’t see at all in this episode may be the missing piece. Holly asked about Tamika’s absence from the meeting, and she’s the one person that saw and noted Jack’s more obtuse and erratic behavior, and heard him beg her to stay away from him “for your own good.” That quote might actually wake some of these folks up to Holly’s predicament.
Speaking of which, it’s fitting that Jack’s punched-shut eye and beaten-up face from the fight with his “mother” leaves the right side of his face drooping and disfigured, just like our villain, who is transforming (love the concept that it’s this process that explains the time intervals between crimes) and potentially even shedding as it goes along. We also now know who Tracey Powell is and his tie to Heath, in this case being his first cousin. Holly discovers the neck scarring anomaly that might save her life through Powell, which enables her to recognize it on Jack before he can ambush her at the barn.
Actually, I need to back track, because Yunis also doesn’t discard Holly’s overarching theory, because he heard the El Cuco stories when he was young, but what he hasn’t been able to do is convince anybody else it’s more than just parents being stern in tales to keep their kids in line. He’s tracking Claude, which is intriguing, because he’s the only character, including Holly, to take more than a passing interest in the ex con. In her defense, she probably has no idea he even exists.
Ralph is starting to crack a bit, as we hear him telling himself “It wasn’t him” in reference to his son popping up in the dream that closed last week’s installment. Gibney is in trouble, which is going to be the catalyst that sends us through the end of the limited series. She mentions to Ralph that she’s surprised he isn’t the target, but we all realize he is.
Thinking on everything going on, it’s ALL revolving around Ralph Anderson, with people he knows, families he’s dealt with, individuals that knew his son, and the entire idea over the past few weeks is that this entity feasts on misery, even after the initial event. If the event is Derrick’s death, what we’ve begun to see is Ralph being good at his job again and not drinking himself into a stupor. His marriage didn’t fall apart. That has to truly eat away at our hooded friend, who wants him to grieve and never get over anything, never have a regular life.
Holly also hypothesizes that El Cuco is too weak to be seen in public, and thus might not actually be present, even in the encounters with Jeannie and the children. Instead, he might be the worst version of Tupac Shakur at Coachella imaginable, projecting himself and using people like Heath, Terry, and Maria to accomplish what he can’t. Perhaps, in a way, our antagonist is more akin to a vampire than merely as the intro to an average joke from Howie Saloman. Vampires can’t handle daylight. Perhaps the Boogeyman can’t handle it either, not as much literally as simply he can’t handle being SEEN and actually being present in our reality.
Come to think of it, how many times have you heard the boogeyman stories applied to daylight? It’s always a night time thing. People watch horror films in the afternoon if they can’t deal with the night. Everyone is afraid of darkness, because so much is unknown when you can’t visually contextualize and navigate through surroundings. Anything could be there. El Cuco exists in our reality almost as someone blindfolded trying to battle Medusa in the Greek myths. He can’t be turned to stone if he lets others do the dirty work. His eyes might appear to be black and empty, but maybe he wishes no one else had a pair that could see him.
It’s a misstep if next week’s episode doesn’t open almost exactly where this one closed, because we don’t need a side story or any diversion from where Richard Price left his story. We need to be right back in that car with Holly and Jack, worrying like crazy for her and full of anxiety, and it needs to feel very dire. That’s precisely what I expect. While she can assuredly defend herself to some degree, she needs to ALMOST get clipped before taking advantage of the proverbial escape clause. Jeannie could be important, Tamika definitely could, but also, it’s highly possible Glory Maitland is going to be the one that goes from storming out…to breaking the haze around everyone that makes them unable to grasp just how insane their adversary actually is.
It was another very good hour, with the minor issue that Ralph approached skeptic detective cliches, but the show didn’t let him cross that line fully. He’s coming around, and it’s happening quick enough that we can still live at least partially through him. Again, he’s reacting like we would if we didn’t have the blessing and the curse of all the information the series has shown us in order to tell its story. The Outsider continues to shine. It’s compelling, it’s well-acted, and it always leaves us wanting more. Erivo is just unbelievable, continuing her ridiculous year. She’s only 33 years old folks. Goodness.