I’m not often rendered speechless but this episode came close.
That was devastating, end to end.
Little Johnny gets out of his lonely, abandoned car and wanders off looking for Eddie.
Eddie is restrained in the cabin with Kodiak and Richard, who remain convinced he murdered Steve. Eddie begs them to take him back to the child left totally alone on the side of a road, but they aren’t listening. Richard talks up how important it is for true believers to know Steve climbed The Ladder, or not. Eddie protests some more; the room around him starts to melt and he pukes. They’ve dosed him with Ayahuasca. They plan to take him back up the mountain.
Is there a law about how L.A must be presented on TV? It’s the exact same in every TV show or movie I have ever seen, and we get every single trope here; a hazy shot of the city, the Hollywood sign and then we go to a hotel pool where all important L.A business takes place. We follow a beautiful woman out of a pool, tracking behind her bikini clad bottom before she steps aside to reveal the target of our lens; Cal.
Cal is watching Noa’s mother, Jackie, played by the fantastic Melanie Griffith, as she does some important poolside business (why, L.A? Why?!). He heads over, and lies terribly about their chance meeting, what with him being Cal of the Meyers and her being Noa’s mother and all!
Jackie could easily have been written as a fool but she’s not, and her split second calculation before she’s like, ‘Oh cool!’ is spectacular. He talks up Noa and she’s proud, but sad. She lets slip she’s having some problems, and lets him eagerly offer help and advice. Thinking he has an in, Cal braces for the long con.
We see Sarah where we left her; listening to Meyer confessional tapes. She’s listening to a man who has wicked proclivities he sneaks out of his house to act on. This is very important later.
Sarah gets a call, as she’s the only contact the nurses could find for Brenda, Cal’s mother. Kathleen Turner’s in this one too?! Holy hell!
Brenda‘s condition is dire. Her lifelong drinking has caught up with her, her liver has failed and she is dying. Cal can’t be found. Sarah says he’s away on business and the nurse gravely warns he needs to be reached. Now.
Oh man. Prepare to sob. I mean it, prepare to just sob. This episode is wretched.
Little Johnny has been rescued by the police, and Chloe and his father arrive to pick him up. She’s mostly just relieved while the dad takes digs at Eddie.
Eddie is tripping absolute balls, and wanders through the Cuzco house like he did back in the first episode. Only, this is really just his own memories. He walks in on his brother, Johnny, in bed with Chloe. He walks into an old kitchen to see his father furiously beat his mother. She defends herself and begs for him to call the police before his father kills her. Holy shit, this is heavy.
Then he’s at The Compound, and sees a carefree Summer dancing. She tells him ‘I’m home’.
In the cabin, he’s reeling and staggering around as Richard and Kodiak watch, guiding his trip, or trying to. Suddenly, he collapses. They rush to his side but he’s not breathing.
Jackie has taken Cal to a bar to tell him her problems. She has a client, Luna, a youthful pop star. While Cal looks like he’s trying to work out what language ‘pop star’ comes from, Jackie explains Luna has basically dropped out of life right before her huge, countrywide, sold out, multi-million dollar tour begins.
Cal says he hears fear, and talks about how Meyerism empowers, but Jackie lets on she’s not as easily led as he hopes. She talks about Noa, how she always needed a cause, so is easily brainwashed. Cal tries to say the Meyer tagline ‘It’s not a cult!’ but Jackie shrugs like ‘Yeah, it is dude’ and goes on to talk about Luna, and how she’s never worked with someone so young and so empty. She agrees to let Cal help for a fee of 50 grand, and Cal manages not to nearly faint with relief that the money problems might get fixed after all.
So … Jackie knows it’s a cult but is fully prepared to just hand this child over to them to meet her own needs. Wow. Noa is right to have run from her.
Sarah arrives at the hospital and explains who she is to Brenda. Brenda is exhausted and weak, and if Kathleen Turner’s brief turn here doesn’t wreck you, you have no soul. Brenda is so excited when she learns Sarah knows Cal, then broken, when she learns he’s not there.
She has something she has to tell him and calls Sarah ‘the one he’s so in love with’. Sarah rushes out of the room, terrified of it all.
Kodiak does weak-ass CPR on Eddie, while Richard frantically begs him to call someone, an ambulance, or at least some of their people. But Kodiak breaks out his … uh, OD kit? He preps a shot and injects Eddie’s arm.
