Whenever I talk to other addicts and we recall times when we were using, it’s a lot like telling a good old fashioned campfire ghost story. They’re set in past times, often starting off innocently enough, gradually building leaving the listener in a state of suspense knowing that the tale is going to take a turn for the worse before that reveal of the horrible things we either survived or did as a cautionary tale. When I talk about my “dark times” I feel like I’m telling people about a monster wholly separate from the person I was before and became after. Addiction is more or less like being possessed and while cliché, there’s a reason addicts call it their demons.
I couldn’t help but think of the similarities while watching Luke sit in on his first group meeting during his most recent rehab stay. After a man horrifically describes what happens to the human eye when it reaches a certain temperature or what he did in an effort to stop the hallucinations he was having. Luke’s refusal to share with “I’m not going to follow that” reminded me that these are macabre performances people in recovery use as a kind of therapy. It makes perfect sense to include it in this family’s tale of woe.
We see that Luke is breaking one of the cardinal rules of rehab, don’t get too close to other patients. It’s this entirely unreasonable thing to ask people who will spend weeks if not months together sharing the some of the most intimate details of one’s life. But it’s a rational request, because relying on an addict is almost a guaranteed way to fail. It’s easy to see why Luke takes that risk with Joey. She’s smart, charming, engaging, doesn’t hurt that she’s beautiful, and most importantly, she’s supportive of him. The night Nell dies she appears to Luke and tells him to go. She’s pretty vague about where he’s supposed to go so when he gets a note from Joey telling him not to follow her out of rehab, of course he completely ignores it. It may be from the part of the show that is not a ghost story, but I’m guessing pretty much everyone watching is at least internally saying “Don’t go out there, Luke!”
Before we can find out what will befall Nick outside the confines of rehab, we get more insight on his childhood. Apparently, Luke is the most popular cause all the ghosts besides Bent Neck Lady want to be his friend. The first of which we see is at the cold open of a little girl in blue named Abigail. His family is convinced she’s any imaginary friend which is not helped by him telling his dad of the thing that attacked him in the basement. He’s bribed with a derby hat being told that it’s for big boys and they know the difference between what real and imaginary. Considering that is followed up with a detailed description from his mother of who owned the belongings they are pilfering through, I’m sure Hugh can chalk everyone’s vivid imaginations as something they inherited.
As disturbing as the thing in the cellar was, it’s the unwanted attention he gets from the original owner of the bowler hat that causes me my first legit freak out of the season. He uses a cane but I’m not quite sure what it’s for since he just hovers above the ground, floating from place to place. It’s completely reminiscent of The Gentlemen from the “Hush” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but no less creepy of an effect 20 years later. Bowler Fellow isn’t just a ghost that Luke sees in his childhood home, but one that appears to him regularly as an adult. Since the show decides to withhold details of when Luke starts to use, I can only assume it is a product of trying to make him disappear when his OCD-like counting trick does not work. That trick by the way might be the most endearing thing about him. His counting to seven isn’t just a representation of the number in his family, but how many steps away he is from his twin and my heart is both swelling then aching from the knowledge that soon is sister will be shuffling off this mortal coil.
Back to the present we follow Luke to the exact kind of places the rehab is sheltering him from, an open-air market if you will of drug dealers and users. He finds Joey easily enough and promises her to help get her back into treatment. Its well-meaning but misguided as he soon finds that once you are out, you don’t come back in. Paige (the counselor) might come off as cold-hearted, but when you work day in and day out with users, second chances lead to third chances, fourth chances, you get the idea, so the rules are the rules. Luke’s not willing to let Joey go so easily so he spends the rest of his night trying to get them a safe place for her to come down. This is how he discovers that Steve is no longer living with his wife and how he finds his brother’s new apartment. The audience comes to learn that Luke looting his brother’s apartment was for a good cause, so you might be inclined to add this to reasons why Steve is a dick for the way he reacts to seeing his belongings in his brother’s arms. But I’m going to cut Steve a lot of slack here. He warned Luke to be careful with Joey, that just because a person is good doesn’t mean they won’t burn you. Even Luke has to know what he is doing is wrong having just started on his moral inventory step less than 24 hours prior.
My biggest complaint about this episode has to do with that flashback of Steve’s warning being shown immediately before it comes to fruition. It once again feels like a lack of faith in the audience to put two and two together. So not only does Joey screw him over by taking the money and running but now Luke is stuck on the street alone with nowhere to go. I’d bet Steve would have taken him in if he was solo and hadn’t just robbed him but now he’s completely vulnerable in every way. In case you weren’t able to read the writing on the wall, Steve’s wish for his brother to never feel that kind of disappointment has become fully realized.
One of the more clever things I thought the show pulled off is showing how Luke is looking more and more like a junkie on his day out. The further the day goes on, he appears more disheveled, jittery, clammy, and he can’t get warm. It’s no wonder that Steve thinks he’s been using, especially when he’s found later beat to hell with no shoes on. But no, it’s part of the whole twin thing. He made Nell feel like shit the week he sobered up and now Nell is making him feel like actual death. It’s a possibility he had never even considered, and I worry what will happen to Luke in a world where no amount of steps will bring him back to his twin.
As with each episode prior, episode four does its job of getting me more invested in this show by making each of the Crain children more realized. This familiarity with them only makes the tragedy of what has happened or will happen to them harder to watch but pacing back and forth isn’t going to get us any further than it does Luke. In order to move on we have to confront what we fear, and for me that going to be dealing with the loss of Nell.