Photo: Eike Schroter/NETFLIX/EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX
Didn’t I tell you that what you mistake for madness is just too keen a sense? — Edgar Allan Poe “The Lying Heart”
Is the usher capable of love? Or have their power and money poisoned their lives so much that even their most intimate interactions are fraught with suspicion?
This is not just a philosophical question;For ushers, for The Fall of the Tower of Usher, this is the root of everything. Roderick and Madeleine were born out of an extramarital affair based on lust rather than love, and were left to fend for themselves after losing their mother. We still don’t know what happened to Roderick’s happy marriage to Annabelle, but his subsequent one-night stand was so frosty that he didn’t even speak to the mother of his dead child at the funeral. His current wife, Juno, seemed to love the drug he promoted more than she loved him, and he seemed to love her primarily because she liked the drug.
Roderick’s children fare no better. Perry and Camille have a clear transactional relationship. Napoleon is happy with Julius as long as he takes as many drugs and sleeps with as many people as possible, while Freddy is so tortured by his wife’s lies that he pulls her from the hospital against the advice of his doctors Come out so he can get on with his life. She was locked up, suffering-style, at home (and, I guess, so he could interrogate her about the burner phone). “You have to remember that you can’t trust people,” he advised his daughter.
We are reminded repeatedly that each of these partners has signed a confidentiality agreement. If you’re still holding out hope that everyone’s favorite power couple, Timur and her endlessly accommodating husband Bill-T, might have a little true love, you can pause; at the end of this episode, when They broke up when she revealed that she chose him not because she loved him, but because his whole Bill-T image was good for business.
That leaves us with one Usher: Victorine, played by the great Tinia Miller (who, not coincidentally, also starred in ” The Haunting of Bly Manor). Victorine was under more stress than any of her siblings. Her father invested $200 million in her heart valve, which was not just a huge amount of cash; As Roderick and Madeleine basically told her straight up, this was Roderick’s only chance to escape his CADASIL prognosis.
It should be obvious where this episode is going. “The Tell-Tale Heart” is probably Poe’s most famous short story, thanks in large part to the effectiveness of its narrator, who cites a series of increasingly insane thoughts and actions to demonstrate his no crazy. Poor, tight-lipped Victorine wants to be famous for a medical breakthrough, but skips the part where she achieves it. She attempts to form an alliance with Freddy and Tamerlane, but is met with only scorn from the surviving siblings. She turns to her partner, Alexandra Ruiz, for support, only to find herself embroiled in a bitter fight over sketchy medical trials and falsified documents. You can see Victorine thinking about what could stop Alexandra from walking out of the house and ruining their life together. “I love you,” she began, then moved to “I’ll give you anything you want, just name your price.” Rightly or wrongly, she calculated that Arthur’s money was worth more than Arthur’s love .
Whatever the answer, it’s not enough. Alexandra walks out, and we eventually learn that it was this breakup that caused the meltdown. A furious Victorine threw a bookend at Alexandra as she prepared to leave – only to hit her in the back of the head. Faced with the fact that she had just killed the woman she loved, Victorine simply refused to accept her own death.
This latest twist makes much of the episode chilling. We see Victorine repeatedly calling Alexandra, begging her to call her back, unaware that her partner’s body is collecting flies in a side room of her house. It’s also a horrifying explanation for the episode’s big riff on Poe’s original story: Victorine hears a strange, mechanical throbbing sound on a loop.
This is what Roderick sees when he shows up at Victorine’s door. It’s a big moment for him, and he’s easily the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen him, as he begs forgiveness for his faulty parenting strategy: treating the kids as “a lion’s pride” who can test each other before turning around Teeth and claws. They go out into the world. Even now, Roderick is selfish; notably, his pledge of support is directly tied to his investment in Victorine’s medical research, which he believes may save his life. But for someone who so desperately believed she was making a serious, meaningful contribution to her family and the world, it might still be enough to snap Victorine back to reality.
And yet: that terrible heart is still beating. Unlike Poe’s story, where the guilty narrator is the only one who can hear the voices, Roderick realizes that he can hear them too. It wasn’t until Victorine opened a door that the truth became clear: Alexandra was dead, and Victorine had cut her open and attached her prototype to her heart, allowing It pulses indefinitely but uselessly.
After three consecutive episodes ended with Veena murdering Arthur, House of Usher Wisely breaks the mold while letting Roderick get directly involved in the action. This time, Vina didn’t have to get up from the operating table to stab Victorine with a scalpel during open-heart surgery. Events had begun; this time she could let Victorine handle it. Victorine immediately agreed, expressing her horror at what she had done in angry words before stabbing herself in the heart. This is exactly what she tried and failed to warn Freddy and Tamburlaine earlier in the episode: that with the walls closed, Arthur’s house might begin to self-destruct.
Now that the ushers have figured out that Vina was present at the first three deaths, Madeleine develops a theory: the woman who targeted their family is another of Roderick’s illegitimate children, who was married to their mother (Rodrick barmaid) bears a striking resemblance. Slept with her on New Year’s Eve 1979.We’ve seen Verna do so many supernatural things that this can’t be a real, reasonable answer, but it’s fun to think about House of Usher If the series temporarily entangled us in non-supernatural red herrings, it might look like this.
• However, Roderick believes that if he kills himself, the killings will stop. He considered some typically dramatic options—overdosing on Rigordone, injecting Egyptian khopesh into his intestines, jumping from a 70-story balcony—and concluded that he wasn’t ready to die.
• The informant mystery is (possibly) solved: Pressed by Roderick, Dupin admits he made it up, hoping the ushers would turn on each other. It’s a logical solution, but unfortunately it has the side effect of bringing Dupin down to the level of the Arthurs – although with three episodes left, I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility of another twist on this theme.
• It’s hard to miss the pin drop of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” but you might have missed that the song Victorine was playing when Roderick showed up was Kingsborough’s “Hard on the Heart.”
• Hats off to the production designer who designed the very quirky mirrored headboards for Tamerlane and Bill-T’s bedrooms.
• “You don’t have to be smart to be dangerous. I mean, I’m not afraid of rattlesnakes because they’re smart.”