Ghost Eddie is watching his all happen from across the room but Steve’s voice calls him away.
He’s on the Meyer compound, a much better version; the colours hyper-bright, though the edges of the frame are hazy and warped. It’s beautiful. Eddie sees his mother, the same age and in the same dress as from his earlier flashback, which makes me think he saw her die that day. He sees Steve who tells him ‘You’re home’, and how it’s Eddie’s garden. Eddie built it, not Steve, who in his own words was ‘too steeped in sin’. Ooooh boy.
Eddie walks into the vegetable garden, which this season set a few scenes in, so we know it exists –waiting at the end of the garden is … Eddie’s brother, Johnny.
Cal and Jackie arrive at Luna’s house and it’s a youthful Bacchanalia, replete with drugs, booze and ‘for the hell of it’ nudity. Sarah finally gets through on the phone and breaks the news about Brenda. Cal … I don’t mention enough how good Hugh Dancy is because, frankly, it goes without saying. But this week, he just crushes my entire soul. He pretends it’s not a big deal, not even a surprise as Anti-Psychiatry Sarah delivers the accurate psychological news that the death of a hated parent can be harder than the death of someone we love. It’s far harder to get closure. Cal just asks her to find out what Brenda needs to tell him, and ends the call.
He finds Jackie and Luna getting high in a bathroom, and Luna says he looks sad, while Jackie says he was always sad. Luna offers him a sniff of her coke, and Cal hesitates for ten seconds before he takes a snort. It’s a nice touch that he takes it like he knows what he’s doing, a reminder Cal has had serious substance issues his whole life.
Hawk and his crap hair and his new way of dressing like Cal arrives to the City building to learn the floor installers won’t leave until they get paid in cash, as the last cheque bounced. Hawk sneaks into Cal’s building, and I guess all those bills were confusingly sent to Cal and not the compound, so that a devastated Hawk could find them and learn the horrible truth.
Okay. Here we go. This is a hard scene with some heavy subjects I’ve speculated on in the past; Sarah lies to Brenda she couldn’t reach Cal, and Brenda rails and rants against the cult. Its glorious. Sarah steels herself and offers to hear what Brenda has to say, using Meyerspeak, but meaning the same thing. Brenda sobs that ‘He hurt him, and I didn’t protect him’ and Sarah talks about Cal’s violent father.
But, Brenda doesn’t mean him. She means Steve. Steve sexually abused little Cal, and Brenda knew and she didn’t stop it. First she wouldn’t hear it, but one day in ‘the tent’ she saw them together. And, it was wrong.
Sarah is horrified and just can’t accept it, just can’t. She goes full ‘Sarah’ when her reality is threatened, reverting to cruelty, and spits that Brenda will die alone, which is all she deserves.
Honestly, it could go either way if she means because of what Brenda said, or what Brenda admitted she let happen.
Sarah runs from her as Brenda weeps and sobs ‘I’m sorry’ over and over.
Oh, Cal. What chance did he ever have?
Eddie and Big Johnny walk through this heaven space, and Johnny can’t believe how beautiful it is and asks if this is what Eddie was doing for so long. Eddie says it’s only like this. Now I’m thinking of Summer, from earlier in his vision.
Eddie asks Johnny why he killed himself, but Johnny can’t remember, just remembers he wanted to go, so badly.
He talks about Eddie’s lightning strike, and how it means he has something he has to do, but Eddie says it’s just someone he couldn’t save. Eddie explains what happened on the mountain; he had hold of Steve but the storm blew in and just took him away. Eddie weeps that he couldn’t hold on. Johnny fiercely tells him there was nothing he could do, it wasn’t his fault but Eddie is in a full blown panic attack.
And then he wakes in the cabin, gasping for air.
It’s worth nothing, it’s not entirely clear how long Eddie was actually out, and I really like that. It was probably just a minute in Richard and Kodiak’s time, but if it was longer, given the narrative movement to place Eddie as a sort of unseen Meyer messiah, it’s interesting they chose to keep that vague.
Luna leads a group including Jackie and Cal to the beach, high as all get out. She talks up how freeing it is to just run, not on a treadmill, for tour. Jackie and Cal both fail to talk her around in any way, so she gets more drugs, and runs back home. Jackie reveals more of her shrewd nature by calling out something we’ve all known about Cal for a while now; he doesn’t believe in what he’s selling. He can’t even convince himself of it.
