Normally I am careful to avoid spoilers but I just finished watching this show and was incensed by it but could not give my reasons for hating it without exposing the plot.
This highly promoted Netflix six-part series starts interestingly enough. It features Louise, a part-time secretary in a firm of psychiatrists that has just hired David who has a beautiful wife Adele. Adele’s parents were very wealthy but died in a fire in their mansion while she was asleep but David managed to rescue her. She ended up in some kind of residential clinic for therapy and while there becomes good friends with a goofy working class gay drug addict named Rob and the two of them learn how to have lucid dreams, where one learns how to control one’s dreams.
It is now ten years later and it soon becomes clear that David and Adele’s marriage is in trouble, that he detests her while she keeps telling him how much she loves him. There is clearly some dark secret in their past and one knows that the plot is heading towards some big reveal. Meanwhile, David and Louise start a clandestine affair while Adele and Louise meet on the street and become friends but Adele asks Louise not to tell David that they are hanging out together, and Louise agrees. Why Adele asks this and Louise agrees is not clear. But ok, one can overlook that particular plot hole for the sake of advancing the narrative.
The first four episodes is your standard psychological thriller in which one character, in this case Adele, becomes increasingly creepy, seeming to have the ability to know what other people are doing even when she is not there. It was a little slow for my taste but not too bad and I was looking forward to the pace picking up in the last two episodes as the denouement approaches, when all is revealed that explains David and Adele’s weird relationship.
But then in episode five the plot goes bonkers and the final episode six is really nuts.
Now is where the spoilers begin.
In episode five, it turns out that Adele and Rob had not only learned how to control their dreams, they had also mastered astral projection, where one’s soul (for want of a better word) leaves the body while you are asleep and wanders around, which explains how she was able to know what was going on elsewhere. This is similar to something that advocates of near death experiences say happens when people are close to death or under anesthesia and they claim it proves the existence of the spiritual realm and the afterlife.
Towards the end of the final episode, it is revealed that Adele and Rob figured out how to switch their astral projections, so that his soul goes into her body and vice versa. Not only that, at the very end, the show conflates lucid dreaming (which is a real thing) with astral projection and that is what enables the final twist in the plot and forms the basis for the big reveal at the end. But by that point, I had got utterly fed up because of the sheer absurdity of it all.
I do not mind science fiction and fantasy and things that violate all the laws of science. They are not really to my taste but if I know them going in, as is the case with the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises, I can suspend disbelief and enjoy them.
But what bothered me was that this series gave no clue that it was going to head into spiritual mumbo-jumbo territory and so the sudden switch was really jarring. It all seemed utterly contrived in order to produce a shocking ending. Furthermore, it was not plausible even within its own terms. If one’s body is occupied by another person’s soul, there is absolutely no way that one’s family and friends would not suspect that something is awry, since the entire life experiences of the two would be so different. And yet David seems really dense, first not noticing that his wife Adele’s body has been occupied by Rob and then that Louise, his lover who becomes his second wife whom he fell for because she was so different from Adele, also has her body occupied by the same Rob. Only Louise’s seven year old son vaguely suspects that she seems different.
One thing I liked about Alfred Hitchcock’s films is that they were psychological thrillers that always had rational endings and the final reveal explained past behavior. In Rebecca, for instance, we finally understand why Max De Winter gets so testy at any mention of his dead first wife, and it is not because she is a ghost who is haunting his his life. Hitchcock would also be infuriated by Louise succumbing to the ‘daft woman’ syndrome where an otherwise sensible woman, for seemingly no reason, does something incredibly stupid, and puts her life and the lives of others in danger. He always sought to have his characters’s actions be properly motivated. In this case, at the very end, after being specifically warned by David not to talk to or go near Adele because they have realized that she is a dangerous sociopath, she picks up the phone when Adele calls and also goes to her house, with predictable results.
Throughout the series they teased the possibility that the dark secret involved her parents’ mysterious death in a fire a decade earlier, why she did not wake up in time to save them, and how it came to be that David arrived just in time to the remote location to save her, all these factors leading to an investigation of possibly murder that was inconclusive. That could have been a good resolution. But in the end, it turned out to be a red herring, jettisoned in favor of fantastical and magical plot twists. Ugh.
Here’s the trailer, for what it’s worth.
I’ve always disliked those stories where a person gets possessed by a ghost/alien/psychic/time traveler/what-have-you, and a big part of the suspense is whether the possessing entity will slip up and not know something crucial that gives away to friends and family that they aren’t who they are pretending to be.
I have my plan all worked out. If I ever wake up and find myself in 1837 surrounded by people who seem to know me, then as soon as I possibly can, I plan to bash my head on something and pretend to knock myself out. When I come to, I will fake total amnesia (which shouldn’t be too hard) so that everybody around me will helpfully fill me in on who I’m supposed to be. I recommend this plan to any of you who may find yourselves in a similar situation some day.
Mano, I typically hate these types of shows too. But I will say that The OA on Netflix, which was cancelled after two seasons, did the “switch to supernatural” absolutely masterfully and remains one of my favorite shows to this day. Saying this is itself kind of a spoiler, but the show is just so good I couldn’t help commenting.
The supernatural stuff doesn’t come completely out of the blue--the entire first season keeps you questioning as to whether there actually *is* anything supernatural at all going on.
Looks like not my type of show. I thoroughly enjoyed Israeli series “Shtisel”. Also, another series named “Unorthodox”. You may like it, check it out.
Sam N says
I agree it’s not very good, but for largely different reasons. Not that you’re criticisms aren’t valid, but I felt the supernatural coming fairly early on.
Astral projection is sort of a silly thing to introduce, but, having done so, I found the is an the utter lack of imagination as to what to do with such a wondrous ability disappointing. Such small minds, so focused on each other when there is a world of possibilities to explore.
The chief reasons I gave it a thumbs down was the pacing. Too much filler, that I started watching it at 1.5x speed around the third episode.
Then towards the end I became irritated at the many flashbacks to explicitly explain what happened. This sort of laziness in a big reveal seems common, but it irks me. I’m fine making deductions on my own and living with some ambiguity. This clearly wasn’t a children’s show so I was disappointed at how didactic the film was about its own absurdity.
Given your review of Bridgerton I may as well give that show a thumbs down, as well. It may be a good time for me to unsubscribe from Netflix again. Maybe in a couple years it will have some worthwhile content that doesn’t feel impossible to find.
file thirteen says
Late to this thread as I was watching this series and didn’t want spoilers, but it strikes me that as an alternative you might like Tabula Rasa (Dutch with subtitles -- I saw it on Netflix). That one is kind of the opposite to the one you review here, where it might appear that something supernatural is occurring but it’s not what you think. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling it: I recommend it.