Mike Flanagan takes on The Fall of the House of Usher

I believe The Fall of the House of Usher was the last program under his existing contract with Netflix.

And Googling, he signed a new deal with Amazon last year so his new stuff will be on Prime Video.

Netflix is not paying him to make any more shows. He moves to Amazon next. Their loss.

I finally finished Usher tonight. It took a lot to get through that, but I have to agree this series was one of Flanagan’s best, and maybe the best.

Yes it is hard to watch and disturbing. But that was the point I think. Madeline’s final speech makes it pretty clear. We are not supposed to look away from the horror.

Fine by me. I hope he has a new one next year. I did not like last year’s as much. I’d rank his Netflix shows:

  1. Hill House
  2. Fall of the House of Usher
  3. Midnight Mass
  4. Bly House
  5. Midnight Club

I could flip Usher and Midnight Mass. They are basically tied.

I’m always thinking about production while watching shows and movies and I credit Mary McDonnell in this final episode. Here is an amazing actress and she had to take a HUGE leap of faith in the writer, show-runner, and director when she:

Showed up in Mummy/Zombie form. Definitely a “promise this won’t elicit laughs?” moment for any actress. There was huge buildup there for what would come out of the basement and the quick editing and lighting and her performance made it pretty scary and they wisely only held on it for a minute or less.

She was great through out and I will always call her Laura Roslin when I see her in anything. And I will always call Rahul Kohli “Ravi” when he appears in things.

Mrs. Geek really enjoyed the show. She thought it was Flanagan’s best so far. I personally rate it a lot lower, and this is why. It’s a bunch of shitty people being shitty. The only character that was at all likeable was the grand-daughter, and she was a bit two-dimensional. I had some sympathy for Juno, but otherwise I didn’t really care what happened to any of the characters.

To me TFOTHOU upends the current tired anti-hero trope. We do not ever root for the Ushers. Not even really against Griswald.

Roderick Usher’s quiet calm talking/confession kept reminding me of someone. I finally figured out who. He sounded a lot like Walter White justifying his criminal behavior at the end of Breaking Bad. The last episode confession that Usher knew the drug didn’t really end pain was to me like White admitting he didn’t really do it for his family. Usher didn’t truly believe the lie he had been telling everyone including himself.

But this time we don’t get any of that series fun of secretly cheering on the bad characters. These are awful people and they hurt others and get what is coming to them. Bad people do not get to justify their evil choices. People who commit horrible crimes are not anti-heroes, they are villains.

And we do not get to justify our culpable behavior either. Our sins are passed to our children. Not an easy message to hear.

I watched the first episode on a friend’s recommendation. It did set up a beguiling enough premise.

But by midway through the second, I was ready to call it quits, not just for its baked-in sleaze factor, but because of the annoyance of dropping in Poe references like it’s a game we should care about. “Dammit, Toby! Toby, dammit!” After three or four of these I wondered who would be impressed by this.

Just finished it last night. I really enjoyed it-- a well told tale. Roderick explaining things to Dupin in the ruined house of his and Madeline’s childhood was a good framing device for moving the story along, and served to wrap things up in a satisfactory way. I’d rate it pretty highly on the list of Flanagan’s Netflix horror series. Probably not higher than Hill House, but it’s been awhile since I saw that, and I wonder if I think so highly of it now because the Flanagan horror formula was still new to me. I pretty much argee with Mahaloth’s rating, though I might swap Midnight Mass and Bly House, and would keep Usher a solid second place:

I wouldn’t say I was impressed by all the Poe references exactly; they seemed a little contrived and shoehorned into the story at times. At more than one point I wondered, where are the characters supposed to be getting the Poe poetry (Poe-try?) that they (or at least Roderick) keep spouting-- it’s supposed to be a universe in which Poe and his works do not exist, right? It’s a take on a Poe story, after all, however loosely based.

What all those references did do for me is remind me of the style and quality of the works of Poe, which I read a lot of as a kid. I now want to find a complete works of Poe collection to download to my Kindle.

One thing I wondered about…I had a hard time getting a handle on what Verna was supposed to be.