Hawk confronts Sarah about the money, and realises to himself that Cal used him to get to Noa. He’s worried its all over, their life, but Sarah goes full crazy eyes to reassure him they are stronger than ever.
Um, Hawk, run. Run.
Kodiak rages, and still wants to kill Eddie, thinking he killed Steve. Eddie snaps that the moment Steve got cancer, he was already dead, and had showed them all he was only ever human. Kodiak destroys a chair and storms off, as Richard gently approaches Eddie. Eddie quietly says he was in ‘the garden’ and emotionally admits he felt accepted, forgiven, peaceful. He sounds an awful lot like he’s rediscovered his faith. Richard smile,s and in any other context it would be a warm and loving smile.
To me, it’s predatory. It’s terrifying.
Eddie goes to see Chloe to ask after the child. Johnny is fine, but she’s furious until he tells her what happened. He is a LYING LIAR WHO LIES to her, and claims they tried to force him to rejoin the cult. And of course he totally said no, obviously, like … duh.
Chloe accurately and rightly wants to call the cops, but Eddie reminds her … the Meyers still have his kids.
Chloe realises it’s not over and maybe never will be.
Brenda …. Brenda dies alone.
Excuse me for a moment. That really kicked me in the chest.
The party is over, and Cal finds a quiet, sad Luna sitting alone. They connect over the fact he didn’t have a normal childhood either, never went to school and though not a pop star, he was told he was special, was held apart. Given what we know now, this hurts so much. Poor, poor Cal.
He realises Luna has a gun — one from Jackie’s purse earlier, incidentally — and she talks about wanting to be gone, just disappear. Cal’s voice gets thick as we see, arguably, the only glimpse of the real Cal beneath it all for the very first time. He knows about wanting to disappear. He knows. He talks about getting in a car and just driving away until you feel safe. He has taken the gun from her hand by now. She sobs ‘I can do that?!’ and my heart shatters some more. He tells her she can and she runs inside.
Cal clambers into her chair, spent and exhausted. He calls Sarah who answers and at once, tells him about his mother.
He Cals — skips over it — and tells her he can’t get the money they need. She asks if he heard, and, with the gun still just right there he tells her he’s sorry for failing her and not really liking himself very much.
Sarah, who knows everything now, calmly and gently says it will all be okay. She will make it all okay.
Cal asks what Brenda said, and Sarah tells him his mother was sorry for not being much of a mother, but she loved him and was proud of who he became.
Cal weeps. He just sobs and drops his phone. Poor, poor, poor Cal.
The next day, Sarah sinisterly watches a very rich man leave a very nice house and family to go to work. He finds a note on his car and we hear the audio clip from earlier, the man with the wicked proclivities he hides from his wife. This man is horrified by the letter and looks around to see who saw it, who left it. Sarah stares.
Jackie wakes Cal, and he tells her Luna is gone and he won’t let her destroy the girl. He says Noa was lucky to get away from someone as selfish as Jackie. Jackie’s response is to kiss him, and climb on top of him.
Richard is at Eddie’s place and gives him a gift. It’s Steve’s Meyer chain, the same one he wore in Eddie’s vision of him. It was the first ever made, and Richard says he was compelled to save it from Steve’s body when they found him. He wasn’t sure why but now he knows. He says Eddie’s scar is The Light, marking Eddie for a purpose. Eddie tries to reject it but he can’t muster much conviction. Richard tells him Eddie will build The Garden. And they will follow him there.
That was a hard one. I’ve speculated since season one that Steve had abused Cal, but the confirmation was no less devastating. The idea Brenda knew is a new layer of bleak, and it raises more questions for me about who else was ignoring what was happening. Kodiak? I think for sure. His wild mission to protect Steve, his grave words about what ‘the boy’ held over Steve … he knew, and he let it happen. But, who else? Sarah’s parents? Silas?
I guess Kodiak, Brenda and who knows how many more, they chose their own salvation over little Cal’s. And … of course it leads to another question … was Steve the only predator? And, was Cal the only victim?
Even knowing what good this group does for the world, I want Abe to move on them as soon as he can. It’s a shame for the younger generation, but I don’t care. Burn it down, Abe. Burn it to the ground.