I thought Roderick or Madeline might have called her ‘Death’ at one point, and she was there at all the deaths. But it doesn’t seem quite right that ‘Death’ is making deals-- that’s more of a Satan thing. So was she the Devil? The deal that Roderick and Madeline made with her was certainly a ‘deal with the Devil’ style deal. But her small kindness to Lenore, one of the only two ‘good’ characters, when she came to ‘collect’ her, seemed to suggest otherwise.

In an interview, the character’s actor called her an “agent of karma”, which seemed reasonable to me.

My wife said:

A crossroad demon, like in the TV show Supernatural. They make deals with people.

Yeah, an “agent of karma”, doesn’t seem quite right to me.

I know the Eastern religious concept of ‘karma’ is much more complicated than “what goes around comes around”. But it doesn’t seem like an “agent of karma” would be tempting humans right and left with dark deals. It’s like a poilceman constantly trying to entrap everyone.

And why should the karma be visited upon the progeny of the ones who deserve payback? Yes, the children were awful people, but that was mostly because of Roderick’s choice. The illegitimate children likely wouldn’t even exist if Roderick hadn’t taken the deal. And as for Frederick, Verna says at one point, that in the alternate universe in which Rod hadn’t taken the deal, Frederick would have been “a dentist, and a pretty good one”. And of course, Lenore certainly didn’t deserve the karma she got.

And what kind of karma is it if the offer is one you can’t really refuse? The deal Verna offered Pym at the end, to set him up as a rich man for the rest of his life if he betrayed something or someone he loved, or go to Federal prison, is not much of a choice (he turned the deal down, nonetheless). I don’t think she made clear what the flipside of the deal she gave R&M on NY Eve 1980 would have been if they turned it down, but I assume it would be that R&M were caught and convicted of murder.

So yeah, ‘crossroads demon’ sounds about right. Or maybe a trickster demon. Not a good guy, but not quite as evil as…SATAN.

(I know, I’m giving this way too much thought)

I finally watched this and have seen the first two episodes. I didn’t recognize that it was Verna in the skull mask. But she was clearly supernatural and I thought she was just the Grim Reaper. I know a little about Poe but have never read any of his works. So I will have to guess which of the dialog comes from him.

Although the show is chock full of references to Poe’s works, and each episode is titled after a Poe story, the storyline itself is only very loosely based on his works. They do use a few snippets of Poe dialogue verbatim, especially his poetry. When a character suddenly starts spouting a poem, which does happens pretty often, and kind of incongruously, you can be sure it’s “Poe-try”.

I’m guessing that Vernas speech to Prospero about IT being so close was from Poe.

Did they reference IT in this show? This isn’t a Stephen King story, though that is Mike Flanagan’s thing he does in movies. He’s adapted a few of King’s books.

By IT I meant death. Prospero of course though she was talking about the start of the orgy when she said things like “It’s so close.”

It was entertaining if you don’t think about the motivations of Verna too much, because that character is completely inconsistent. Also, long monologues that obviously channel the writer are cringey.

It seems like Verna didn’t have to even do much to bring down Victrine. Vicky was already teetering on the edge of madness. All Verna did was give her an excuse to advance to the next phase of the process. Of course Verna didn’t do anything to Prospero. Just talked him up, saved some of the wait staff from his idiocy, and afterwards give him a goodbye. We’re not supposed to feel bad about the other partiers but surely they didn’t all deserve that fate.

With Freddy, Tammy, Leo, and Camille, Verna definitely took an active role.

The sad thing is, it turns out that it didn’t matter how good or evil the kids were. Their fates were sealed by others’ actions.

Their deaths were inevitable but the brutality of how they died wasn’t, as Verna brought up several times. They could have all gone out like Lenore if they hadn’t been such evil shits.

I just finished watching this show. I liked the beginning and the ending, but I found the middle section dragged a bit. Personally, I’m usually lukewarm on mysterious characters who do mysterious things in mysterious ways; a little of that goes a long way for me and I think there was a bit too much “spooky Verna” in the middle section for my taste. I suspect I would have liked the show more if there hadn’t been any supernatural element to it, but it’s hard to say for sure.

I bought an el cheapo collection of some of Poe’s stories 20+ years ago and I had read through it several times, so it was kind of fun to play “spot the reference” (and it was even fun to look up the references that I missed).